GREAT Diplomacy – How to take the heat out of challenging conversations

Sometimes customer conversations can get heated. It might be that the customer is upset, angry or disappointed and we inadvertently make it worse through the innate human response of fight or flight, the wrong choice of words or mismatched energy. However, if we can make it worse, we can also make it better.

Typically, we create or at least contribute to the most challenging situations. The way that we choose to react will have a defining impact on how the interaction goes. If we choose a negative response, then it is likely it will be a negative outcome. Should we choose to respond in a positive manner with a deep intention to resolve the situation, show real empathy, offer help and a route to resolution, then we have an excellent chance of diffusing the situation.

Here are some top tips to help you take the heat out of challenging customer conversations:

  1. Recognise your reaction – fight or flight?

What is your natural response when faced with what you perceive as a threat – fight or flight? If it is to fight, ten it’s likely that you might sound defensive and annoyed, your energy is high, you argue back, you make excuses or point the blame elsewhere. Or maybe it’s flight, in which case you try to end the interaction as quickly as possible; your energy might also appear low which could be perceived as lack of care by the customer.

Key to regulating your response is to pause and choose what response is most appropriate. What does your customer need from you in that moment? Everyone is different – it might be reassurance, empathy and ownership.

  1. Choose your language carefully

Choose your language carefully so that the customer understands that you are on their side and that you want to help. Choose accountable language that focuses on what can be done, not what can’t. Choose trust-inspiring words like: Will, Can, Your options are, I know exactly what to do…, What I need to do is…

  1. Collaborate with the customer

Work with the customer towards a solution. Ask your customer questions to learn more about the situation is impacting them personally. Show that you understand and empathise. Then explain exactly what you will do to help – be specific and clear ensuring that the customer understands the steps you’ll take and when, and what you might need from them to help move the situation towards a solution.


Take a look at our GREAT Diplomacy programme, and if you’d like to explore this topic further give us a call on 01582 463464. We’re always here to help.

Categories: Customer service

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