The other day I heard a woman complain about how she disliked her job. She indicated being fed up with angry customers taking their frustration out on her. She went on to tell a wild tale about a family eating at her restaurant. Something about food being cold and the mother asking if the server was trying to give her kid salmonella by serving it. [Missed Details Here]. Free meal happened after the customer demanded a manager and proceeded to throw a fit, turning heads from around the restaurant, and causing a huge scene. As she described this huge scene, she outstretched her arms and had her palms facing in, fingers curled as though she were holding on to the world’s largest invisible Hero sandwich. She, too, was making a scene as people turned to examine what she was so excited about.
I told her I would consult the internet and my years of experience in dealing with Poo Bears–so named because they are essentially people who are taking a poo on your day–in order to find a solution for anyone trying to just get through the moment locked in a situation with one of these types of unfortunate customers. I suppose you could use these tactics to deal with any type of Poo Bear in your life, such as an angry wife, jackass in the car behind you hugging your tail and honking fervently, a police officer who has just pulled you over. Many applications, but I’ll let you use your discretion as to what here is good advice and when to use it.
The Universal Tip (Bonus Tip): Get Your Spock On
The most important piece of advice anyone can give you about dealing with angry people is to keep your emotions in check. You have to play this poker game with a good face, or none of the advice will be of any use. Once you feel or show or become inspired by your emotions, you lose. Live long and prosper.
Okay, maybe that’s a bad idea. By the way, here are some fun facts about chalk outlines. My favorite one: they’re essentially extinct. So why do news stations still illustrate murder story captions with this stuff?
Dr. Ubel at Duke University spends some time comparing a low-income Starbucks employee’s smiling methodology to the bedside manner of health professionals when it comes to dealing with irate customers (or patients, or guests, or whatever we call them). You know something is wrong with the world when a Duke University physician says students should probably work at Starbucks before applying to medical school. Smiles are more than tension-diffusing tools. No one will ever be able to lodge a reasonable complaint about a well-executed (possibly patronizing “go-to-Hell”) smile. And I don’t think anything would bother me more than if my proctologist were to put on a toothy grin while digging into my annual examination.
“Why is the sky blue?”
“What color should it be?”
Sure, it’s an annoying thing when it happens. But many times, an angry person doesn’t think you’re capable of coming up with a solution, so they come at you with raised fists and a snarling voice to elicit a response or get their way–even if their way is not a reasonable solution. Frequently, people don’t even know what they’re angry about. Rarely are they angry at you personally, which is why you really have to get a grip on those emotions. When you answer questions with questions, you can steer the customer to become rational-thinking instead of emotional-thinking. You can also get them to elaborate on the real issue at hand, which may help you better think of possible solutions. Whatever you do, don’t argue with an angry person. People can’t reasonably argue with questions. Of course, if you’re trying to get fired or collect workman’s comp, you could reply to questions with questions excessively until you get punched in the neck.
Is your angry customer droning on and on? No problem. Stare directly at the white of their left eye and get lost in the red ripples of bursting capillaries until you sail away to Unicorn Beach. It’s a tropical destination filled with unicorns, rainbows, cotton candy sunsets, and copious amounts of New Age music to keep your inner-peace intact while your malleus bone hammers away at the incus to bring your imminent doom with deafness one day closer than your eighty-fifth birthday. Hey, I just taught you some anatomy. And you didn’t think this post would be educational. Do yourself a favor, and take on all the yelling customers you can so you can get deafness out of the way quickly, and get your Social Security benefits before they’re depleted.
Ultimately something’s gotta give. Forbes has a few steps one should take in dealing with Poo Bears, and when they say, “[a good solution] is all the customer is looking for,” that’s usually the truth. But most of us aren’t experts at everything. The important takeaway here is that you know how to get to a solution. Know people in other departments who might be the expert of the situation, and be prepared to put the angry customer in touch with that person. If you take the time to explain what is going on to the new guy who is about to take custody of your tantruming terror, you’ll save everyone a lot of hassle and even look like a hero to anyone paying attention. Don’t worry, no one is paying attention. Some customers, however, won’t be happy with a simple solution. That’s when you have to:
Sometimes when I let my puppy outside, she won’t go poop. She waits until I let her back in, am preoccupied, then lets loose the floodgate in some hidden (so she thinks) locale. Whether it’s to protest or not I can’t say, but if she knows she will get a treat for coming inside with an empty pooper, she tends to be more thoughtful with her choices. Angry customers can be the same way. For some, the “inconvenience” of having their expectations missed merits a free meal, gift card, compliments on their eyes, or whatever it is they’re after as compensation. Hell, some people go out of their way to complain in order to score freebies. Save yourself most of the steps listed in this post and just hand the jaw-flapper your wallet.
Let’s face it: most people reading this article don’t get paid enough to put up with the crap raining down on them. Remember all those times your manager made you feel ten-inches tall? Tell the Poo Bear you’ll be right back, go inform the manager your unruly customer demands their assistance, head to the break room and toss a bag of popcorn in the microwave, remove the bag, shake vigorously, pull bag open (but watch out for the steam), get back into position near where the action is taking place, and enjoy. You deserve it! Bonus points if you burnt the popcorn just enough to ruin everyone’s day.