If you manage the frontline, then you understand that your employees are likely to be the recipient of bad behaviors during the holiday season. It is tough to remain calm and composed when you are being treated badly and the normal response is to meet rudeness with rudeness, to treat others as they are treating you. Yet, what may appear to your employees as rudeness is more likely to be that customers are hurried, frazzled, and short on time. When that happens, people don’t take the time for the niceties, the basic courtesies we learned as kids. Please, thank you, and I’m sorry go by the wayside.
When it comes to dealing with customers who may be quick tempered and come across in a demanding manner, it takes special skills by frontline employees to remain calm and composed when they are being treated badly. How can you help calm the storm that may be raging within your employees and help them deal effectively with customers’ poor behaviors at a time when they are likely to be feeling the same pressures?
Here are some tips that you can employ to help your employees remain calm and composed and give exceptional customer service throughout the holiday season:
- Now more than any other time during the year, you must be a hands-on manager. Spend time with your employees. Pitch in and help them, maintain a supportive environment, and expect everyone to support and help each other.
- Listen to your employees. Discuss what they are dealing with during the busy holiday season. Show empathy and allow them to vent. Listen to their complaints, even if the complaints are about customers. Let them get it out.
- Then talk to your employees. Don’t let yourself be pulled into the complaining mode. Rather than talking negatively about your customers, help your employees understand the situation from the customers’ perspectives. Talk to them about not taking bad behaviors personally.
- Remind employees about the importance of remaining composed. In the face of rudeness it may be difficult but it is their responsibility to handle all types of customers. Employees will feel better when they stay calm and in control rather than losing it with a customer. Teach your employees to keep their own emotions in check. Taking deep breaths, silently counting to ten, repeating a meditation word, picturing the customers’ words flying past them—whatever calming techniques work for them should be used.
- Reinforce customer service expectations. Particularly when faced with bad behaviors, showing empathy and establishing a rapport with customers is important. Smiling warmly and saying something like, “This time of year is crazy, isn’t it? It looks like you’re in a hurry,” and then assuring the customer in a confident manner, “I’m going to take care of this as quickly as I can for you,” usually calms customers.
Handling all customer requests by finding the right solution for each customer efficiently and effectively will leave your customers with a good feeling about doing business with your company. If you can help your employees understand the importance of giving exceptional customer service to your customers, especially during this busiest time of the year, you will help everyone to remember what the season is all about: Peace and Good Will to All.
Renee Evenson has worked in the customer service management field for 25 years, 15 of them as a customer service manager at BellSouth Telecommunications, where her duties included staff training and development.