The news recently has been seemingly filled with examples of horrific behavior, as well as a multitude of situations that will guarantee fascinating discussions — from domestic abuse to financial swindling — from the boundaries of acceptable parental discipline to the way we are treating a horrible disease.
- For many of these cultural predicaments, the proper response is to be outraged. We should always be aghast at a man knocking out his girlfriend or a person abusing a child.
However, it sometimes seems as though we have reached a point where the pendulum has swung perhaps a bit too far. Many appear to be just as indignant about the minor transgressions as the major offenses.
Some are seemingly addicted to outrage.
It has been suggested that social media is to blame – yet, I find that akin to blaming the tool instead of the person using it. There’s no doubt that Facebook, Twitter, and the others have provided a higher platform from which these outrage addicts can spew their venom – but, it seems to me that this is simply an indicator of a societal trend.
We see our political leaders unable to reach consensus on just about anything. “If you’re on the other side of the aisle,” the current thinking seems to go, “then you cannot possibly have an idea or approach I can support.”
Certainly, if one studies history, we have had times of enormous public vitriol in politics – however, in the past, our leaders always found a way to resolve disputes for the good of the public.
- Now, post anything innocuous regarding politics or personal choices regarding ethics or philosophy, and observe the fury and indignation in the responses of those who disagree with you.
For example, President Obama is not just “a leader with whom you disagree” – he’s called “the worst President in history” (obviously from people who haven’t studied Warren Harding or Franklin Pierce). He’s hell bent — according to posts I’ve read from people I didn’t realize were so filled with wrath and resentment — on “literally destroying the nation.”
Look, I may or may not disagree with the President’s positions – however, he’s still the President of the United States and deserves a degree of respect. It’s pretty ironic, in my opinion, that the same people who respect Ronald Reagan for never removing his suit jacket in the Oval Office will simultaneously launch such outrageous attacks on another holding the same exalted position. What happened to Reagan’s approach of “disagree without being disagreeable”?
- Why do so many seemingly respond to those with whom they have an opposing position with such barbarous wrath?
Perhaps it’s the outrage addiction that afflicts us.
What does this addiction to outrage mean to you and your business?
- If you fail to deliver as promised or expected to a customer, they have a right to be upset. They never, however, have a right to be abusive.
This is, I believe, a line a customer cannot cross. It’s one thing to be upset – it’s quite another to be vile. If a customer becomes personal in his or her outrage, threatening in demeanor, or displaying an appearance of threatening an assault – it’s over. They’re fired as a customer.
- Your team has to understand this – and know that, while your goal is to deliver an “Ultimate Customer Experience” — you will never, EVER put their physical or emotional health at risk to appease a customer’s complaint.
In this era where rage and resentment seem to be the initial approach of some customers who do not get their way, your first position must be to diffuse the situation and get to the real issue.
Two critical questions you must ask are:
- Are my colleagues (and am I) trained in the steps necessary to handle heated conversations with customers?
- If not, what can you do to resolve that lack of education and training immediately?
Second, understand that some are using this addiction to outrage as a tactic to get your attention.
We recently caught a customer in a bald-faced lie. Prior to our showing the documentation that she had lied to us, she was screaming that we had unlawfully charged her credit card and had misrepresented our services – and that she was taking us to the Better Business Bureau and to court. When we showed her the form that she had personally signed, displayed the tracking that we had that proved she had accessed her training account and had caught her in a total fabrication – her response was, “Oh. OK. I’m sorry. I thought if I didn’t raise hell, I wouldn’t make you aware of my complaint — that I now realize was totally erroneous.”
She thought that simply saying that would enable her to continue as our customer. She thought wrong.
While I could suggest that her tactics were something that I might have a right to be outraged about, the better choice for my business — and yours — is to:
- First, understand that this approach is becoming more prevalent in our world
- Second, to do all that we can to diffuse it – or eliminate it – when we are confronted with it.
- Third, uphold and enforce our standards whenever the line is crossed.