As managers, it’s part of our job to intercede on behalf or our staff when they’re faced with confrontational people. How we handle conflict is important, and there are a couple rules I’ve found that are helpful.
First, it is important to listen. Everyone feels that the world should revolve around their problem, and they want it fixed right away. In technical support, we know that this is not always viable, because of company policies, engineering restrictions, or security issues. This comes up frequently due to the popularity of social media, which doesn’t always fit into the security plans of highly regulated industries.
But pay attention and listen to what the person has to say. Ask probing questions, and make them feel like you’re truly interested in finding a solution. If what they desire is simply not possible due to factors outside of your control, politely let them know the reason their specific request cannot be accommodated but then be prepared to offer suggestions on how you might be able to assist them. Keep the message positive and work towards an acceptable compromise.
Next, ever lose your temper. In a confrontation, the person who loses control loses the argument. Even if the person you’re dealing with is being belligerent and uncooperative, even if they resort to personal attacks, keep your cool and remain calm. Keep your responses even tempered and to the point. If the person becomes overly abusive, simply tell them – calmly – that you will end the call and will be happy to continue the discussion after they have calmed down.
These two simple rules can help you keep the upper hand in a confrontation. And you’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel by doing so!