“The customer is always right.” That may be so, but sometimes patients can try the patience of the most easygoing employee. Angry customers quickly can become a nightmare, but dealing with them needn’t be complicated or stressful. Try approaching dissatisfied visitors as an opportunity to both learn and teach. In fact, the ability to deal with angry customers makes budtenders an invaluable asset.
Empathy and problem-solving sometimes are all it takes to convert an angry patient into a customer for life, because most people respect and admire a truly caring approach. Each dissatisfied customer requires a solution specific to their circumstances, but Mookie Walden, author of The Budtenders Bible, offered a few suggestions for defusing confrontations before they escalate.
Acknowledge the patient’s unhappiness.
“Smile and call the patient over to speak with them further, and remind the patient this is a safe place to voice their opinions and concerns about purchases,” Walden said. It’s also a good idea to apologize. “A simple, ‘I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?’ goes a long way,” he said.
Maintain eye contact.
Constant eye contact is key to defusing any confrontational interaction. “Eye contact builds trust and lets the patient know you are listening,” noted Walden. “No matter how intimidating the patient may appear, you must master your fears and tame the dragon.”
First, gently ask why the patient is unsatisfied. “Saying, ‘How can we make the situation better?’ always seems to work,” said Walden. Active listening is a powerful tool because it’s a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. Genuinely pay attention to what the speaker says, and then repeat his or her words back to them, adding your interpretation in order to ensure both of you have a clear understanding of the issues.
Sometimes tempers flare and patients may raise their voices. Whatever else you do, stay calm. Take a deep breath and receive and acknowledge the customer’s communications. “Always remember: You are the professional,” said Walden.
Arguing only escalates a confrontation, so this is a big no-no. “Always remember the customer is always right, even when they are wrong,” Walden said. “Seek the support of upper management for assistance, if needed.”
Decide how much belligerence you’ll tolerate.
Remember: Angry customers may also be irrational, because sometimes the real source of anger isn’t you, your company, or your products. Voices may rise, faces go red, and mean things may be said. First, give the patient a few seconds to calm down. Then, ask them to help solve the problem. If that doesn’t work and the customer becomes rude or abusive, politely ask them to leave.