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One Simple Way to Reduce Customer Stress

Have you ever gotten a call or email from someone and just seeing that person’s name come up made you anxious because of a bad exchange you had?

It’s an immediate trigger, and it’s stressful, right?

I think so much of our stress comes from poor communication.

One of the objectives of my Conscious Communications strategy is to avoid inviting adversity with the people we’re communicating with.

As the CEO of a debt collection agency, I’ve talked to some really unhappy people. Nobody likes being told they owe money. And nobody likes telling others they owe money.

One of the biggest pain points in our office used to be that consumers would call us and say they’d like to pay a debt, but only if it we took it off their credit reports.

We can’t take paid debts off credit reports. It’s against our contract with the credit bureaus, and we used to tell people that.

We’d say something like, “I'm sorry. We can't do that because our policy is that we don't do credit bartering, and as a matter of fact, that's a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.”

That only invited arguments.

Looking back on it, it’s easy to see why.

We realized, here was a situation where people wanted to pay their debts, and instead of latching onto that need, we were calling them out on their request and essentially making them feel like criminals.

Of course, we weren’t going to go against policy, but we could communicate “no” in a less menacing way.

After making our brains sweat to figure out how we were going to communicate “no” without saying “no” and how we could make people feel good about paying their debts, this was our solution…

“Thank you for calling our office. I'm so happy to process your payment today. What our office will do is update your credit bureau within 30 days that this account has been paid in full.”

Now, you’ll notice that answer did not 100% give the consumers what they were asking for.

In fact, we’d usually have people come back to us and say, “But I really need this removed because I’m applying for a mortgage,” etc.

In that case we’d say something like, “Oh, I completely understand, and I see this is important to you. So, you’re welcome to dispute this item directly with the credit bureau as a paid-in-full debt and request to have it removed. We'll receive an electronic notification, and we'll reply accordingly.”

Notice how we focused on what we could do rather than what we couldn’t do? We didn’t point out that their request was prohibited. We acknowledged that their request was important to them and went straight to a solution.

This invited fewer arguments and resulted in less anger and less stress.

I think sometimes we’re so focused on being right that we forget that there can be consequences to that mindset, like losing a customer, or in this instance, consumers who are going to pay their debts. I believe that Conscious Communications allows us to turn into advocates for customers instead of feeling like we must prove a point.

One of my favorite comments I’ve ever received from a trainee was that after implementing my communication strategy, it “just seemed like people had less GRRR.” I knew exactly what she meant. The reason there was less GRRR was because she wasn’t using any triggering statements.

I believe that strong communicators nip stress in the bud. They don’t invite adversity or GRRR, and they help people get closer to a solution.

Do you think being a “conscious communicator” would help you reduce the stress in your life?

Remember: Avoid using negative words, replace them with words that work, and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do. Try these tips in your next conversation and let me know what differences you see!

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