Pit Stop: Keep Calm and Prosper

July 29, 2021
Angry customers happen. Is your staff ready?

Make sure you’ve created a plan and trained staff to handle these cases before they happen. Certified leadership and sales trainer Jennifer Monclus with ELITE Worldwide weighs in on what shop staff can do if customers lose their cool.

As told to Ryan McCanna

Hot Heads, Cool Minds

I’ve worked with probably thousands of advisors, and I would say the umbrella cause for angry customers is miscommunication. So normally, when that kind of heightened emotional situation arises, generally speaking it could be because expectations were not met. Maybe an advisor [shop manager, employee, etc] over promised and under delivered. Promises might have been made that fell short. 

First and foremost, the thing we should be doing in a perfect world is preventing all of those surprises and miscommunications from happening. The key thing that I teach here at ELITE is following a sales cycle. So when you follow the proper procedure, communication is going to be clear, expectations are going to be clear, dialogue will happen, customers will be engaged, value and reasoning and questions will be answered. Prevention is always going to be key.

Quick Tips to Ease Tension

When these situations arise, keep your emotions in check. The customer is reacting at this point, so if an advisor can keep their own emotions in check, that’s the fine art we want all of them to master. They can’t take these situations personally. Whatever the customer is feeling, those are facts to them in that moment. Whatever they’re experiencing, that’s their reality. So don’t let your emotions override your calm, cool thinking. 

Take them aside, if there is an office you can take them to or something if the escalation begins in a parking lot or in a lobby. Of course, use common sense, but anything the advisor can do to calm them down is important.

Let them vent. Let them get it all out in the air, all their issues on the table, remain calm and just listen. Now is not the time to interrupt, now is not the time to get defensive. Just apologize. Apologize for the hassle. Advisors have to be really sincere. 

They should reassure and reiterate to the customer that they’re still with the right shop, they’re still with the right people, you’ve still got the right principles. Now is the time to put them at ease. Any good doctor would do that, if you came back and were still sick. Advisors need to show major empathy and be very patient. If the advisor is aware of how they sound, their tonality, their body language, their cadence and how they’re speaking—if they’re coming across as receptive, really great listeners, they’re there to hear the customers feelings--I feel like that’s going to help diffuse a lot of uncomfortable situations.

Honesty is always going to be the best policy. Remain transparent and ethical throughout the process. This helps customers feel that nothing is being hidden from them, that they’re not in a bait-and-switch situation with a dishonest company.

Training Heroes

In our advanced classes, we talk about the emotional mind and how that really does play a role in the buying and selling environment. It’s got to be relational, not transactional. 

I would recommend that the advisors meet with management, do role plays, talk about training that could help them, but also look back at occurrences that happen and look at them as learning opportunities. 

Educate yourself about what policies are in place for when comeback issues occur. For example, if there is an unforeseen, labor intensive do-over, what do we do about that? The advisors need to feel well-equipped that they’ve got some form of tool or responsibility to provide the proper resolution. They shouldn’t have to run to the manager or the shop owner every time this occurs. 

We want the service advisor to come across as the hero in the long run. Whatever that may look like in the shop. Some customers don’t need a refund or a discount. They just want to be heard, they need to vent or receive an apology. I don’t want advisors to enter these conversations thinking it’s all about money. Of course, sometimes refunds are necessary but it’s not the be-all, end-all answer.

Emotional situations happen. Our industry has to face a negative reputation, unfortunately. Because of this, at the beginning of the relationship, the customers’ anxiety is going to be high. Our training is about reducing their anxieties. No one wants to walk in and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars unnecessarily. It’s a harder sale and that makes this a really tough job. 

As a result, if you can have a service advisor who manages emotions really well, offers reassurance, is emotionally attuned to people--they’re going to be really successful.