It doesn’t take much to set people off. In just a short time of waiting at my eye doctor’s office, I saw some pretty incredible behavior. A mom acknowledged she was late for the appointment with her daughter, then couldn’t find her insurance card and that somehow translated into the daughter’s fault because she didn’t eat breakfast or something like that and then the mom turned her anger to the staff person. The drama kept going while the staff person did her best to get the mom checked in for the appointment.
Meanwhile, next to me was a gentleman with his wife and the word gentle needs to be in quotes because there was nothing gentle about the man. The glasses his wife ordered were not the ones he thought she should have ordered and somehow this became the fault of the staff person who did her best to demonstrate the process of ordering glasses while noticing the wife agreed with her – not the husband. And on it went.
Finally, I was waited on and I took the kind approach of asking how the staff person’s day was going – I knew, of course – but curious if she wanted to share. What unfolded was one of the best experiences I have had at an eye doctor’s office because the staff person appreciated being noticed, feeling valued.
Customer anger may be the root of our of hiring shortages. We can do better. We can stop being angry customers. We can choose kindness. We can wait patiently.
Here are some tips if you dealing with an angry customer:
- Be mindful of nonverbal communication as much as your verbal ones.
- Speak more calmly and with genuine politeness.
- Admit shortfalls in service by stating the reality of how you are short-staffed or maybe had a setback because of something else.
- Identify with the upset by saying something like, “I’d be frustrated too if I had to wait this long. Your time is valuable and we will get you back on track soon.”
Figuring out how to help de-escalate a difficult situation is a great skill that requires as much compassion and tact as you can create. It’s possible, that by helping someone regain their composure, you can prevent a situation that you or they may regret.
And be kind, always. You never know what’s going on is someone’s life and your kindness can be just the thing to turn a bad day into a good one.