Jean-Pierre Lauzier, consultation expert, sales consultant and author of the book “Le coeur aux ventes”, regularly gives his personal and commercial development advice on Isarta Infos. Today, he talks about situations that escalate with customers and how to get out of them.

As a salesperson, your job is to satisfy your customers. You serve each customer memorably by helping them solve their problem, find the solution they are looking for, make a dream come true…

Today, in an era of “fake news”, with the rise of the political right and the influence of social media, people are using their power with greater aplomb, sometimes even flippancy and arrogance in their communication. How can you avoid strong affirmative and emotional reactions from customers… or from yourself? How do you maintain a healthy and respectful business or personal relationship?

The vast majority of people do not abuse their power and remain very respectful. But some people have difficult behaviours when the pressure becomes high. These behaviours can take different forms: exaggerating the truth, raising the tone of the voice, being rude, being disrespectful, saying inappropriate comments about the person’s physical, ethnicity or status, etc.

Don’t leave in silence

As a general rule, the more important a customer is to the supplier, the more power he/she has. If that person is malignant, he/she may try to abuse that power. Have you ever had a situation of abuse of power by one of your customers in which you were uncomfortable? Or, conversely, have you ever wanted to insult a customer who does not understand your arguments, point of view, action?

When you witness or are directly affected by this type of vulgar or disrespectful behaviour, it is important not to ignore this situation, as it will only get worse over time. It is necessary to calmly tell the customer that this is not ethical and that this behaviour is unacceptable.

If the customer persists, stop serving them and notify your immediate manager of this inappropriate behaviour so that they can intervene to avoid an escalation that could upset you, as you must never let a customer abuse you. The manager’s intervention will have to calm the customer’s fervour.

Teamwork

If you are feeling dragged into a verbal escalation, stop talking for a few seconds, catch your breath and calm down. It is imperative to step back and become receptive to what is happening and not feed the tension. Return to your communication goal and remember that the customer is trying to get their point of view across: rephrase what you understand to show them that you really want to help them. He/she will perceive your willingness and calm down more easily.

It is important to discuss the situation with your manager within a few hours or days to establish a strategy to address such a situation if it occurs again with the same customer or another one. This climate of global tension that currently exists can last for a few years. You have a responsibility to maintain positive and constructive relationships with customers and to find ways to respond appropriately to the various relationship contexts you experience.

The manager has a role to play in this type of conflict. They will avoid discussing the employee’s reaction in front of the customer, so as not to create unnecessary confrontation or additional tension. They will support the salesperson in all circumstances in front of the customer while ensuring that healthy communication is restored. It is important that the employee not feel victimized in this process and feel confident to discuss with their manager.

Knowing how to respond effectively when situations of abuse of authority arise remains essential to keep your customers and their trust. You must not let the manipulators win and you must not fall into this trap yourself. The best way to maintain a relationship of mutual respect is to always provide outstanding customer service to all your customers and apply a pre-defined conflict resolution strategy that avoids unpleasant surprises.

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