A Different Take on Difficult Customers

Call centre helper A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be in London for a few days with my wife, and I met up briefly with Jonty Pearce who edits Call Centre Helper magazine in the UK. Jonty and I enjoyed a follow up conversation over the phone. If you're unfamiliar with his on-line magazine, it's worth bookmarking and making frequent visits.

I loved their current article on how we respond to difficult customers. After writing a few posts of my own on some practical ideas to use with difficult customers, I appreciated Christine Knott's psycho analytical take on the subject. I believe we can learn a lot from looking at the same subject from different perspectives and disciplines.

Christine shares that, when faced with a difficult customer, we often unconsciously revert to one of three "ego states":

Parent ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we respond in a manner that copies the behaviours and actions of parental or influential figures from our lifetime. Can you recall instances when you’ve heard yourself thinking ‘I sound just like my mother/father/teacher’? You are reflecting and copying their behaviour.

For example, during a conversation a person may display anger by shouting at someone because they learnt from an early age that when the parent shouts the child takes notice.

Adult ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we draw on our lifetime of experiences as an adult to guide us objectively to a positive outcome. When we are in our Adult state we see, hear and respond to people as they really are, and have an understanding of why they are reacting as they do, rather than accepting at face value the way they choose to communicate.

For example, if during a telephone call our organisation is criticised we would respond with a calm, logical response which aimed at reducing or removing the emotion from the discussion in order to resolve issues in a logical and factual manner. We would adopt this state having learnt throughout our lifetime that shouting, sulking, answering back or other emotional states will detract from our ability to reach a solution, and extend the time needed to reach it.

Child ego state: represents the occasions when during conversations we revert to behaving, feeling and thinking similarly to how we did in childhood.

For example, during a conversation a person who receives criticism may react as they did in their childhood when they were reprimanded. This reaction may take on an emotional form, crying, sulking, answering back or perhaps feeling ashamed or angry.

I'm reflecting on conversations I had yesterday, and I can identify all three ego states in my reactions to different people.

How about you?

4 thoughts on “A Different Take on Difficult Customers

  1. Great post. I think a lot of customer service interactions can be improved by recording. That is why if you use an IM for customer service then you have a built in system for showing good and bad examples.

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