- Your humor and remarks can be the beginning of the end
When a client is in need of service, the last thing he or she wants to hear is a joke, a meant-to-be-funny remark, or a personal remark or opinion on your part.
It’s serious business to write to customer service or anyone who can assist with a problem or an issue. Problems and issues are usually the reasons why people make contact. Dropping a joke in response to feedback can not only be offensive, but, to some, downright insulting. It diminishes the problem the customer is experiencing, it can cause confusion and put people on the defensive. A client may feel unvalidated, and it sheds bad light on you and whom you represent. So, please say no to that stand-up comedienne, who dwells somewhere inside your psyche, and pass up those straight lines that may be fed to you.
Written remarks can interject mistaken sarcasm, personal points of view, and can be taken ambiguously. Remain in neutral at all times and practice restraint. Only answer what is asked of you; not what you personally think or feel the need to say or critique. You may intend for the remark to be funny, but remember that the reader may not know you – so, don’t presume that he or she will “get” it or “get” you.
The moral? Humor works best face-to-face, not in an email or a written response.
2. Don’t take offense nor take remarks to a personal level
Business is no place for sensitivity and has no room for the chip perched on a given shoulder. People will say things, without knowing how they are being perceived on your end. If you de-personalize and try to remember that it’s only business, perhaps the arrow may pass right over your head.
There may be times when people are down-right insulting: Either (a) he or she didn’t like your answer or proposed solution to the problem, or (b) when they know they are not going to get the desired result.
Under the guise of voiceless, faceless communication, bear in mind that the anonymity of it all gives people an edge to write things they may normally think twice about saying; especially when they are angry or lying for a desired result. The reader has nothing to lose by trying to push your buttons or by becoming rude, crass, vulgar, or profane; especially if the pendulum hasn’t swung their way. Or it may be that things may very well be going their way, but that person still refuses to be consoled to just win, without giving you a “piece of their mind” or a snide remark. De-personalization is one of the most valuable concepts and strategies you may ever know. Not just with clients; but also with superiors and business associates.
You, on the other hand, must check your hat, problems, and ego at the door. Take them back at the end of the work period. De-personalizing a situation will best serve you in business and also your personal life, as well.
3. Keep emotions under control
Keeping emotions in check, as well as tempers, goes hand-in-hand with the de-personalization strategy. If we de-personalize, we will be in better control of our emotions and avoid “losing” it.
Even in writing, curt remarks and responses can be heard. Should someone be rude or insult you, please remember that, should you respond unfavorably, that “send” button can unfavorably change your career in the blink of an eye.
I strongly advise that you choose your words carefully. Don’t respond negatively and always be respectful. Read and read again what you have written and imagine yourself on the receiving end. Be proud of your actions. Once again, it’s not only about professionalism, but also about the humanity of the situation…”You always catch more flies with honey…” and “Do unto others…”.
Jumping the gun provokes words that may never have been written. Take a deep breath first before responding. I call to light some points from my previous post – “Don’t presume or judge”…”One never knows the whole story”. Please know of what you speak before rattling off a response. Know the facts. Step away for a moment, if you must.
If this area is challenging for you, you may want to ask yourself: What exactly is it about the remark of the client that made you angry? Is it touching on something personal? By understanding what makes you tick, you may not get so “ticked off” the next time you are verbally challenged.
On the other hand, a client may respond favorably and poke a joke or a remark on your behalf. Even in a what may seem to be a “favorable” situation, please do not respond with more humor nor engage in a personal exchange of words. Remain constant in your professional approach.
4. Do not tolerate foul or vulgar language – nor use it
Any client who resorts to the lowest form of language should not be tolerated. No one can fault you for setting boundaries.
Tell the client that the offensive language is not acceptable. State your boundaries: Express that you would be happy to address the concerns in a more respectful, calmer manner, with the absence of profanity and vulgarity. State also that, if he or she chooses to continue in that vein, then he or she can expect the conversation to terminate and that you will be keeping a record of the exchange.
Please never retaliate with a barrage of your own. You will never win this battle and will never be able to justify your actions, regardless of what was said. You will put yourself in the line of fire for serious repercussions. Always maintain your image of self respect and respect for whom you represent. Set an example of one who refuses to put oneself on that uncivilized level and remember that you are above communicating in this way.
This post is the second from Jenny in a three-part series on Effective Online Communication. Next week: “Learn to really listen to what the client is saying.”