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I Hate Getting Yelled At

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[Update: The firm I talk about below and I have moved forward. The project at hand is far more important than personal differences. As always, there two sides to every coin and I feel certain that I share in the responsibility of how this thing played out. Apologies have been made an accepted – and now it is time to move on. ~S.]

Last night I go yelled at over the phone. And I mean the I-had-to-pull-the-phone-away-from-my-ear kind of yelled at.

What is particularly interesting about this is that a) I was being yelled at by the head of an outfit that my husband and I have paid to significant amount of money to help us with something pretty major and 2) I was being yelled at because I had the audacity to express frustration and my feelings about a lack of partnership.

Oh – and the person yelling told ME to calm down.

Here’s the thing about this. Aside from the fact that I truly hate being yelled at (it makes me feel like a little kid who has done something terribly wrong), I think the firm in question totally lost sight of the fact the we are clients. We get to be frustrated. And yelling about how we don’t “understand” that we are partners doesn’t make those feelings any different.

Because I do try to turn most anything into a teachable something, here is what I am taking away from this experience:

1. If someone is paying you money for something – especially if it is a significant amount of money TO THEM – they are a client. They deserve to be treated as clients.

2. Telling clients that their feelings are wrong, making them feel wrong, and generally talking down to them is never a good move.

3. Hiding behind “policies and procedures” to deflect honest customer dissatisfaction is cowardly.

4. If you have forced your client to be their own advocate and agreed to their requests, it is totally out of bounds to bottle up resentment about it and dump it on them later.

5. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of your client and really see things through their eyes is the heart of amazing customer service.

6. Though the natural knee-jerk reaction to hearing something unflattering is to be defensive, I’ve never seen that create a happy ending.

7. Accepting 0% responsibility in a heated client situation isn’t going to create a happy ending either.

8. Most client dissatisfaction can be defused by sincere interest in their pain and discomfort.

9. Though you may know more than your client about the details of a situation, don’t make them feel unintelligent.

10. Yelling at a client is always always always a bad idea.

I don’t know. Maybe I expect too much in this legalistic, CYA world we now seem to reside in. And stellar customer service is a rare exception in a world where mediocre is the accepted norm.

What say you? What are your best client relations/customer service suggestions? Oh – and here’s the test: before you suggest them for others, make sure you are willing to deliver them yourself. 🙂

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