If you could add a feature to Google maps, what would it be? Hands down, mine would be an estimator of how long it takes to get somewhere with kids in the car. Seriously, if you have kids or have taken a child anywhere, you know that it takes almost 50% more time to get anywhere with kids. It is about having realistic expectations. When my husband and I decided to take our three children on a spur of the moment road trip we did not have realistic expectations on how long it would take us. Eleven hours is what my friend, Google, told me but it didn’t account for my kids 500 bathroom stops. It took us over 15 hours to go from Kansas City to Galveston, TX. Fifteen long, long hours. Our expectation did not meet our reality.
While there, we decided to take a ferry ride to an island. We drove our car onto the ferry and turned it off. As we were nearing the island, we got back in the car and… it wouldn’t start. We tried and tried, but there was no way this car was going to start.
The people operating the ferry could not help us, our car was in the front row and had to be moved so they did what had to be done. They gathered 5 grown men together and had them push our car off the ferry. Imagine that! Our car was being pushed onto an island. It was humiliating. Then, once on the island, we were stranded. The car wouldn’t start, there were no mechanics, no tools, no way to get back to the mainland and we had three kids who needed to use the restroom. I was overwhelmed & embarrassed.
I was about to lose it! My expectations were not realistic and clearly not being met. In addition, unexpected circumstances arose that made the situation worse.
You’ve had customers come in to your store who were about to “lose it”, haven’t you? They had expectations that weren’t met, either by you or their equipment, then something unexpected happens and they become frustrated, embarrassed, overwhelmed, tired and irritable.
When this happens, when someone gets to the “lose it” point, you have to deal with the situation and there are a few things that you have to keep in mind.
- First, instead of focusing only on the situation, focus on the emotions of your customer. By this I mean, what happened is not as important as how the person feels about it. In my situation I had the emotions of fear, embarrassment, and a sense of being overwhelmed. These are what dictated my words and actions. If someone were to offer help in this situation, they should use phrases like, “Don’t worry, we will get you home.” Or, “We have seen this happen before, let’s see if we can get you back on the road again!”.
- Set realistic expectations. When communicating next steps, be sure to only promise what you know can be done. Having unmet expectations only escalates the situation.
- Work to provide a “no-more-surprises” solution. Remember that one of the reasons frustration escalates quickly is because the unexpected happened. Not everyone deals well with the unexpected such as a delay or extra expense. Be clear as to what the person can expect going forward. Time frame, costs, additional information. Be thorough as you go over next steps to resolve the problem.
- Remember, that the situation is personal. In my situation, it became intensely personal because my kids were in the car. As a note, if someone’s family is involved, it will automatically escalate a situation. Acknowledge the personal aspect of your customer’s situation. Sometimes, just by saying, “I know if I were in your shoes, I’d want this taken care of too.”
- Finally, help the customer “deflate” the situation. You see, in most cases, the problem becomes exaggerated. We tend to blow up a situation in our minds beyond the reality of the event. In my case, the situation got exaggerated and I figured we would be stranded in Galveston forever, at least in that moment.
As you engage with someone who is at the “lose it” point, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s normally not just one thing that sends them over the edge; there are numerous things, all coming together at one time, that makes the situation escalate. So, the next time a customer comes in frustrated and angry, work to help manage their emotions and expectations and you will create a customer for life.
End note: We did eventually get the car started and back on the ferry. Once we got it started, we kept it running all the way back home…just in case.