Written by Katy Goshtasbi
Posted on: June 19, 2011
As a business owner or employee, we all have this problem sooner or later: a customer becomes aggressive, and even hostile, during a business interaction or negotiation. What should we do?
First, I can tell you what NOT to do from my years of personal experience and observation of others in action. Rarely does it work to interrupt the customer and offer up reasons as to why they are wrong. I see this technique happen all the time with my clientele when I am working one on one with them. My clients often tell me they feel the need to try to stop the customer and make them feel better by giving them the correct version of what happened.
The problem here is that by doing so you are: 1)angering the customer even more because you have interrupted their rant/rave 2) offering up what sounds like poor excuses to justify screwing up, leaving a very poor personal brand of yourself for the customer and 3) showing the customer that you are not able to “confront” them and have an intelligent conversation with them.
When you encounter an aggressive customer, I recommend you do the following:
1. Realize this situation is NOT personal to you- the customer isn’t aggressive with you. They hardly know you. They are aggressive with the situation and you just happen to be the face of the situation upon whom they can vent. They don’t know you. They don’t know you are a kind person and on their side.
2. Allow the customer to fully vent or finish their cycle of aggressiveness- Of course, this makes sense so long as they are not physically threatening you. But 9 times out of 10, people just want to be heard. If you just allow them to be heard, you have given them 90% of what they need and want in that moment.
3. Acknowledge their reason for being aggressive- no matter how nuts you think the customer is being, remember that to them their aggressiveness is very real and right. They may go home and realize they were a jerk, but in that moment they feel hurt and thus, aggressive. Realize this fact and say something to acknowledge them as humans. It could be as simple as saying, “I totally understand how you would feel this way”. This statement doesn’t mean you agree with them, but that you get them.
4. Look them in the eyes and don’t let your gaze drift- holding your own and being able to confront a situation means being able to be with a person in that very moment and looking them in the eyes. I’m not saying stare them down. In fact, that is exactly what NOT to do. But looking with compassion into another human’s eyes, immediately deflates any tense situation. Non-verbal communication is at least 78% of all communication. So by holding a steady gaze, you are saying volumes without saying a word. In fact, a firm and compassionate gaze sets you up for a completely effective and confident and strong personal brand.
WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD WITH AN AGGRESSIVE CUSTOMER? EMAIL US AND LET US KNOW.