One of our Shepard Letter subscribers, Tom Korff, wrote in with an important question: how should customer support agents handle callers who are threatening to harm themselves and/or others?
This is a serious topic. I will share my thoughts, but it’s important to note that the brevity of my answer does not diminish the importance of the question. If someone threatens to do harm to themselves or others, it cannot be taken lightly.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first step is to inform the customer that such statements are taken seriously and that you will be informing the proper authorities. It’s important to make this statement with as much concern and empathy as possible. Of course, the follow-through is just as, if not more, important. You cannot make that statement without following through on your actions. Once any imminent danger has been dealt with, take time to reflect. Determine how a situation like this should be handled and then create a process for crisis management. The process should include informing management and contacting the appropriate authorities. Train everyone in your organization how to respond using this process. Training is important to ensure consistency.
While Tom’s question was focused on how to respond in a customer support center, this situation could happen to anyone in almost any department. The key is knowing what to do if and when it does. Again, everyone must know how to respond.
This brings us to a bigger question: What other situations require company-wide training? While not quite as extreme as a customer doing harm to themselves or others, your employees should know what to do during a power outage. Do you have a game plan for snow days? What if the air conditioning goes out on the hottest day of the summer? On a more serious note, does everyone know what to do when the fire alarm goes off? There are plenty of emergency situations where everyone should be trained on how to respond.
By the way, you’re not finished once everyone is properly trained. Repeat training is the only way to ensure everyone is ready to react. Fire drills and other role play should be done regularly to reinforce how to handle extreme issues. For some cases, you may consider repeating these training exercises and drills every six months.
So, make your list. Write out what needs to happen. Get the process on paper and train… and then train again. You never know when you might face one of these situations. When that does happen, you’ll want to be prepared!
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright © MMXX, Shep Hyken)