Phone Manners and Difficult Customers

The words we use can cause a dramatic effect the relationships you have with your customers

The choice of words we use in any given situation is much like traveling in a Time Machine: any small adjustment one way or another can create an outcome that is substantially different than expected. In the movies, the time traveler is always warned to not do anything to change the course of history, but inevitably, he interacts with somebody causing a disruption in the fabric of time.

It’s always portrayed as something small, like teaching a kid who keeps getting beat up by bullies to defend himself… You know, something you wouldn’t think would be a big deal but it ends up having a huge impact on the future. Maybe the kid grows up to become a criminal instead of finding a cure for heart disease (which was his intended destiny).

That’s how words work with your customers.

The other day I got a call from a lady who wanted to pick a fight from the outset: as soon as I grabbed the phone she was yelling: “how much are you gonna rip me off for a tow…”

She was very angry because she had been the victim of theft: someone had stolen her keys (why just the keys, I don’t know…) and her car had to go to the dealership to get a new set made.

The dealership wouldn’t provide free towing, even though she had dealt with them for over a thousand years, and she was just itching for another fight…and she almost had it, with me. But I held myself back and I told her our rates.

I was understanding and courteous and used consoling words like “I’m sorry to hear that”.

I suggested a few different ways she could pay for the service; ways that might not sting as much right now, and finally her shell began to soften and she started breathing again, and the words came out a lot slower and in a pitch that wasn’t so high.

She finally settled down a bit and apologized for being so upset… Only time will tell, but I believe I gained a new customer that day, one that I would have if I had used other words.

Your choice of words and how you use them can be the difference between making a sale or losing a sale. It can be what escalates a complaint or resolves it. Your words can help build a relationship that lasts long into the future or kill it before it even gets a chance to start.

What happens with most of us is that we are so busy answering phones and dealing with problems -which as you know is exactly what the towing this is all about- we are taking care of employees, fixing trucks and so much more that we don’t always switch gears when it comes time to solve the customer’s problems…

We are always in crisis mode.

The people involved in your business, the drivers and dispatchers you work with, know how things work and don’t expect you to drop everything at a moment’s notice to solve their problems.

Well.. not always… but that’s exactly what your customers expect. That’s what they want and rightfully so.

Customers are having their own crisis going on and are looking to you to solve it. It can be hard switching back and forth from “crabby old guy”, dealing with everybody’s crap, to the helping hand and calming voice that everybody wants in a difficult situation. But you gotta do it. Makes all the difference in the World.