One of the most courageous tactics in the world of customer service involves a situation that is infrequent yet volatile. Handling these events with a spirit of fearlessness is vital for customer service success and for long-term sanity. The nature of this service event involves customer behavior, but specifically as to how a service representative deals with customers who use vulgar language. While these situations don’t arise often – our panic button can easily be triggered if we’re not careful.
The courageous and tactical response that I suggest is designed to stun a customer. Customers who use vulgar or “dirty” language are seeking a confrontation. The customer wants to win and they expect you to lose. Service professionals understand that a win/win outcome is most desirable. How does a service professional achieve this? Perhaps a military strategy will suffice.
A noted military tactician fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War said the simple keys to victory are, “get there first with the most” and “always do what the enemy least expects.” These same tactics are equally applicable when handling irate customers who use vulgar language.
Customers using crude or vulgar language usually do so because of their emotional state. We should tell customers who use such language, “I realize you are upset and I want to help you. But I am not in the habit of being spoken to in that fashion, nor do I speak with people who use that kind of language.” This polite statement will keep intact the self-esteem of the customer and allow the two of you to continue in your conversation.
Should the customer persist in using vulgar language, the we must stun customer and make it a point to focus on their unacceptable behavior. To prepare for this, the we should sit up straight, take a deep breath, and muster their most authoritative vocal tone for what will come next. Ask the customer to repeat the last sentence that contained the vulgar language by saying, “Could you please repeat that last sentence, I am taking notes.” This statement will stun the customer. The customer will rationally think about what he just said and repeat the sentence minus the offensive speech.
This technique has served me well for years. Your tone and attitude are key – stay helpful throughout.
We should tell customers who use such language, “I realize you are upset and I want to help you.”
You should practice good discernment during any difficult encounter. The word, discern, means to grasp or to analyze through careful understanding. The prefix “DIS” is usually associated with words in which something is taken apart for greater comprehension. Words such as disconnect, dismember or dismantle come to mind.
The only thing you can control is yourself – you can not control the customer, therefore exercise care in how you convey a message. Good luck.