Training to Deal with Negativity in Customer Support

Despite your company’s best intentions, some of your customers just won’t like everything you do.

And your customer support reps most often field the frustrated calls. Speaking at SupConf, a conference for support professionals, Jeremy DuVall shared three strategies for dealing with negativity that he picked up at Automattic.

Prepare ahead of time

While useful in all aspects of life, preparation especially comes in handy in the customer support industry. Jeremy discusses some of the training that his team went through before they ever encountered a negative customer:

“At Automattic, we do this through asking rude questions about a new product or feature we’re going to launch that might attract polarizing opinions. We start an internal p2 post (our version of email) with the purpose of thinking up as many rude questions as possible.”

Even though he isn’t insinuating or expecting his customers to be rude, this exercise help his team think through potential difficulties that might arise. For a great way to fully dissect a new feature, try and explain it to someone who’s frustrated with it.

While you’ll want to train your customer support reps before interactions ever occur, they’ll find it invaluable when they can readily access it. Having a library of information to call on in the middle of a particularly animated customer interaction can make your representative feel much more equipped to handle the situation.

Balance negativity

Even though Jeremy shared a few negative reactions from customers that he experienced at Automattic, he talked about just as many good customers. In the moment, that doesn’t make those particularly nasty interactions feel any less painful, so he says customer support teams should plan for ways to balance out negativity. For example, he listed the four steps that he and his team take:

  • Happy File—Representatives should create a file of all the customers who made them feel great for their service. Whether you collect screenshots or copy and paste text into a file, whenever a representative needs to be reminded of why they do their job they’ll have a pile of goodness they can scroll through.
  • Peer Reviews—Always seek a second opinion for a good plan of action. By enacting peer reviews other customer support reps can point out how well you’re doing. With the stress of the everyday job, some representatives might not notice the areas where they’re crushing it. These review sessions, while often infrequent, can really boost your team’s morale.
  • Spartan Kudos—“On a team-wide level, we do something called Spartan Kudos (the team I’m on is called Sparta). At the end of every month, one person is responsible for collecting all of the green robots for each person on the team (there are 7 of us total). Their job is to read through all of the green robots [indicators of positive interaction] with awesome comments and pick out the best one for each person. If you forget about how awesome your teammates are, this is an easy, quick reminder.”
  • Happiness #hugs—Jeremy and Automattic host a page on their website with positive feedback from customers. It’s a companywide Happy File, but these can be great pick-me-ups for any employee. “Anytime you’re having a bad day, it’s easy to view the tag feed on the site and get a huge boost.”

With Lessonly’s flexible software, you can house almost all of these functions. Every other week in the Lessonly office, a member of our client experience team passes along a client success story to our entire team. It takes only a few minutes to read through, but most of us in the office feel pretty happy and recharged to do great work after we’ve completed the Lesson.

Master explanatory style

For Jeremy’s final strategy, support representatives need to be able to explain a negative experience before they can fully understand it. He says we can view an interaction in two ways:

“First, we can look at it as permanent (it’s not going away), pervasive (everyone feels this way), and personal (there’s a part of me that plays into this). When you look at a negative interaction as something that’s permanent, pervasive, and personal, you feel like you have little control over your environment. Things are happening to you.”

When things are happening to you, you might have little answer for how to fix it, and that’s not good in the customer support sector. If you find negative interactions pervasive and the norm, there’s probably something larger wrong. For a better, more productive way to look at problems, try this:

“The alternative to permanent, pervasive, and personal is temporary, specific, and external. In this light, negative interactions become more manageable and actionable… It’s specific usually to a certain product or ‘thing.’ Lastly, it’s external. It’s not about you or anything you are doing. It’s about a thing.”

Sometimes, you might find these hard to dissect after the emotional sting of a negative interaction. You should store this Information and train on it periodically throughout the year. Reminders through short Lessons can keep your representatives equipped with these mental tools to bounce back and understand what went wrong and why.

Preparing your customer support representatives with this information will not only increase your customer interactions and satisfaction, it will also cut down on employee turnover by reducing stress and encouraging happiness.

Ready to build training material for your customer support team? Take a tour today.

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