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How to Help Frustrated Customers See You as an Ally

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Have you ever gotten that one person on the phone who said with confidence, “I want you to know that I’m going to help you with this”?

How did that make you feel? You probably experienced a sigh of relief or felt unburdened, right?

Planting seeds of happiness is the second step of my three-step Communication Code. It doesn't get as much face time here on the blog as Step 1 or Step 3, but it’s still so important.

Planting seeds of happiness is the equivalent of someone saying to you, “I’ve got you” or “I’ve got this.”

It reassures your customer that you're doing everything in your power to resolve their concerns. It also builds a lot of confidence.

Story time.

A couple of months ago, one of my team members received a parking ticket for a city neither she nor her car had been in.

She tried disputing the ticket online, but her dispute wouldn’t go through on the city's website. There were no error messages within her submission, nothing to explain why it wasn't going through.

After two failed attempts to submit her dispute online, my team member called the city to get some help.

The first employee she spoke to told her to just try resubmitting her dispute. She couldn’t answer my team member’s question about next steps if the form still wouldn't go through. When my team member asked if there were any known issues with the website or form, the employee simply said "no."

Frustrated and feeling stuck, my team member called back and talked to a different city employee.

This employee also suggested my team member try resubmitting the form. However, she offered to stay on the phone with her while she resubmitted it.

This employee said things like, “We want to make sure this goes through." She also pointed out some of the things that could be preventing the dispute from being accepted like character count or attachment file size.

Immediately, my team member could feel her body relax. She felt like this employee was with her.

Not wanting my team member to feel rushed, this employee also told her to "take her time."

This slowed my team member down, and it helped her to eventually realize that she was over the character limit (despite no error message on the web page).

When the dispute finally went through, the employee wrapped up the conversation by saying, “The good news is, the fees on this ticket will be frozen while your dispute is being reviewed.”

Just like that, my team member’s freak-out was nipped in the bud. She still had to wait for her dispute to be answered, but she felt like she could move on.

Could you feel the difference between the two conversations?

My team member entered both conversations already triggered. Who wants to be charged for a parking ticket that isn't theirs?

Each little part of the conversation with the first city employee ramped up my team member’s anxiety and stress levels more and more. My team member had called the city for help, but no help was given. She didn't feel heard – she had already tried resubmitting the form twice and it wasn't working – and she didn't feel valued. She left the conversation feeling just as stuck as when she called in.

Now, with the second city employee, my team member felt like she had an ally. Here was someone who was willing to stay on the phone with her as long as it took to get her dispute submitted correctly.

This employee also gave my team member an opportunity to breathe and consider possible fixes like character limit.

She planted seeds of happiness with phrases like "the good news is," "we want to make sure this goes through," and "take your time." These words tapped into my team member’s parasympathetic nervous system and allowed her to relax.

At my collection agency, we always want to make sure we're planting seeds of happiness in our callers’ minds.

Really, it’s no more than four to nine words that spoken at the right time plant a seed of a positive outcome. It’s a tiny bridge between validation –Step 1 of my Communication Code – and saying what you can do, which is Step 3.

Aside from “I’ve got this,” or "The good news is...," you could say...

“You’re in great hands!”

“I’m more than glad to help you with this.”

“I can definitely look into this.”

This easy, seemingly small step can be replicated in any business interaction. It will result in less anger, less stress, and more connection generated between everyone involved.

Now, I want to hear from you! Have you ever had a company or organization pull you out of panic mode? How did they do it?

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