How to deal with conflict?
Have you gotten off on the wrong foot with someone so suddenly you have no idea what happened to get you in the pickle? This was my experience at work today. I work in customer service so I meet with a variety of people both in person and on the phone. People have questions, I try to supply answers. Like many employees, I have been asked by my employer to follow a protocol or get specific information from our customers. Not some customers, all customers. It’s the way my office does business. It can’t be unlike other businesses across the country, right? Well, today, this lady took offense at my initial question or the way I phrased it, or the way I spoke, or looked, I’m not sure. Within 2 minutes she was asking my name, how long I had worked in this department, why I was so “bug-eyed”, why I looked like I didn’t have time to help them. It was a barrage of questions. I felt myself blush. And I don’t mean turn a pretty pink, I could feel the full-on-hairline-to-chin-beet-red-look spreading, maybe even to my ears…or neck! And, I probably was wide-eyed by this point, but I would disagree with looking like a bug(really?). Her voice was raised and she was encouraging her family to leave. Immediately. I was thinking, “What the heck is going on?” I ask these same questions to people every week and have for the past 10 years with very little push back. So, yeah, at this point I knew we were not gonna be best friends.
I wish I had read this article from MindTools on dealing with unhappy customers. Because, believe me, this is not an entirely new situation! I have had grumpy customers before, but there was a reason. Today, I was totally caught off guard. There was no canceled class, ill instructor, or an over-charge on a bill, nothing obvious. The problem was apparently me. The ‘unhappy customer’s’ aggressive attitude had my mind spinning. I should have set aside my feelings and really listened. She was upset that I was asking her if she was a resident of our community and if her granddaughter lived with her. It makes a difference on how we search our database. I did not explain this and that our protocol includes checking resident or non-resident for everyone. Ultimately, we got her granddaughter enrolled in two classes. However, they did not have a form of payment with them. [Who shops without bringing a credit card or money?] Well, I ‘broke the rules’ and left the granddaughter in the classes without payment, asking that they call before the end of the business day to take care of the balance. Looking back, I should have apologized. To be honest, at the time it didn’t even occur to me. An apology probably would have gone a long way to smooth over the rough edges. But I was still having my own mental tizzy (with my eyes “bugging” out) and trying to make sense of the crossed wires.
I’ll be reviewing this with my office manager. Following up with a note to the customer is on my list of ‘to-dos’.
And I hope you all have a great MONDAY!