Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. – Mark Twain
A story is told of Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded letter to the president.
“What are you going to do with it?” Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head. “Put it on the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
Anger is one of those emotions that if not dealt with can cause many problems for leaders. What’s more important is for your team to know how to deal with the anger of your customers. This was the topic of a recent Open Forum column by Rieva Lesonsky. In the column Lesonsky cited a Futures Company survey that was conducted last year that revealed more consumers are in a state of generalized rage – not necessarily about customer service, but about most things in general.
The general state of mind of most consumers’ worldwide highlights a growing challenge for business leaders, and having an intuitive staff that can handle the growing tensions is imperative. The survey highlighted three primary sources for this heightened consumer anger: stress, suspicion, and anti-business attitudes. Any one of these ingredients is cause for concern but when combined as part of a growing consumer trend it is important not to ignore it.
Stemming the sentiments of consumer anger will require a proactive approach. While space restricts me from presenting an exhaustive approach for dealing with the consumer anger issue I will offer starting points that can position you to address it. Here are three steps to begin with that can help you tame the savage beast of anger.
Create awareness. Internal awareness is the first step toward addressing consumer anger. Is your company or organization paying attention to the warning signs of consumer anger? How consumer anger is manifested towards your business should be on your radar. If you are not aware of how it affects you, your competitors, or your suppliers it can have potentially negative consequences.
Creating awareness within your organization is crucial to its health and vitality. Make sure your frontline staff is sensitive and proactive in how they represent your company and the image they are putting forth. Being aware of potential conflicts can prepare you to surprise your customer with a greater than expected experience. You win your customer over tomorrow by preparing your staff today.
Build relationships. Externally, the success of your business is grounded in relationships. Mark Sanborn nailed it when said, “Customers don’t have relationships with organizations; they form relationships with individuals.” How do you see your customers? If you merely look upon them as transactions you are missing the point and always will. The key to dispelling the consumer anger sentiment is to make it personal which begins by building relationships.
Value is created where value is given priority. The reason consumers feel suspicious is due to their belief that businesses are ready to cheat customers whenever they can get away with it. Dispelling the anger is found in building trust. That can only happen in relationship. Loyalty to the business is not always an economic decision it is one of relationship.
Deliver service with excellence. Taming the savage beast of anger is an internal work (creating awareness) and it’s an external work (building relationships), which can now be solidified with how you deliver your product. When excellence is the standard by which your company or organization operates then it will be reflected at every level of the consumer experience.
The blueprint of your success in taming the savage beast of anger begins with leadership. Your capacity as a leader to recognize the need is the beginning of solving it. Creating a culture of awareness is essential to your teams’ ability to recognize consumer anger and defuse it. And everyone delivers with excellence at every phase of the consumer experience it will keep them coming back for more.
Are you taming the savage beast?
© 2013 Doug Dickerson