Author Topic: How do you politely deal with impatient customers without loosing your cool?  (Read 3890 times)

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snugglegirl05

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There are times at work when I have to deal with impatient customers. I work as a porter for 2 garages. There are only pay machines at the exit gate at the parking garages I work at. There is a call button at each pay machine in case a customer needs help. The main office, which is located in a different bldg., answers those calls. I have to carry a company issued cell phone with me at work. This is the way the main office contacts me if a customer needs help.

The employees working in the main office are able to remotely raise the exit gate at each garage I work at if it does not work. The only person who has a key to raise the exit gate is the supervisor over all of the porters. Sometimes there are problems with the exit gate.

I would get a call from the main office letting me know that a customer needs help at the exit gate at one of the parking garages.

Reasons why a customer needs help:

    the pay machine does not work
    the customer paid for their parking, but the exit gate did not go up
    the customer backed up to get their receipt, and the exit gate went down

If the main office cannot raise the exit gate, then the supervisor over the porters has to come to the garage to raise the gate. This is when the customer becomes impatient. The customer tells me...

    they have been waiting 10 to 30 minutes at the exit gate
    they had to wait for someone to come over to the exit gate, *me*, to help them
    they ask me how long will it take for the other person to arrive
    they should not have to wait for someone to arrive

And so on...

How do I politely deal with these customers without loosing my cool?

greencat

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Why is the main office calling you to help manually raise the gate when you don't have a key?  I think the problem isn't with the customers, but with the process.  Maybe you and your supervisors and the main office should have a little talk about why this is happening and how you can make the process of fixing the issue for the customers less time consuming.

In the meantime, I suggest that instead of thinking of the customers as "impatient" you start thinking of them as being inconvenienced, which they are.  Someone that's already waited 10-30 minutes on someone to come help them, when they were already trying to leave, has a right to feel irritated by the wait.  Empathize with them about the inconvenience and how irritating it is and you'll find that they act a lot more reasonable toward you personally.  And, importantly, unless they do start personally insulting you over the issue, don't take them complaining personally.  There is absolutely no reason to get angry over a customer being upset because something your company uses broke down.

shhh its me

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 I'm not sure I understand. They send you over to help and you cant raise the gate? or sometimes you can call to have it raised? Also , do you mean people with some regularity  have to wait 20-30 minutes because of a mechanical failure to leave? or it just feels like 20-30 minutes to them.

If something at the garage is broken and causes me to have wait 30 minutes I'm going to be pretty irritated too.  You start be being sympathetic and total sincere. Id be extra annoyed if I paid for my parking , the gate didn't go up and I pressed the call button and I had to wait for someone who then told me "well the office remote control didn't work and  i don't have the key you have to wait for someone else " I'm going to be really annoyed.  IF this is whats going on they are being impatient they are reasonably annoyed ; Start there, its much easier to be soothing if you think a person is "right" to be upset. Apologize and inform what you are trying to get them out. When they ask "Why do I have to wait for another person ?" , "I'm sorry , The supervise is the only person with a key their  way they will be here in XX minutes"
 ,   

YummyMummy66

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I'm sorry, but if I am waiting at least twenty minutes to exit a parking garage, and then someone comes and still cannot let me move from said parking garage, there is a problem.

It is not the impatient customers you should be losing your cool with.   

It is the process of this system that you must work within to open this gate that should get your wrath and whose every brilliant idea came up with this system.

camlan

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Just to get this straight in my head--the process when the gate doesn't work is this:

Customer uses call button and contacts main office.
Main office calls porter on cell phone.
Porter goes to gate.
Porter determines if gate should be raised (I'm assuming that the porter checks to make sure the customer has actually paid and isn't trying to get out of the garage for free.)
Porter calls main office to get gate lifted.
If that doesn't work, porter calls supervisor.

It's a pretty complicated procedure, with opportunities for wait time and delays at every step. And if getting to step 3, where human help finally arrives, takes 30 minutes, I can understand why the customers are getting impatient.

I'd be impatient too, if a company whose main job is to let me in and out of a parking space took 30 minutes or more to get me out of their garage. Thirty minutes to perform the chief reason the company is in business for, when it should take less than a minute to exit the garage?

I know it is not your fault, OP, that all this happens. You have no control over any of this. But I think Merry Mrs. Martin and greencat have a point--the customers really do have reason to be a bit upset at the system. Starting out realizing that they are have a reason to be upset is good. Realizing that they are upset with the system and not really upset with you is another thing that might help. You are just the person they can vent to.

So start with that in mind--these people have been trapped in the garage for 10-30 minutes. They have places to be and things to do. It's possible they are missing an appointment or running late to a party or lunch date or theater because of the malfunctioning gate. And I think it is normal for them to think that when you show up, the problem is going to be fixed. I'd expect the management to send someone who can immediately fix the problem. So finding out that you have to make another call and I would have to wait for yet another person to show up--and if you took 30 minutes to get to the gate, does that mean I'm going to have to wait another 30 minutes for the supervisor?

Be polite. Remember they aren't really upset with you, but the situation. Keep them informed of what is going on--let them know what you are going to do, what the next step is, how long they will need to wait for the supervisor, etc. Sympathize with them that the wait is long.

Then get to work in whatever way you can to change the system so that it doesn't take so long to fix gate problems.
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Jelaza

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Start there, its much easier to be soothing if you think a person is "right" to be upset. Apologize and inform what you are trying to get them out. When they ask "Why do I have to wait for another person ?" , "I'm sorry , The supervise is the only person with a key their  way they will be here in XX minutes" 

The other thing to do on top of this is to thank them for being so patient.

Make certain to thank them "for being patient" not "for waiting".  Apologize that they had to wait/are still waiting, thank them for being patient.  Try to do it early on in the encounter, so it doesn't come off as sarcastic or insincere if their patience has started slipping.

Twik

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Yikes! Talk about a guaranteed no-win situation for you. This is a ridiculous setup, and I would be pretty angry myself if I had somewhere to go, and had to wait 30 minutes to get out of the parking garage.

Would it endanger your job if you suggested that irate customers contact management directly with their complaints? Because I think that the only people able to fix this mess would be them. If *they* get the accumulated rage dumped on them, maybe they'll realize this is an incredibly poor setup, and change it. At least, they should give you the powers of the supervisor to raise the gate, so you don't have to wait for a second person to show up. At most, they should simply trust their customers and raise the gate when they call in a problem. Surely there won't be hordes trying to exit without a ticket!

For the time being, I think you need to remember that these customers are legitimately frustrated, and try to acknowledge that, as well as letting them know that this is, unfortunately, the only way you can deal with it. If they get angry, let them know that you will pass on their complaints.
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Zilla

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Based on all your other threads on this very topic, I would simply ask your boss how do they want you to respond.  There should be suggestions on how to handle this.  All this board can tell you is to be polite and courteous.

TootsNYC

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All this board can tell you is to be polite and courteous.

Oh, I think we can tell her more than that--she already knows that.

What she wants from us is how to achieve that.

Great advice already for how to get her mindset in a useful spot.

Sympathizing with them and saying all the classic "I understand, that really is inconvenient for you" sort of stuff.

OP, you can also be quick to say, "Let me see what I can do, I've got a few options, I'm going to try to make this go as quickly as I can." You can also let them hear you transfer their specific complaints ("She's been waiting 20 minutes; can we make this fast for her?") to the other folks who can actually help.

If I were in your shoes, I'd be trying to get the front desk to be more willing to do something from there without *needing* to wait for me to get to the gate to troubleshoot for them. But that's beyond etiquette and just my own desire to control as much stuff as I can at my job.

Deetee

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30 minutes? If I was stuck in a parking garage for 30 minutes I would not be upset. I would be freaking ballistic. I would try not to take it out on innocent bystanders, but I would be beyond  rage filled. I can rarely think of a time where that would not make me miss rather important commitments.

Even if it was only 5 minutes, I would be seriously, seriously disgruntled. (And not to go all parents-have-it worst on this thread, but I have a 5 month baby who doesn't like it when she is in a car that is not moving. 5 minutes with a screaming baby in a car is about 7 hours too long)


Goosey

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This is what I do:

  • Reassure the customer that you are taking their complaint seriously
  • Listen to what they are saying
  • Start a spreadsheet or database for complaints and begin taking down what they said - dates, time, what's happened so far, what they've gone through, how long they've waited, who they've talked to, their contact information if they want to be contacted again, etc
  • Read back what you have recorded
  • Tell them what you're going to do to resolve the situation (if anything)
  • Reassure them AGAIN that you are taking this seriously and that you are sending this directly to managment
  • Get this to management. If they start seeing the volume of complaints, they may actually get off their rears and do something
  • Contact the individual again and tell them what your company is doing to assure that this doesn't happen again (you can get this info from management.

I think it will be much easier to keep your cool if you are able to keep the customer calm. Most of the time, they just want to know that they're being listened to and not disregarded. If you're being short with them or acting annoyed at their time being wasted (which I'm not saying you are at all), they can get more and more frustrated

LeveeWoman

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30 minutes? If I was stuck in a parking garage for 30 minutes I would not be upset. I would be freaking ballistic. I would try not to take it out on innocent bystanders, but I would be beyond  rage filled. I can rarely think of a time where that would not make me miss rather important commitments.

Even if it was only 5 minutes, I would be seriously, seriously disgruntled. (And not to go all parents-have-it worst on this thread, but I have a 5 month baby who doesn't like it when she is in a car that is not moving. 5 minutes with a screaming baby in a car is about 7 hours too long)

I'd be livid, and likely would call 9-1-1 to report that I was being forcibly detained.

Goosey

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30 minutes? If I was stuck in a parking garage for 30 minutes I would not be upset. I would be freaking ballistic. I would try not to take it out on innocent bystanders, but I would be beyond  rage filled. I can rarely think of a time where that would not make me miss rather important commitments.

Even if it was only 5 minutes, I would be seriously, seriously disgruntled. (And not to go all parents-have-it worst on this thread, but I have a 5 month baby who doesn't like it when she is in a car that is not moving. 5 minutes with a screaming baby in a car is about 7 hours too long)

I'd be livid, and likely would call 9-1-1 to report that I was being forcibly detained.

I think this would be likely to get you in trouble with the cops more than anything. That's a pretty serious accusation when people are trying to actively get you OUT of the parking garage when you're stuck there because of a technical mishap.

I admit that I'd be furious at being kept half an hour, but I think involving cops would be over the top.

pierrotlunaire0

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I also deal with impatient people, and many times, the circumstances are completely out of my hands.

1. Apologize.  "I am so sorry.  I know this is extremely frustrating."

2. Quickly explain what steps you are taking to solve the problem.  "I am calling my supervisor down to get you out of here."

3. Apologize again.  "I am sorry that you are being so inconvenienced."

4.  If it takes a few minutes for the supervisor to arrive (and at this point, for your customer, one minute feels like 10), make it clear that you have not washed your hands of them.  If you have to walk away, check in with them, give them any updates, walk over to the arm and pretend that you are trying to lift it.

5. Apologize.

Seriously, the apologies do help.  If you can communicate to the customer that you are concerned and sorry for their inconvenience, it helps so much.  I get the response so many times: "Oh, it's okay.  It's not your fault."  Is it perfect?  No, but it is the best method I've come across so far.
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Cami

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I don't think you should be losing your cool because you have no reason to do so. The irate customer is not your enemy.I think you should refocus your energies.

 You should be doing your best to apologize to the customer and make it clear and obvious that you are on their side and that you want to get them out of the garage too. If you empathize with them and make it obvious that you are trying your best, that will help calm them down and redirect their anger away from you. If you approach it that the CUSTOMER is the problem, rather than this screwy setup, then you are going to escalate the situation. Make the screwy setup your common enemy.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 04:33:58 PM by Cami »