How to Help Your Staff Deal With Angry Members

Mark Arnold
How to Help Your Staff Deal With Angry Members

Have you noticed how ticked off people are lately? You see it everywhere. In restaurants. In stores. In traffic. People are just more and more grumpy.

The reality is the current landscape of our society is changing. Emotions are at an all-time high for negativity. According to a recent study, 95% of emotions people are talking about are anxiety, stress and fear. Emotions have never been this bad.

And your front-line employees are having to deal with those negative emotions every day.

“Dealing with angry members is something no one likes to face, but everyone does eventually,” says Taylor Wells, On the Mark Strategies Experience Director. “The best way to deal with angry members is to do everything in your power in advance to ensure there are as few situations like that as possible. The best way to ensure that is to proactively train staff to provide amazing member experiences for every member, every time.”

So what can you do to help your staff deal with angry members? Here are several suggestions.

Remain calm yourself

If the member or your staff are hot and bothered, it’s tempting for you to get hot and bothered as well. But don’t. Remain calm. You must keep your cool and not overreact. The member and staff will often mirror your emotions. Sometimes just staying calm will immediately deescalate the situation.

Teach your staff when to elevate a problem and when not to elevate a problem

This is a delicate balancing act but one you must achieve. There are times when your team should simply handle the challenge themselves and not pass the angry person to their supervisor. As much as possible, teach them to “own the member,” which means they do everything in their power to not pass off the problem. Of course, there are times when the employee should refer the member to a higher-ranking position. Examples would include cursing, making personal remarks, raising voices, etc.

Prepare them before the crisis

As Wells noted above, the best way to help staff is to train them for these situations. For example, with our consumer experience clients, we practice angry member situations. The first time they encounter an angry member should not be live. It should be in a training situation.

Balance defending staff with doing what is best for the member

Sometimes members just want to elevate their problem. They want to be heard. However, your staff is watching to see how you respond. These actually become teaching moments for your staff. And during these moments you want staff to feel that you had their back while at the same time have your members feel valued as well.

Remember empathy statements

Words matter. Especially when someone is upset. With that in mind, you (and your staff) can use phrases like, “I appreciate your patience,” “If I were in your position, I would feel the same way,” and, “That would frustrate me too.” These statement immediately help connect with the member.

If you are on the front line, you are going to deal with angry members. That is just the way it is these days. Rather than react to those situations, take a proactive approach by training your staff how to deal with those situations.

Mark Arnold
Founder and CEO