Discretion is the Better Part of Valor – Michael Dennis, CBF

Discretion In Action!
Discretion In Action!

From time to time, everyone must deal with an irate customer.  Sometimes, I feel like I am talking to a child throwing a temper tantrum.  Over time, I have learned by trial and error what not to do or say when a customer is having a meltdown on the phone.

I learned to be patient.  Temper tantrums usually blow themselves out.  I learned that people are often upset because they feel their needs are being ignored or no one is listening to them.

One of the biggest challenges is to stay calm.  If the customer shows no sign of slowing down, I think it is time to disengage. Something that works for me is to say this to the customer —and yes I have it written down on a 3×5 card.

“I recognize things are pretty tense right now and I don’t think we are going to make a lot of progress today.  I will give you a call the same time tomorrow.  In the meantime, I will discuss your concerns with senior management and I do appreciate your time.”

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM
Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

Whenever possible, I ask my manager to join the follow up call.  I am often amazed by the difference in the customer’s demeanor.

How do you deal with temper tantrums?

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is  www.coveringcredit.com

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

3 Replies to “Discretion is the Better Part of Valor – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. Through experience – my own and vicariously – I have seen some of the best and worst ways to deal with a temper tantrum.
    Some people will try to steer the conversation back to something more normal – inadvertently they may also be interrupting or “changing the topic” in the eyes of their customer. This almost inevitably only causes further tension.
    I think some of the very best ways of dealing with a temper tantrum and in building a relational way of speaking to them which does not naturally cause tension. Discussing things in terms like “your company’s unpaid balance..” as opposed to “you didn’t pay this” can make a world of difference in the long run.
    Irregardless of how well you handle your customers, eventually you’re going to find one that is just not going to make conversation easy. Despite the “never go to bed angry” idea that the problem needs to be resolved here and now, there are definitely times when postponing and taking a different approach (sometimes with a different person) is a better way to go. Sometimes offering an apology the next day, after things have cooled, for any misconceptions and trying to initiate a “let’s work together” attitude can be a big step toward patching things up and moving toward a solution.

  2. I agree with your comment to an extent. If the temper tantrum includes profanity directed at the credit team member, I think it is important to establish what is and is not acceptable. I warn the customer that if they cannot refrain from using abusive language that I will end the call. At this point, either the customer (a) calms down, or (b) becomes more irate and uses more profanity at which time I tell the customer I am ending the call and hang up.

    Something to think about: Over the years, I have learned to immediately document in writing to my manager the reason for hanging up on the debtor. Why? Because there have been several instances in which the same profane and verbally abusive customer has called my company to complain about MY unprofessional behavior.

  3. I try not to involve my boss in calls, or follow ups, with irate customers.

    I prefer to try to handle these problems myself and hold my manager’s time in reserve for helping me to address more important tasks than customers throwing temper tantrums.

    BTW, Happy 4th of July to all.

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