Critical Conversations For Dummies
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When a customer threatens to call the boss, you can ignore it, or use critical conversation skills to diffuse the situation. Critical conversation skills can help you and the customer not only find a solution, but also create a foundation for a customer-company relationship that continues in the future.

Learn how with the right critical conversation skills, a few simple sentences can take a customer interaction from simply finding a solution to creating a better relationship in the future.

An irate customer is on the other line of the phone, threatening to call everyone he knows to 1) get the employee fired, and 2) put the company out of business. The customer service representative could say, “Yes, you can talk to my supervisor. I’m putting her on the phone now.”

Nothing is wrong with this statement, but you can guess that the customer now knows that if he starts complaining, he doesn’t have to go through the process that everyone else has to go through; he can get to whoever is in charge if he yells loudly enough.

Think of how this slightly modified reaction may work better:

“I can understand how you’d be upset. If you want to talk to my manager, I can provide you with her e-mail address or phone number. I suggest working through the returns process because that works for many of our customers. Would you like to continue our conversation about how I can help you, or would you like to talk to someone else?”

This critical conversation examines what’s happening and acknowledges feelings by restating the customer’s desire to talk to the boss and understanding how the customer could be upset. Then, the customer service agent (well versed in critical conversations, of course) gives options about how the customer could decide to move forward.

Instead of just handing over the call to the boss (of course, the customer could still very well want to talk to the boss, and that’s a perfectly acceptable option), asking the question helps the customer slow down and evaluate what the right decision may be and helps the customer save face if he realizes that he may have been a little over the top with his complaints and yelling.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Christina Tangora Schlachter, PhD, is a Certified Professional Coach. She has created and taught courses on communication skills, crucial conversations for new managers, communication for professionals, and dealing with difficult conversations. She is the coauthor of Leading Business Change For Dummies and is the Chief Leader of She Leads.

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