Video Transcript

Hi. It’s David Patmore here, from CAL Corporate Solutions, and I just wanted to talk about the increase in angry customers. Why is it happening and what we can do about it? Let’s firstly look at why it’s happening.

I think most of us would realise with the social stress increase over the last two to three years due to the pandemic and just the general life upheaval we’ve all experienced may have possibly carrying a bit of a hidden or an underlying ticking stress bomb that put into a certain point of pressure could go off at the slightest provocation. I’m sure we can relate to those seasons in our life where we’ve had to be strong and perhaps resilient, and perhaps didn’t even realise how much we had bottled up until a situation or someone inadvertently flicks the switch and then we explode. It can be just as much a shock to us as it is to those around us when this happens.

I believe what we’re seeing as an increase in angry customers, and that’s what all the research is telling us, can be explained and understood as a certain type of aggressive behavior category, which we call the expressive. The expressive aggressive is always an emotional outburst, if you like, like a volcanic eruption, or often we use the phrase today, they’ve gone nuclear. So it’s always overt. It’s always an outward aggression with aggressive outbursts and rants that seek to attack and shout down at its targets. It can be quite intimidating when someone launches at you in this way, it’s very dramatic and theatrical, which is often why I also call it the ‘Hollywood’.

It’s obvious that the social stress increase is related to why many organisations have reported such a dramatic spike in customer abuse over the last two to three years. It can be directly attributed to the fallout of the pandemic. One of the trends I’ve observed in this spike is that the common aggressive profile, which I’m talking about today, or one of them, the expressive, has increased like I’ve never seen it before, which certainly correlates with the fallout of social stress. Certainly with many of the service teams that I’ve worked with, this has been the case.

This has not been isolated to any industry, but has been experienced across the entire service sector from retail, health, to corporate products and services. It’s caused enormous amount of stress for frontline staff who’ve been inundated with these behaviours as people attempt to access the service that they’re after. None of this reasoning gives excuses, of course. The behaviour that they obviously express is really not acceptable, but it certainly can help us understand why there’s been such a spike.

The good news is this particular type of aggression, which I believe is more trend-driven at the moment. The expressive is the easiest one solve. So let’s have a look at how we do that.

Firstly, the expressive needs to be heard. As the expressive is primarily triggered by stress and pent-up emotion, it just needs to be released. So trying to redirect the behaviour too early will only end up potentially creating further blowups. They just need to feel heard and validated. Listening is like releasing the pressure valve if you like.

Number two, use the Ferber method. This is a popular method for sleep training with children famously used for comedic purpose in the ‘Meet The Fockers’ movie by Robert De Niro, and it’s essentially a based around letting the child cry for permitted amounts of time before giving them reassurance, which is designed to teach them to calm themselves down and fall asleep or as this method states, self-sooth. Allowing space for the customer to rant, not now to control ramp, but what I’d call focus rounding by using certain questions to keep some direction in the conversation, helps them to vent and start to self-sooth. So to a degree you’re supporting their need to release emotions and get them away from that heightened state and into that calm state.

The third thing is acknowledge their issue. It’s only when customers move more into a calm state, can we direct them positively. Acknowledge their issue and emotion before providing direction or solution. This communicates to them that they’ve been heard and they’re more likely ready to listen to you. Once they have reached this state, it is not uncommon for the expressive to apologize or say something like, “Look, I’m really sorry. I know it’s not your fault. You’re just doing your job.” You see, they’re not actually aggressive people. It’s a stress thing, but they are people having an aggressive episode if you like.

Anyway, hope that explains some things. And some of these thoughts and tips have been useful. Just want to say thanks for watching and bye for now.