Let’s talk about Difficult Conversations
We’ve all been there – out of nowhere you realize you are dealing with an upset person. This person could be on the other end of the telephone, or right there with you, it could be a patient or a coworker.
For a team that is committed to exceptional care and service, this is where the rubber meets the road. It’s easy to be at your best when everything is going as planned, not so easy when the unexpected happens. You don’t ever need to be flustered as long as you are prepared with the right mindset and great responses that will let the other person know you are listening, understanding and want to help.
Here’s a great approach to working with an upset caller:
#1 Stay Calm & Remember:
- The caller is angry about a situation & is emotional– it’s NOT personal– it’s just directed at you
- Recognize you need to take control of the situation to best help the caller
- Shift emotionally and physically into Rescue Mode – it’s your opportunity to turn things around
- Listen for Understanding – be certain to write down the caller’s name and use it
- Thank the caller: “Mary, thank you for taking the time to call and let us know something is not right”
#2 Remain Calm & Connect:
- Talk and let your caller know you are there to help … “I’m listening… please tell me what has happened so I can help…”
- Practice active listening and take concise notes: bullet points are sometimes easier than sentences
#3 Remain Calm & Steady:
- Empathize with your caller. “I’d be upset if this happened to me too” or “Mary, I can certainly understand how you feel”
- Confirm your understanding of the details of the situation “May I please ask a few questions to be certain I have all the information I need to best help you?”
#4 Remain Calm & Reassure your Caller:
- Thank the caller again. “Thank you for helping me to better understand”
- Take responsibility. Be sure your caller knows you are invested in helping them – not just taking a message. “I will personally see that we resolve this for you.” Or “I will personally see that I get you in contact with the person who can resolve this for you.” Or if possible, “Let me fix this for you right now”
#5 Remain Calm & Move Things Forward:
- Find a win-win solution. “My goal is to resolve this situation for you. I will go ahead and …”
- Or, “I have great news … I think I can fix this for you right now. Let’s go ahead and …”
- Confirm your next step. “Will this be okay with you?”
#6 Follow Up As Promised:
- Bring things to a positive close “I want to make sure we resolved this issue for you. Is there anything else I can do to assist you?”
- Thank the caller again for taking the time to give you the opportunity to make things right. Let them know you really appreciate them and thank them for the opportunity to help.
One more quick tip:
Be authentic, respectful and empathetic – not accusatory or defensive. The three best words for gaining clarity are never “Why did you?” because the normal response is a defensive one. Instead, use these 3 magic words “Help me understand.”
Your tone and body language changes when you say these words and you will invite conversation that will be much more likely to lead to resolving the issue at hand. Successful communication is about consciously choosing your approach, leading with your best intentions and listening for opportunities to let your patient or coworker know you’re ultimately both on the same side wanting to create the best possible outcomes.