Customer Service jobs can be very challenging, but that is usually due to just a few customers. I have spent several years working in the hospitality industry. I have worked as a waiter and expeditor in a fine dining restaurant, and worked at the front desk of a luxury boutique hotel. I’ve even worked in a call center, both on the phone and as a Quality Assurance Supervisor. In fact, almost every one of us is in the Customer Service job, in one way or another. Customer service can include how we respond to clients, customers, co-workers, or even our (Big) Boss.
We’ve all had those moments. You know, the moment when you realize that a customer you are dealing with is more than just a little unhappy. It can be difficult to connect with a person who is disappointed or who is feeling that their expectations were not met.
Sometimes it can be an easy fix, and other times… …well, let’s just say it can feel like war.
Metal Gear Solid Close Quarters Customer Service
In the game series Metal Gear Solid, Snake (Solid/Naked) uses a form of combat technique call “Close Quarters Combat” or CQC. This particular approach allows practitioners to rapidly change between hand-to-hand combat and armed combat (typically a pistol and knife). Core to the style of CQC is disarming the opponent through grabs, holds and throws, often rending the combatant unconscious. In this way, CQC is very much about controlling the situation through redirection and leverage. This also gives the CQC practitioner an advantage when dealing with larger and strong opponents, since size and strength are overcome by speed and body mechanics.
In other words, “hard” fighting styles are focused on head-on attacks, relying on a direct approach, while “soft” fighting styles emphasize redirection and can use the opponent’s strength and momentum against them. CQC includes many of these “soft” elements. When it comes to dealing with difficult customers (any anyone, for that matter), it can be tempting to take a “hard” stance.“I’m sorry sir, that’s the policy.” “Because I said so.”
But how well does that approach really work?
I know that it might be easier to shoot a difficult person with a tranquilizer dart, but that really would not count toward making you a Customer Service expert (and I suspect this would be illegal in every place that I have been).
How You Can Use CQC For Customer Service
I want to share with you a proven technique that I have used when dealing with upset or disappointed individuals (in fact creator of the technique is a former English profession, Police officer, and black belt master of karate!). In his must read book Verbal Judo, George Thompson provides an excellent framework for dealing with difficult interactions, and will allow you to channel your inner Snake with some verbal CQC of your own. Metal Gear Solid Customer Service Training is inspired by Verbal Judo.
When confronting an upset or difficult person, remember the following acronym: “L.E.A.P.S.”
Let’s walk through each of the steps:
This is all about being present. Turn off the Codec or put away your phone and concentrate on the other person 100%. Not only is it important to listen, you have to LOOK like you are listening. Otherwise, you might make things worse and get blindsided by a comment or right hook.
Empathy is about understanding where a person is coming from – it does not mean that they are right, or even that you agree with them. The Metal Gear Solid series is particularly good at telling personal stories about the in game characters.
In Metal Gear Solid 4, members of the Beauty and the Beast Corps all have rather traumatic stories, including loss of their family to members of a cult, becoming a prisoner of war as a child, and even more terrible examples of how war can impact children. While you may be fighting for your life in the game, I could not help but feel a measure of empathy for some of my opponents.
When we demonstrate empathy for others, we show that we are understanding and that they can trust us to do what is in their best interest. This builds confidence and will help calm others down much more effectively than shouting “calm down!”
Make sure you ask questions to understand the problem, before jumping to conclusions. If the other person feels rushed, they will feel like you don’t care. That will just make things worse, and slow down the process.
“I’d like to think we could solve this problem,” is an example of a great message to share at this point.
While placing a soldier in a CQC hold, Snake is able to interrogate his captive or gain items from them. While I absolutely advise against placing a customer in a choke hold, I do recommend discovering what their expectations are and how things can be made right. It’s always dangerous to jump to conclusions or try to solve a problem before the other person has even explained what the problem is. Even if you are right, you run the risk of upsetting them and delaying the whole process.
Sometimes we all just need to feel that someone else is listening.
Members of Snake’s support team often communicate over the in-game radio system, the Codec. Snake frequently repeats back important points, and often paraphrases in his own words what he understood.
This is a key action we should take to let others know that we have been listening, and that we are responding to their requests. Repeat the customer’s words back to them to show you understand what they are asking or what they are upset about. This will also help if you have misunderstood something, as they will help get you back on track.
This also gives the other person a chance to understand that you really are listening when you get it right.
In a concise way, repeat the facts, express your concern for getting things back on track, and finally let the individual know what you are going to do to make things right. In the same way that Snake repeats back key points over the Codec, he often summarizes the next actions he plans on taking.
I know this all sounds so simple when it is written out like this, and the reality is that emotions run high and communication is very complex. As strange as it sounds, customers feel a high level of vulnerability, and this often comes out in anger, frustration, and fear.
Our goal is to ease that vulnerability through actions, and words.
And maybe a little Customer Service CQC.