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PORTER: Try humor to ease angry customer's bad language

I don’t like your #$%& products! Why can’t you get better at your &%$# service there? Expletives. Bad words. And on and on.

Bad language. Profanity. As customers get angry at businesses in today’s high pressure 24/7 world, customer language in a phone conversation can oftentimes veer into a torrent of bad words we all find unacceptable and offensive.

What do you do when customers use bad language throughout a conversation? Is there a way to manage customer profanity when it overshadows the encounter? Can you ever get past the expletives and hear the legitimate concerns a customer has?

There are successful strategies to handling the angry customer who chooses to lace his or her complaints with offensive words. And I am reminded of a recent customer service workshop I conducted with front line service employees where we discussed this in detail and exchanged stories.

Below please find some tips for dealing with today’s bad language customer I have discovered over the years.

Tip 1. First, listen closely for the real complaints.

After seeing that the profanity just is not going to stop, try to quickly find out what the real reasons are for customer unhappiness. If you cannot determine this easily in the first few minutes of the conversation, there are other steps you can try.

The quicker you can get to the legitimate complaints and complete a customer encounter, the better. Oftentimes customer problems with a service or product can be remedied with experienced direction or a visit to a helpful website thus completing the conversation.

Tip 2. Ask the customer to stop using offensive language.

Caught up in the moment, some customers do not think about the language they are using when talking to a business.

Try asking the customer to not use expletives in the conversation. Explain that you find bad language offensive and that you do not appreciate having to endure such words when you are trying to help with a customer problem.

In several instances, I have spoken with customer service staff that said they went so far as to suggest to the customer that they end the conversation if the bad language was to continue. Whatever works.

Tip 3. Use humor or laughter as a response to bad words.

This probably sounds counter intuitive, but you just may want to try this. Laughter. Humor. Hey, this works sometimes!

Humor can oftentimes catch people by surprise and cause them to think about what they are saying. And I have found that laughter can defuse customer anger every once in awhile.

In summary, I know everyone has been on the receiving end of the bad language customer — we all have. And we are just as happy when the conversation is over.

However, there are successful strategies we can employ in this situation. They include the following:

Listen for the customer’s real complaints for the first few minutes.

Next, ask the customer to skip the bad language and that you find it offensive.

Finally, try using laughter or humor to defuse customer anger.

In our stressful always-on world, we are going to encounter anger in many places when we try to help customers — that is a sure bet! But if we have proven strategies for dealing with customer anger, we can take customer service to the next level and be successful at the same time!

 

William Porter has published books on customer experience and employee engagement and speaks regularly at business schools. Contact him at bpwilliamaporter@gmail.com.

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