Emotionally Intelligent Customer Service Pros Use This Technique to Calm Customers
Angry, desperate, and afraid customers are stuck in the right emotional brain. In the right brain, people are in their feelings, filtering everything through their emotions. When customers are angry, they can't access their logical left brain to calm down and listen to you. They simply don't have the capacity to be open to options and let you guide them to the next steps.
In this article, I'll share the secret that emotionally intelligent customer support professionals use to calm angry customers.
Emotionally intelligent customer support pros know that customers can't hear them unless and until the customer feels heard and validated. This is because when a customer is venting, angry, over-talking you, or asking for a manager, that person is in the right brain. The right brain is where we experience art, music, and rhythm. It's also the portal for emotion and feelings. Math, logic, and analytical thinking are all left-brain functions.
Customers with the right brain will have more difficulty when you tell them no or give them bad news because they're filtering your message through their emotions; they imagine worst-case scenarios and their feelings.
Let me illustrate what responding from the right emotional brain is like.
Imagine that you and I are in the same room, and this is a workshop. There are, say, two hundred people in the room with us. I come to the stage, and my first words are, "Good morning!"
And I'm met with awkward silence. No one in the crowd smiles, waves, or speaks to me.
How do you think I'd feel? I'd feel awkward. Embarrassed. I'm now in my emotional right brain, in my feelings. If I'm not intentional, I might handle my presentation from my emotional state. Feeling embarrassed, I might hold on to the podium for the feeling of safety rather than move around the stage and into the crowd as I do when I'm feeling confident. In my feelings, my delivery is a lot different than if I felt validated and welcomed.
When your customer is in the emotional right brain, they're focused on their emotions, and they aren't going to hear anything you say until you acknowledge their concern, that is, until you validate them.
So, how do you fix that?
Emotionally intelligent customer service professionals know they must transfer customers out of the right brain to get them to calm down. They know the customer has to be in the left brain, which is responsible for logic and reasoning.
Emotionally intelligent customer service professionals know how to move customers out of the emotional right brain into the logical left brain by acknowledging their concerns and validating their experience.
That's it. That's the pro technique: Move customers out of the emotional right brain by validating their experience.
Here are three examples from my work with clients demonstrating moving customers from the right emotional brain to the left logical side.
The customer's electricity has been disconnected for non-payment. You cannot offer another extension because the customer didn't follow through on the current payment arrangement. The customer is crying and mainly focusing on her three kids, who will return to a cold, dark house.
In this scenario, I had my client show empathy for the customer's concern for what her kids are about to experience. I had them do this before discussing what it takes to turn the power back on.
"I know the last thing you want is for your kids to return home from school today and see the power is off."
One sentence. That's all it takes to validate and move the customer out of the emotional right-brain.
The insurance agent's license lapsed. To reinstate, the agent must retake an exam and pay fees. In the meantime, the agent can't legally sell insurance because they have no license. Not being able to sell insurance means she can't provide a service to her clients, earn money, or pay her employees.
I helped my client focus on showing the customer they get how serious the problem was because if you don't show you get it, the customer will get more emotional, and it will be harder for them to focus on the next steps.
"I realize it's upsetting to hear that you'll have to retake your exam and apply for a new license, particularly because you need it right now."
Convinced that the employee gets how urgent and crucial the matter is, the customer can drop their shoulders on the venting and move to the next steps with the employee.
A customer scheduled an appointment with a veterinary clinic, and they've been waiting more than 40 minutes past their appointment time. The customer is, understandably, upset and is focusing on the fact that it seems useless to have made an appointment if she still has to wait.
While many delays are inevitable, and there's nothing you can do to speed things up in this scenario, you can speak to your customer's pain point. Here's how I guided my client:
"I realize you've been waiting a long time. We take care of a lot of pets. While we try to schedule so you don't have to wait, it's tough. Sometimes pets need more time than we predicted."
Here, I had my client identify with the customer's frustration and quickly pivot to explain that some delays can't be avoided. This response didn't solve the problem but validated the customer's concern and calmed the customer.
Customer service pros know they have to deal with feelings first. They have to move customers out of the emotional right brain and into the logical left brain by validating the customer's experience. Once customers feel heard and understood, you've lowered the temperature, and they'll follow you to the next steps.
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