It can be easy to loathe our customers, even the ones who are nice. If you work in a customer service environment, you will experience a lot of customer needs. The urgency that underlies these interactions can be stressful and exhausting.
However, our customers have goals and priorities when it comes to our productivity, too. As long as we understand their priorities, we will be able to handle their attitudes, expectations, and know how to best interact.
What Our Customers Want
Our customers want a few things from us. They want what they paid for in our products or services, and they want it as quickly as possible. Their goals and priorities are about getting products, services, and answers immediately.
Our companies both implicitly and explicitly set this expectation. The customer needs us to understand and verbally appreciate the sense of urgency that they have at any given time. Most of our customers don’t realize we have hundreds of customers to help, and so they want to be the priority at the moment they have a need.
As long as we acknowledge this reality, it can prepare us for their expectations and attitudes.
Customer Expectations and Attitudes
We have all been in a situation where someone is so upset, but we simply cannot do what they are demanding of us. Whether it is because we do not have the authority, ability, or timeframe to do it, they will explode and degrade us because of their expectations.
These experiences are a small percentage of our customers, but they are the ones we remember and take home with us at the end of the day. These customers will clearly communicate how they feel about what you are doing and how you are doing it. Customers typically have three attitudes that we will come across at any given time.
The majority of customers are thankful and patient. They understand we have a lot going on and that sometimes we will need to investigate matters further. These are a large percentage of our interactions.
Then there is a smaller group who are confused and unaware of what they purchased or how things work. These customers typically are urgent callers or emailers who need answers right away, even if the issue isn’t overly important or time sensitive.
And then there are the few who make life hard on all of us. They are negative, mean, and act like bullies. They think they know how to do our jobs better than us and expect us to do what they want – no matter how unethical or useless it might be.
All of these customers have expectations of us and attitudes about our performance. We need to be prepared for them and know how to resolve their needs within our own productivity systems and routines.
When interacting with customers, no matter their expectations or attitudes, we need to focus on three areas: boundaries, respect, and the product or service being offered.
When we do this, it will lead to efficient, productive interactions. If we cannot make this happen, it will lead to stress and a lot of extra work. For the longest time, I had a sticky note in my cubicle that read: “be calm, clear, can do.”
When we are calm and respectful, it can defuse the most volatile of customers. Being calm almost always leads to a productive conversation. We can work through problems and reset expectations which will help us get to where we need to go. Working from a place of calm, we can answer most questions people have no matter their attitude.
A lot of times, our customers simply need clarification in the small details or the overall theme of the scope of our work. Clarity can defuse unhappy customers and provide confidence in any situation for them. When we clarify their needs and what is happening with our work, they will have less needs as time goes on.
We also need to focus on what we can do. Is what the customer wants something we can offer? If not, try and redirect to what you can do. It will help them understand what is and what is not possible. But don’t tell them you cannot do something. This will make things worse and will eat up your day.
Lastly, we need to have boundaries. There are simply angry and aggressive people in the world. No matter how calm, clear, or helpful you are, they will call you names and be bullies.
I don’t care what your company’s policy is for these customers; you do not have to take that sort of abuse. I have a clear boundary in my mind with any customer who is trying to bully me over the phone or email.
If they get out of hand, then I let them know I will cease communication for the day and check in with them the next day after they have had a chance to calm down. They either calm down immediately or get really upset.
If they calm down, we work through it, and a lot of times I can help.
If they get more upset, I disconnect the call or end the email conversation, note the interaction, and move on to the next task at hand. I will not argue with someone for an hour and waste time that could actually be productive.
You shouldn’t either.