I work in public service and part of doing my job well is to maintain my professionalism and calm even in the midst of challenging situations.
As with anyone who lives and breathes in the world, you encounter people who are having a hard day. Communication isn’t always easy, and personalities clash. And at work, with your colleagues and with your customers, you can’t fly off the handle. You don’t yell, you don’t name-call, and you don’t lose your cool. The customer is always right, and you often have to simply listen and handle things.
This thought runs through my mind now that my sweet baby is approaching three. Ninety-five percent of the time, he’s your favorite customer that you encounter. The one who tells you that you deserve a raise, that you’re good at your job, that you’re his favorite.
But five percent of the time–first thing in the morning, at bedtime, definitely at nap time, sometimes on the potty, when I’m putting him into or taking him out of the bath, etc., he is the angry customer who won’t hear any form of reason and sends your heartrate through the roof.
I hate to admit that I show my frustration, and that I don’t always maintain my composure like I would like to. Sometimes it’s tough to have an argument about why he can’t ride the dog like a horsey. Or our new back and forth where he asks for something, gets the something, then says he doesn’t want it … but when you take it back, he does want it, but then doesn’t, but does, but doesn’t. It’s all very confusing. But I always feel like I could have handled it better.
So rather than throw my hands in the air and walk away, I’m going to use the same tactics on my baby that I would use to diffuse a high stress situation at work. Here are my top five customer service, three-year-old tricks … we’ll see how we do.
1. The customer is always right.
Yes, he’s unreasonable, but in his mind, it is actually the worst thing that I won’t let him go outside alone at night to drive the car away. He’s right. Sometimes a kid just needs to feel the breeze through his hair and the asphalt beneath his tires. He has the need. The need for speed. I’m going to try to validate his feelings and find an alternative. Maybe you can be a plane, and mommy can zoom you around instead?
2. Getting to yes.
A good customer service representative finds ways to get to yes. You can’t eat cookies for dinner, but you CAN have these delicious and sweet strawberries. You can’t hit me in the face, but you CAN give me a high five. Get to the yes. Find a way to redirect.
3. Let me let you talk to my coworker.
Sometimes you just need to tap out. Call in a partner. I have had customers who just respond better to one of my colleagues for whatever reason. If you have the option, call on your partner to take over while you walk away and take a deep breath or twenty. I try to do this before I lose my mind if I can, and it’s a better customer experience for everyone.
4. Lower your voice and get on their level.
This doesn’t always work, but when I have a customer whot is really worked up, I move in just a bit closer and lower my voice to a more soothing tone, in the hopes they’ll follow my lead. If I’m in storytime and everyone has lost their minds, I just drop my volume a bit and sing something slow. You may not want to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to an adult customer, but it works wonders with a crying child. If I try to match the volume of my screaming baby, we’re both just loud and frustrated, and we’re going nowhere fast. If you take it down a few levels, hopefully they will too.
5. Choose your battles.
I’m not saying the tyrant customer gets his way with everything. There are rules in place to keep him safe. But if I tell him to choose one superhero bandage and he wants two for his two imaginary boo-boos, I’m just going to let him have two bandages. The only reason I don’t want to give him two is that i’ts wasteful. But so what. I would rather waste one extra bandage and enjoy our time together than refuse to give him more than one and cause a useless tantrum.
I totally understand this new phase will bring new challenges, and I’m so lucky my little is pretty reasonable. He talks so much and can usually tell me exactly what it is that is making him upset. It is rare we can’t find a way to fix it, just like at work. I rarely encounter someone throwing a tantrum, but I have these tools in my toolbelt in case I need them. Same with my little guy.