Monday Motivation: How Do You Talk About Your Customers?

gossipTell me if you’ve ever done this.  After speaking with a customer who you perceived to be a “jerk,” you proceeded to the notes on their account to write just how you truly felt about them.  Have you ever written notes where calling the customer a “jerk” is actually a nice note compared to what you would like to say about them.

Hey, I get it.  When you’re working in a call center, the ire of an angry customer is so often directed at you.  You are unfairly the punching back and no supervisor telling you the customer is mad at the situation, not at you, can tell you otherwise.  It’s not exactly fair that telling mean or angry customers how you truly feel about them will likely get you fired.

I have a point of contention about the practice of writing internal notes about customers for all to see.  Those notes are immortalized in the account and all who work with that customer in the future will read them.  Like the practice of gossiping, AKA talking about someone behind their back, your perception of that customer now creates a prejudice for everyone else who speaks with them in the future.  When we talk about answering the phone with a smile, it becomes awfully difficult for your coworkers to smile when the first thing they read on the account is “this customer is a jerk.”

Yes I realize as a manager I just painted a huge target on my back, because I’m not the one taking call after call.  But hear me out for a moment as I propose a better way.

1. Find a healthier way to vent- If you are writing inflammatory notes about customers in their account or perhaps you are regularly venting to your coworkers, the customers may have gotten to you.  It doesn’t have to be this way!  Find a way to anchor your attitude in a good place that will sustain you throughout each day.

2. Only note things that need to be noted- Notes on accounts are designed to improve the support process for your coworkers and customers.  The rule of thumb is that if your note will enable your coworkers to do their job better, post it.  If not, write it on a Post-it note and burn it.  I have more than once written a venting email to no one, deleted it and moved on.

3. Yes there are a few exceptions- The cases where customers need to be fired are few and far between.  This is reserved for customers that inappropriately and consistently abuse customer service.  Most other customers may just need a change of scenery or a second opinion.  If you have a good supervisor or manager, they are the best place to turn if you need to vent about a customer.  Their role should be to empower and equip you to better serve that customer and jump in to help as needed.

When it comes to angry, jerky customers, I can be a real hot head.  Just ask some of my past and current colleagues.  I do a terrific job at taking things personally and becoming emotional.  Take it from me. It’s just not worth your time and energy! Let’s stop allowing the difficult customers to ruin our day and instead take great pride in overcoming the challenges before us.



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  • Angry customers are really challenging to deal with…they always seem to know every button to push. And since it’s against everything we have learned yelling back is just not acceptable. So our notes are the only place to write our true feelings. I love the post it note plan. It’s kind of like a letter we write, never intending to send it, but it gets our feelings out and helps us vent. Life is hard sometimes, and difficult customers with valid reasons for being angry call us to resolve their problems. Make it your goal to turn these customers around, make them happy and help fix their problem. Great post Jeremy.

    • Jeremy Watkin

      Definitely right on, Doug! I encourage healthy venting when necessary. Bottling up is definitely not a solution but you and I both know that attitude can immediately make a lot of difficult issues a lot easier.

  • You touch upon an important issue in your post. If we label a customer a “jerk” we’ll soon start to think of that person as a jerk and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We might even fall into the trap of labeling similar customers as jerks too.

  • Jenny Dempsey

    Great, great, great post, Jeremy! I know I’m also guilty of this (mostly I’ll hang up the phone, say, “What an @@#*&^%!” then have to step away from my desk). But, we can’t take their anger personally. We have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. Everyone is fighting their own battle and we need to understand that. Venting does help, for sure, and is necessary sometimes to take that anger out of your head. But, you’re right about the notes on accounts–it only sets you up to expect that. So, you instantly enter the communication with them defensively. Thanks for writing this, Jeremy!

  • Since I now work in the IT\IS with a small group of regulars which I know by name luckily that never happens anymore. Only one client that occasionally goes off the deep end and I just interrupt him and find an excuse to put him on hold for about 3-5 minutes to let him cool down. The classical music soothes the beast and we pick up like nothing happened.

    If you have an angry customer send them my way I know how to melt them like butter. <3

    • Jeremy Watkin

      Some times you have to do what you have to do, Jared! I’ve definitely put more than one customer on hold just to take a deep breath and cool off myself. It’s certainly better than yelling. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Yeah I <3 having a nice selection of hold music thanks to 😉 Agrees with Jenny also many a time I have done the WTF was that all about double take.

        On another note healthy competition is good for the consumer and keeps business innovating and on their toes. Unfortunately the CSRs get the fallout with nice remarks (sarcasm) such as "if you don't fix it now I'm going to name a competitor" if only I could have said "go ahead" when I was working retail I could have made some bank on YouTube.

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