How can proper communication be used to reduce emotion in a customer service situation?  

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ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I assume you are talking about an irate customer when you talk about "reducing emotion."  How do we deal with customers that are very upset?

First, we are going to talk about verbal ways to handle this.  The goal is to use our verbal communication skills to diffuse the situation, rather than making it worse:

  • Make sure you use language that is non-biased, easily understood, and appropriate.
  • Use words that express an understanding of how the angry person is feeling, not just what they are saying.
  • Avoid confrontational language.  For example, if you don't understand something they are saying, don't say "You aren't making any sense."  Instead, try "I don't think I'm understanding what you'r getting at."
  • Try to rephrase things by using comparisons or examples.

Secondly, and almost more importantly, you must use non-verbal communication skills to address these issues.

  • Keep a distance between the two of you to respect "personal space."
  • Stand so that your feet are not aimed directly at the person, which can be seen as threatening.
  • Keep the volume of your voice down.  This will force someone to reduce their volume as well if they want to hear you.
  • Keep your voice steady.  Don't let your pitch go up.  Don't speak too quickly.
  • Articulate.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Avoid crossing your arms.
  • Control your hand gestures.
  • Maintain good posture.  Give the person your full attention.

Lastly, it will help if you can really understand why the person is upset in the first place.  Is it because of a right the person feels has been violated, or are they upset over a preference?  Is what they are upset about legitimate or imagined?  This will help you to determine how much you want to be insistent on issues.

Remember--pick your battles.  Not everything is worth the battle, and part of the reason you're being paid is to deal with emotional customers.  Saving your pride or winning the argument may result in you losing your job.  Stay calm, stay in control, and know when it's time to get help.

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