Defusing an Angry Client

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following is an excerpt from Larry Alton, Seven Tips for Defusing an Angry Client, Law Technology Today (Sept 28, 2016).

[E]very situation is different. You’ll have to deal with each client on an individual basis and choose the tactics and techniques that you feel will be best, given the circumstances.

Below are some tips to help.

Let Them Vent
Interrupting people while they’re venting can make their frustration even bigger. If you let them speak their mind instead, they’ll run out of things to say eventually, and the confrontation will cool down.

Meet Face to Face
Arguments conducted over the phone or via email are highly risky. Words can be misconstrued, there’s no opportunity to study body language (especially facial expressions), and people may say things they wouldn’t dare to voice in person.

Kill with Kindness
There’s a common strategy that people in retail use to calm angry customers: It’s called killing them with kindness. For every mean thing a client says to you in an argument, respond with a compliment.

Never Take it Personally
[D]o your best not to take things personally when you’re faced with angry clients. You have to separate yourself from the issue mentally, and remember that this is just your job and you cannot control what other people think.

Focus on Solutions
The problem with angry clients is that they only want to talk about what’s going wrong or what happened in the past. …When solutions are discussed –as opposed to the negative byproducts of the underlying problem –you have more of a chance to make healthy progress.

Step Away if Necessary
Despite your best attempts not to take insults personally, there may be times when an abusive client crosses the line and pushes your buttons in such a way that you feel yourself on the verge of exploding. …By walking away and giving yourself some privacy to let off a little steam, you will be able to avoid exploding and ruining your reputation.

Establish a Paper Trail
You should always establish a paper trail so that, should a client make formal accusations in the future, you can show how you did everything possible to appease the person.

Respect your Client’s Frustration
Although you don’t have to agree with your client and what has motivated the anger, it’s important that you don’t try to discount the person’s frustrations.

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