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A SMILEMakes All the Difference! from Page 20


customers pick on me?” The bottom line is that the customer is really upset. And like it or not, you are the target of their pent- up frustration. In fact, many organizations use the acronym “IPATTAP” to


dealwith difficult customers: Interrupt, Patronize,Argue, Threat- en, Terminate and Apply Penalties. Even though this is a com- mon tactic, it’s not the best approach to take. Amuch better approach to dealing with difficult and angry


customers is SMILE. Not only is a smile helpful when providing exceptional customer service, SMILE also is an anagram that can be used to remember a simple approach to dealing with diffi- cult customers.


Smile and Listen to the Customer First off, realize that the customer is not angry at you; he or


she is irate at a situation. You just happen to be an available tar- get. So don’t take it personal.Once you accept that fact, a smile is easier to produce andmaintain. A smile is contagious.When we smile, others around us feel


better; we feel better as well. Research shows that when we smile, we treat others nicer, which causes our brains to release endorphins. These endorphins help to improve our mood, which helps us to listen to the customer. We have to listen to the cus-


tomer, not merely hear what they are saying. Note that there is a difference between “hear- ing” and “listening.” Hearing is the physical act of receiving sound through our ears. Listening is the emotional act tomake a conscious effort to hear and understand what our customer actuallymeans.


Show Empathy Empathy and sympathy are two different things. According


toWikipedia, sympathy is an emotional affinity inwhichwhatev- er affects one correspondingly affects the other, and its synonym is pity.On the other hand, according toWikipedia, empathy is commonly defined as one’s ability to recognize, perceive and directly, experientially feel the emotion of another. So, in simple terms, sympathy merely says that you know


how the customer feels. Empathy is often characterized as being able to “put yourself in the customer’s shoes.” Empathy conveys a much deeper sense of emotion, since it connotates that you can actually “feel” the customer’s pain. Quite often, when we show true empathy, the customer


realizes that we are not the enemy. This can help to diffuse the situation.


Provide Information This is the action part of the plan. This iswhere you provide


information on how you plan to help them. Clearly communi- cate what you are going to do to solve the problem. Do whatev- er is in your power to positively affect the customer’s situation. If this is a situation that is out of your power to solve, pro-


vide the next steps to the customer. Many times, the customer merely wants to know what they can do, and when we provide this information, the situation is


22 JANUARY 2009 • PARKING TODAY • www.parkingtoday.com


SMILE:


S – Smile and listento the customer M– showeMpathy I – provide Information L – Let themvent


E – Escalate to your supervisor, if necessary


diffused. If possible, provide options. The customer wants to feel they are controlling the situation. If we can provide options, the customer can choose a plan of action, making them feel in control.


Interrupt, Patronize, Argue, Threaten, Terminate and Apply Penalties.


Let ThemVent Most of the time, the cus-


tomer is merely angry at a situa- tion. They are not angry at you, they are angry at the situation. By letting the customer vent, they usually get that anger out in the open, and the situation is diffused. Dealing with an angry


customer is a lot like dealing with an inflated balloon. If we don’t handle it correctly – BOOM!When the angry customer vents, much of their tension is gone, and they are easier to deal with. When we let the customer vent, it is important that we do


not interrupt. Let them get it all out. That’s when we are able to open a line of communication with the customer, helping us to reach a resolution.


Escalate to Supervisor We have to realize that we cannot make every angry cus-


tomer happy. Sometimes, we have to escalate to our supervisor to get a resolution. The customer may be so angry at the situa- tion that anyone associated with it cannotmake themhappy. Additionally, our frontline personnel are not paid to take


abuse. If a customer becomes abusive, the cashier must escalate to the supervisor. The supervisor must remove the angry cus- tomer fromtheir “audience” and pull themto the side to resolve the situation. We are not going tomake everyone happy.We will have to


deal with angry and difficult customers daily. If we remember the acronymSMILE,wewill be able to diffuse the situationmore often than not.


Mark Morris is Director of Organizational Development for Lanier Parking Solutions, based in Atlanta. Contact him at mmorris@lanierparking.com.


PT


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