Harnessing the Power of Conversational Aikido to Redirect Challenging Customer Conversations

how to handle difficult customers verbal aikido

What is Aikido?

It can be challenging to remain calm and composed when dealing with an angry customer. We often turn to the traditional approach of using logic and reason to try and resolve the situation. You might have yet to hear about an alternative strategy: conversational Aikido.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art that uses redirection to neutralize aggression. Taking the attacker's momentum and using it against him is the goal, not meeting force with force. When it comes to customer service, this means steering the conversation in a positive direction to defuse a tense situation. 

Harmony, humility, and respect are fundamental principles of Aikido. These values translate well into customer service, which aims to establish mutual understanding and trust. Taking an Aikido mindset can help you transform a potentially destructive interaction into something constructive.

The Power of Conversational Aikido in Customer Service

The purpose of conversational Aikido is to reframe the customer's concerns and redirect the conversation toward a resolution.  

Let's imagine a customer is upset because they haven't received their order on time. In my Verbal Aikido workshop, I'd guide learners to say, "I know you're anxious to get your package. Let's see how we can get your package to you as soon as possible." This approach quickly shifts the focus from the problem to the solution through empathy and tactical redirecting. 


What is Redirecting in Aikido and How to Use it to Calm Angry Customers?

Redirecting in Aikido is about using the opponent's momentum to your advantage. In customer service, this means taking the customer's anger or frustration and steering it toward a more productive outcome.

To do this effectively, you must listen carefully to the customer's concerns, empathize with their feelings, and then positively guide the conversation. 

Redirecting doesn't mean ignoring or dismissing the customer's concerns. The key is to acknowledge their feelings and validate their experiences. This way, the customer feels heard and understood, and a constructive dialogue can occur.

10 Statements for Redirecting Angry Customers 

(Use these statements in chat support, phone conversations, email, or in person.)

  1. "I can see your point on that. The first thing we need to do is ________."
  2. "If I were in your position, I would feel the same. I'll look at your account now and see what's happening."
  3. "This is no more acceptable to us than it is to you. I'm sharing your experience with our General Manager in Carpinteria.
  4. "I know you're anxious to have this completed. I see your returned item arrived in our mailroom on June 30th. We typically process returns within 17 of receipt in our warehouse."
  5. "As a mother of three children, I can relate to your experience. The first thing I'll do is issue a full refund."
  6. "We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do. The first thing we'll do is _____."
  7. "I'm sorry to hear you're having this problem. I'm confident I can find a solution for you."
  8. "I don't want you to worry at all. I can see what's happening in our system and make the corrections during this call/chat."
  9. "I can see how this situation could be frustrating. Let's review your options."
  10. "I'm sorry for any misunderstanding. Let me try to clarify things."


Get my powerful list of 57 Phrases to De-escalate Any Angry Customer!


Bonus: The Aikido Principle, "Don't Push."

Conclusion and next steps for redirecting angry customers

Learning how to handle a difficult customer using Conversational Aikido techniques is just one piece of the puzzle. As you continue to develop your communication skills, remember to practice the critical Aikido principles of harmony, flexibility, centering, non-confrontation, and empathy.

Incorporating these techniques into your daily interactions will improve your ability to handle challenging customers, enhance your overall communication skills, boost your confidence, and pave the way for success in all aspects of your life. So take the first step towards mastering the art of communication today, and watch as the benefits unfold in your professional and personal endeavors.


Continue the Conversation with Me?

For more help talking to difficult customers, check out my online De-escalation Academy!

Check Out Our Most Popular Training - De-escalation Academy!

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