Special webinar featuring customer service and de-escalation expert Myra Golden
Agents today are working with increasingly angry and emotional customers, making it harder to contain interactions and move conversations to closure and a successful outcome.
Whether you’re interacting with customers daily or leading a support organization, this session will provide your team with practical tips to bring down the temperature of your most challenging conversations.
Lonnie Johnston (00:01):
Welcome, everybody. Good morning afternoon. We are here today for the three “R” de-escalation methods for contact centers. My name is Lonnie Johnston, I lead up our customer success group here at Balto. I’m the senior VP of customer service. We’ve got a 45-minute webinar with Myra today that will include Q&A. You will see a Q&A button that you can use to submit questions. If you submit those during the webinar, then we will ask those to Myra at the end. This is being recorded and will be provided to you after the webinar. I’ll now introduce Myra.
Lonnie Johnston (00:49):
I have sort of a story. We did a webinar back in April, and a lot of the customers that you see listed here were on that webinar, and as they saw Balto, they said, boy, you should connect with Myra Golden because she is complimentary to everything that you do here at Balto. And I started looking into Myra, and I discovered that she is a major thought leader in the customer service industry. You can see the impressive logos that she works with her, but her approach is really fantastic. We’re really honored to have her today. She’s someone that I definitely pay attention to and spend a lot of time trying to learn from she’s been an agent, she’s been a manager. She has been down in the trenches. I can’t wait to have her share her insights with you. Myra, welcome to the webinar, and thank you for joining us today!
Myra Golden (01:46):
Lonnie, thank you so much for that introduction. You really warmed my heart by sharing that. And the relationship is mutual – complementary. I only partner with brands where for this type of webinar that I believe in and that can support my audience. Can support what it was like when I was an agent when I was a manager when I was a director, and then now partnering with contact centers. All right, let’s just jump right into it. My very first job was at Kmart. I was 16 years old, and I could not have known it then, but my work at Kmart at the age of 16, making $3 and 50 cents an hour would become pivotal to everything that I do today. Back then, it was just a job to buy school clothes. But now I know that there was a purpose to it.
Myra Golden (02:41):
I’ve been at Kmart for about six months when my good friend, Beverly and I, my good Kmart friend, Beverly were in conversation. She worked in our fashion accessories department, but that particular night, 17-year-old Beverly, who’d been there about a year, was the manager in charge for just a couple of hours. Beverly and I were in conversation. And then she got a call to our service desk as a manager in charge. And I just went with her, and when Beverly and I approached the desk, we saw a customer that was known to be one of our difficult customers. The appropriate word would be a loyal customer who is assertive. But in my short six-month history there, experience there, this customer, if she didn’t get what she wanted, she would quickly escalate to a manager. I mean, she would demand to talk to a manager, and she typically got what she wanted.
Myra Golden (03:35):
When Beverly and I approached the desk, and we saw the customer, I remember looking at her, her looking at me and with her eyes communicating, it’s gonna be another one of those nights. And I was glad that I was not the manager in charge and I wasn’t at that status. Well, the customer was returning a heap of clothing. And when I say a heap of clothing, imagine stuff in your washing machine, as much as you could cram in there. That’s about as much as the items that the customer was returning, and it was not brand new merchandise. I remember seeing a pair of Wrangler jeans with holes in both knees, not for fashion, but because they were worn out. Many things were dirty and tattered, and I think I even smelled the odor. Beverly was called to verify that it was Kmart merchandise and that it was in the condition to return. After looking through and sifting through the merchandise 17-year-old, Beverly, said to our customer, ” We’re not taking this junk back.”
Myra Golden (04:36):
That’s exactly what she said. And the customer said, “Excuse me”. And Beverly said, ” Look at this, these jeans have holes in them, I’m not sure this is Kmart merchandise. This is used.” And she went on to describe it and then punctuated that with, “We’re not taking this junk back.” She told her twice. Told the customer twice that her merchandise was junk and the customer said to Beverly and I kid you not – B wordcalling her out of her name B word – Yes, you will. As in, yes, you will take it back. And I remember standing back, because I didn’t want any of what might have come. Beverly met the customer where she was and said –B word, no we won’t. And with that, the customer slapped Beverly. The customer slapped my coworker in the face and without missing a beat, Beverly punched her back and we had a full-on fight at the customer service desk.
Myra Golden (05:31):
That was my introduction to how quickly things could spiral out of control. That was my introduction to escalation. Now let me ask you, I wanna make this short webinar interactive. Where do you think my friend Beverly went wrong? I want you to go to the chat and tell me where do you think she went wrong and Lonnie, maybe you can help me out if we have, and I hope we do have some remarks. But let me know what people are saying. I’m gonna keep it moving, but I want to hear where do you think if, if you think Beverly went wrong. So Lonnie, do we have anything in the chat? I know that there can be a little Zoom delay.
Lonnie Johnston (06:09):
A lot of the consensus seems to be that she lost her at junk.
Myra Golden (06:16):
That, even at 16, I knew that that couldn’t go well. Yeah, I think that’s it. When calling the merchandise that someone has paid for junk, her word choice. And we could list a lot of other things, that Beverly did not explain our policy. She just said, we’re not taking your junk back. There was no hello. There’s no, let’s take a look. It was, we’re not taking the junk back. I agree. And from that point on, I have been interested in how to preempt an escalation, how to de-escalate. And so today I am going to share with you what I’ve learned since I was 16 at Kmart, I have taken the time to study professional escalators or excuse me, d-escalators.
Myra Golden (07:02):
And when I say professional, I am talking about police officers, former police officers, I’ve talked to mental health professionals. I’ve studied under the work of a former international hostage negotiator. Many people, I’ve studied the Marshall art. And studying professional d-escalators, I have come up with four principles that I’m gonna give you before we get into the three “R” method, four principles of why situations escalate. Number one, in problem situations, the issue isn’t the issue, the way the issue is handled. That becomes the issue. When we look at Beverly a Kmart, the issue wasn’t that our customer was denied a return that happens all the time. People are denied a return. They can’t do what they think. Maybe it’s a warranty issue, not the manufacturer or it’s beyond the date. They don’t usually end in a verbal or physical fight. It was the way my friend handled it. I E calling the customer’s merchandise junk for every action. There is an equal, an opposite reaction.
Myra Golden (08:13):
I’m taking you back to school here with Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. When Beverly says to our customer, we’re not taking that junk back then she got an equally intense, equally shocking reaction, which was B word. Yes, you will. We have to be mindful that our tone, our approach, our words are going to, and most cases get the same type of reaction. We need to give the energy that we would want to give. And my final principle in the high level for, for de-escalation is we need to look at why customers push back. When I studied Chris Voss, who is a former international hostage negotiator speaking on hostage situations, and this is literally life or death, he came up with four reasons. People push back. I I’m going to look at this in, in a customer business to customer scenario, but it’s the same as life and death with hostage situations, Chris VAs says, people push back for one of four reasons.
Myra Golden (09:13):
One, they don’t trust you, or excuse me, one of three reasons they don’t trust you. They fear something or they see you as a threat. And, and when I go back to Kmart and I want you to envision situations that you’ve had that escalated. When I go back to that fight that night at Kmart, I think our customer saw Beverly as a threat to getting what she wanted, which was an in-store credit. I think she feared that if this teenage girl was right and had authority, she wouldn’t get what she wanted. And I think she didn’t trust that a teenager was the manager for the night. When you get pushback from a customer and when I say pushback, they, they wanna talk to a manager, they raise their voice, any kind of pushback. And I’ll put this slide up just for a moment.
Myra Golden (10:01):
Just, I want you to have your team ask themselves, could I have done something implied. Something said something in such a way that I caused people not to trust me or to fear something. And then we also need to look at every point on this screen. And I’m not saying that usually we are the reason, but I, before I get into the three R method, I want to give you a tool, a framework to have your employees look at themselves and make sure they do not go Beverly. Okay. For I was gonna say lack of a better description, but I think that’s actually a really good description. So when we talk about de-escalation, I wanna be clear on what de-escalation is de-escalation, the way I teach it comes down to your, your either trying to bring down the temperature in an interaction.
Myra Golden (10:48):
You know, the customers 10, we may not be able to get them on one level, and they’re happy and giving us a perfect survey, rank ranking. But if we can bring down the temperature, well, Hey, that’s a great day. We’re bringing down the temperature or we’re containing the situation, or finally, in a perfect scenario, we are resolving it. But likely, if you’re in an escalated situation or you’re on the verge of escalation, you don’t have a resolution, right? You’ve given bad news, or you’ve had to say no, or what the customer wants is impossible. So that our best is usually going to be to bring down the temperature or contain the situation. How are we going to get there? So my framework, the three R method that I’m gonna reveal to you, it’s all about right. Brain transfer, your upset customer, who the customer, who’s emotional, who curse or overtalk you, or make threats.
Myra Golden (11:40):
They are in the right brain. And we need to focus on moving them, shifting them to the logical left brain or whole brain. So we’re gonna start with the right brain transfer. Then we’re going to redirect any intensity. That’s where the bulk of the work is in my three R method. And then finally, because you care about your customers and the brand and loyalty, we’re gonna focus on restoring confidence. In fact, every step in my three R method is about restoring confidence. It’s, it’s repairing the relationship, strengthening it if it’s already strong, but certainly restoring that confidence. So, alright, let’s get to the three R method, three super easy steps. We, they go in order illiterate intentionally. It’s a lot easier for people to remember things if they start with the same letter and if it’s only three, no more than four steps.
Myra Golden (12:32):
I’ve spent a lot of years over a decade, 14 years, I think it is about now working, perfecting this method and a lot of feedback, a lot of work in the field with, with agents and, and getting feedback from, from their bosses. This is the method that works. I present to you, my three are de-escalation method. Step one is recognize. And again, they go in order. I want you to imagine, in fact, I’m going to, to go full screen video for a moment, cuz I wanna do a quick illustration. I have with me, excuse my reach for stepping away a brain. I hope you can see, see this. So a brain and we know that we have two halves to the brain. We have the emotional right brain, which is where we experience every emotion that that’s fear.
Myra Golden (13:22):
That’s anger. That’s surprise. That’s love. That’s grief. That’s shame. We have the left side of the brain, which is our logical side. The left side of the brain is where we are when we’re doing our taxes or when my son was taking the S a T getting ready for college. We do not want our customs when we give them bad news. When we’re trying to contain the situation, we don’t want them in the right emotional brain. We want them whole brain or the left brain. If a person is in their right emotional brain, you’re gonna hear what I witnessed at Kmart. Our customer Beverly’s customer was in the right brain. You have to be in the right brain. If you think it’s okay to curse at a customer service professional, you have to be in the right brain to slap a person.
Myra Golden (14:11):
And so we need people, whole brain step. One of my method recognize is all about keeping people out of that emotional right brain. I’ve given you the why, how do you move people out of that emotional right brain? You’re going to link what I call the communication chain to link the communication chain. Psychologists tell us that when we communicate anybody in writing face to face, we’re trying to link to the, the, the other person. And when Beverly’s customer is expecting a refund or a credit and Beverly doesn’t link with an affirmation or anything positive at all and says, we’re not taking that junk back. She broke the chain of what the customer’s expecting. People want, they want a response. So if you would’ve been silent, when someone’s venting, that’d be the same as breaking the chain. Or if you say what they don’t wanna hear, we need the chain linked.
Myra Golden (15:08):
If we don’t have our chain linked with a response and ideally positive people shift to that emotional right brain. That is what we are trying to avoid. You can keep people from going to that emotional right brain by giving a response, a response that is laced with empathy. I’ve got two examples here. I realize this is frustrating for you. That is my favorite way to link the chain, to recognize cons. We recognize concern. We’re recognizing your friction point. I like the word frustrate because it doesn’t assume it’s not so hot that this is I, I’m sorry. You’re angry. I’m sorry. You’re pissed off. But yet it doesn’t minimize it. It’s right there in the middle. I, we realize this is frustrating or I realize that or another one of my favorites is I can see your point on that. I don’t have to agree with someone to say, I can see your point.
Myra Golden (15:58):
I feel you. I hear you. That’s what we’re trying to do with recognize. The first step in preempting, an escalation, or if you’re already in a full-blown escalation, is to link the communication chain. By giving a response, our response is going to be laced with empathy. When you, when you lace with empathy, what you’re doing is protecting people from being stuck in that irrational, emotional right brain. And then you give yourself the best opportunity for the customer to be the whole brain. After you link the chain with the response, then you are ready for step two. Oh, I almost forgot. I’ve got a bonus for you. Imagine being able to prompt your agents on how to link the chain at the moment, when they’re dealing with a fire-high customer, being able to prompt them on what to say.
Myra Golden (16:47):
This is one of the most fantastic things about Balto. This is why I wanted to partner with them. There is an app. They have an application. I mean, this is the whole show where your agent can be working. They can be working from home. They can be working in your contact center, and they are dealing with a frustrated or angry customer. And they don’t know what to say in the moment, because then they’re thrown into the right brain because of the customer’s emotion. Well, Balto can prompt based on the scenario, based on what the customer has said, based on what the agent is doing and needs to do next can be prompted. And not just with one prompt, it might start with I understand, or the, the customer, let’s say, Jane says, I can’t believe this isn’t covered by warranty.
Myra Golden (17:35):
Okay. He’d probably be even more fierce than that. So based on that scenario, the agent can be prompted by saying, I understand that this is frustrating, you know, and they’re gonna say that with the right tone, and then it’s gonna prompt them what to say follow up, cuz it’s not enough to say one thing. Maybe the next thing is while the warranty doesn’t cover this, we may still be able to help. And then the next prompt, we have a network of contractors with value pricing, exclusive to golden homes. So I think we’re still going to be able to help you out. Imagine being able to prompt your people step by step. Because very often in the moment I’m scared, I’m nervous. I’m new. I’ve not had anything like this, but then here are the prompts and all they have to do is just look at their desktop.
Myra Golden (18:21):
Ah, yeah. And then you’ll say it naturally because we wanna write it, gonna type it, the work on the back end to tell them what to say. I love that. And I love that because I can teach you the framework. I, I can get you inspired and I can prepare, but there’s nothing like being in the moment. I remember when my kids were learning to drive and I went to a parent meeting and drive and I remember the instructor saying, you know, the classroom instruction and the, the six drives with us, that’s not gonna do it. It’s to use his phrase, it’s butts and seats that, that your child behind the wheel driving and getting that experience and learning how to navigate and negotiate. That’s what those prompts will do. I’m in the seat. I’m, I’m, it’s hitting me and now I’ve got those prompts to help me.
Myra Golden (19:07):
So consider, consider that as a helpful tool. Now we’re ready for step two. Most of the work is in step two of the three R method, which is reframe. And I have a picture frame here intentionally. We’re going to reframe the situation depending on what we want our customer to do. Another way to look at reframing is I’m redirecting. I chose a frame because we choose frames for our artwork. Our, our photos based on what we want visitors to do. For example, in my living room, I have a gallery wall with six black and white portraits of east Africans, men, women, children, and I have very simple black vinyl frames that I got from Amazon inexpensive and simple. And I chose intentionally simple, inexpensive, low front, low footprint frames because I want the viewer or the guest of my home to focus on the black and white portraits in the frames.
Myra Golden (20:05):
Now, the times I’m, you might wanna big antique gold massive frame because you want, you wanna draw people down a corridor. You want them to stay there. We’re gonna do the same thing with reframing. We’re going to direct people where we want them to go based on reframing techniques and quickly, I’m gonna go through four different techniques. You don’t have to, you don’t use ’em all. It just depends on the situation, what you’re trying to accomplish. I have them listed here and let’s go through. I’m gonna take the first two together. A former police officer taught me this technique, finding common ground, and then optioning that I’m gonna present next. Find finding common ground is taking the situation and seeing what you might have in common. And when we have a commonality, we can connect. That’s how we create rapport and trust.
Myra Golden (20:56):
So the officer that taught me this said, you know, when we pull over, we, as officers pull over a person who we suspect is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that can be dangerous. It could turn violent quickly. It may not be that way, but it can. And we always have to be hyper-vigilant. And he said, one thing I do is I find copper common ground. So he explained that one day he pulled someone over who was in a red Camaro. I don’t remember the exact car and he, and he said to him, after he done, you know, may your license and registration, have you been drinking after all of that? He said is that the, the 20, 21 Camaro and whatever the specific model was of that. And, and the gentleman said, yeah, actually it is. So that was a common ground.
Myra Golden (21:39):
The officer said, I’ve had my eye on that. You know, what’s a horsepower, what’s a zero of 60. And so he said, we will chat on something that I’m genuinely interested in. I just wanna create that connection. I’m trying to create that connection. He said, it’s a lot easier. If you can find common ground, this is the rapport building. So if there’s ever an opportunity to find common ground a lady, I shared this in an in person workshop just last week a customer was upset and the lady wrote back in the email as a mother of three myself, I can relate to your frustration. And that was specific to that situation. So without even giving the detail as a mother of three myself, I can relate to how frustrating that was. That’s what common ground is. So we wanna find common ground when we can.
Myra Golden (22:23):
You can always do that. What is more likely that you can do is optioning the same officer shared this technique with me. So when I say optioning, optioning is, well, generally speaking, I will say, generally speaking, the more options a person feels like they have, the more likely they are to calm down on their own. So this police officer explained to me that when it, in this particular case with the red Camaro, there was nothing positive for the, the driver. The car was going to be impounded and the person was gonna go to jail. So he said, that’s tough when people hear that, even though we’ve got that coming ground, they get, they can get upset. So I always come up with an option in this case, if you have a, a tow service that you like to use I can call for you, if not, the city has a, a record service that we use and we’ll take care of the car either way, the car is getting towed, but he said, giving a person a sense of control by giving them the choice that is enough to create calm.
Myra Golden (23:27):
So I want you to know that optioning is a powerful tool to de-escalate. Whenever you can say, we can do this or this, like in the, the example that I had with the Balto prompts while it isn’t covered by warranty, we do have a strong network of contractors that we trust and recommend that would be an option. So consider optioning. All right. Here’s probably my favorite re reframe reframing tool of the four that I’m sharing with you today. I call it the three w technique. I like things in three, and you’re gonna be able to see why I call this the three w in just a moment, I’ll set it up with explaining when I had to give bad news and the lesson I learned, I was new in my global com consumer affairs manager’s job. And one of the first things I had to do was go before our, our franchise body.
Myra Golden (24:20):
I’d been with a company maybe three months. This is how new I was. I was young in my twenties and, and new to the industry, new to the company. And I was nervous about having to break the bad news. And I remember going to my boss, the vice president of the company for advice, and the bad news was we were debuting on the JD power survey for the first time. The company just made it big enough revenue wise to be included, but we were debuting dead last. And, you know, being dead last in JD power for your industry is like a, you know, one star review on Yelp or, or Amazon it’s, it’s, it’s pretty bad or even trip advisor. So I was nervous about breaking this news. And my boss said, well, you can do it, and you can do it using a method that I use.
Myra Golden (25:04):
So I call it the three “W” but here’s how my boss broke it down to me. He said, you go in there and you’re gonna explain. Here’s what we know. Here’s what we’ve done. And here’s what’s next. And the reason I call it three w is you’re explaining what three different times. In fact, it was one of my clients who gave me this, this analogy. So I remember on the big day I go in front of the, the, the franchise body. And I explain here’s what we know. We are, we’ve debuted on the JD power survey. The, the results are coming out and I gave the exact date. And then I click hit my clicker and the PowerPoint showed the top seven in our industry and then showed us a dead last. So I explained, here’s what we know. And then I went back to, here’s what we’ve done.
Myra Golden (25:48):
We have contracted with the consulting branch of JD power to help us better capture the voice of the customer. So I talked about that and what it’s entailed, and we’ve hired trainers that will go out to your locations. It was car rental and train. And then here’s what’s next. Well, you can expect the trainers to be reaching out to your location managers within the next. And I gave that timeframe. So I went through that method and I had time to prepare. I had about three weeks to prepare. And while I felt nervous, feedback that I got from several people was that I, I came across confident and ready and prepared, and that nervousness was not a part of it. So I, from that moment that I learned that, and I didn’t have that. The, the, the fear that I expected to have, I went and taught this to my staff, my call center staff.
Myra Golden (26:37):
And I said, when you have time and you don’t always have time to reframe with this, but if I have time to, to do a little research and get back with the client, it is wonderful. If you can explain to the customer, okay, here’s what we know, here’s what we’ve done. And here’s, what’s next. And to give you an idea of how this works, I after I fell in love with the, the framework, my family and I went on vacation and rented a car. And when we got our car out of valet, the next day, the car pulled up wrecked our rented car, which was not wrecked when we picked it up or valet parked it or any part of our journey was wrecked. My husband was the one in the lobby, picking up the car. I was on the sofa with the kids in the lobby, and I could see my husband going off, like Beverly’s customer going off, get me a manager, yelling no profanity, but buddy was going off.
Myra Golden (27:31):
And so I walked up and I remember putting my hand on his arm as if to say, well, come on. Let’s, let’s, let’s let the young men speak. Let’s see what’s going on. And the young man, when I say young, early twenties about the HR daughter is now when he did speak, when my husband finally let him speak, he used the three w method flawlessly, and he calmed my husband down. He, I, I won’t say calm. That might be too strong, but he brought the temperature down, which is de-escalation. Let me walk you through quickly. What that young man did using the three w method to create calm with my on fire husband. When my husband let him talk. He said the accident happened in our park parking garage last night at 7:42 PM. A person tried to self park in valet. When we told him he could not park there, he got upset, sped off and hit three cars.
Myra Golden (28:28):
Your vehicle was one of the three. We know he was in a white Honda civic. They gave us his license number and did say he sped off <laugh> and he left the scene. Now, at this point, I don’t know that the guy is using three. W what I do know is my husband is no longer interrupting him. What I do know is my husband seems calmer. You know, not all the way he wasn’t at a one, but he was, if he was at a 10 before, he was probably at a seven and that’s progress without us interrupting him. The, the young man went on to say, we filed a claim with our loss prevention team. We have two eyewitnesses, and we have filed a police report with the Austin police department. Now it was at this point that I thought, you know what? He is using the three W because he’s told us what he knows and he’s explained what they’ve done.
Myra Golden (29:18):
And to myself, I said, he, the next thing is, he’s gonna tell us what’s next. And bam, that’s exactly what he did. He said, you guys need to file a police report. You need to notify both. You also need to file a police report. You need to notify both your insurance company and your car rental company. Your insurance company will go after the driver. I, I looked at that situation and my husband, who was a 10 now, by the end of it, I’d say he’s about a four or a five, which is good. We have to be realistic. De-escalation is not going to be, it’s not a magic wand, but if you can get a person from on fire to, I remember my husband standing there with a hand on his hip leaning on the counter still pretty pissed off, but he wasn’t as verbally assaulting <laugh> as he had been.
Myra Golden (30:04):
So three “W” that is my favorite way to reframe that method does take some time. So you wanna be, be mindful of that. It takes some time. All right. The final reframe method that I’ll share with you is another favorite of mine and it’s psychological priming. And this is this one will really take some work on your end to prepare your team. Let me, let me get you through an illustration. I’ll teach you through an illustration. What, what psychological priming is? I have on the screen here, a beautiful woman with what’s known in, in the natural hair community as a, a TWA, teeny Winnie Afro. And so I want you to look at that image and in a moment, not yet, I want you to go to your chat, but don’t start yet. And I want you to guess the word I have on the screen. So I’ve got, it’s a four letter word. It starts with H it ends with R but you know what? We’ve been here for for 30 minutes. I, I need to spruce up. I’m gonna pull out my Afro pick, and I’m just going to pick out my fro as I do that. Tell me, what do you think the word is? Go to the chat and type the word and Lonnie, if you could tell me what you’re seeing in the chat. I, I can’t wait to.
Myra Golden (31:20):
Okay. I been obvious, wasn’t it? Yeah. A hair and what I did here, let me go back to the screen. I, put an image that would be a little unusual in, in this type of workshop. For me, I’m drawn to the woman’s hair. You might see her makeup, her yellow dress, but I put an image and then I pull out an Afro pick. And when I do this in, in person, people are like, what the heck? You know, until they figure it out. What I was doing was priming you with the pick physically being in my hair and with, with the woman’s image, that’s what psychological priming is. You prime a person to, to go where you want them to go to believe what you want them to believe, guide them by. You could do it through images, props, or words. I did all three here with an image of this woman, a prop, my Afro pick.
Myra Golden (32:06):
And then I said, pick out my fro. Now with customers, obviously we, we’re not going to prime with we’re not gonna pull out props. We’re not going to use images, but I want you to just know about that. I use psychological prime with one of my utility clients. As I wrap up refrain, they reached out to me for help controlling conversations that would escalate. When I say control. The talk time was way too long. I agents were losing control and things would escalate. And so I, it took me nine weeks to prepare. And I, I finally came up with psychological priming with words. Again, we’re not gonna use props and, and images with our customers. Let me show you how with this utility client, I took this particular scenario. So the scenario was a, a person calls to get water service turned on and in this county, and I’ve never seen this anywhere else.
Myra Golden (33:03):
It may be, but I’ve not seen it. The debt for water meter stays with the meter. So let’s say that I’m renting a house and it’s with rental property, rental homes, apartments, I’m renting a home rental homes, not apartments. I, I know I’m moving and I I’m kinda sketchy. I don’t pay my water bill this month and I don’t pay the last month. So I leave a debt of say a $300 water bill and I move. And it doesn’t matter if I move across town or across the country in this county, the debt stays with the meter. And so let’s say Tammy moves into that house. She calls a utility company to turn on water. She’s thinking I’m gonna pay a $20 deposit, but she’s told, ah, on this property, there’s a debt on the meter for $300. So what you’re gonna owe is $320 customers would lose it.
Myra Golden (33:54):
I would too. Can you imagine being told that to get your water on? You’ve gotta pay the past debt of the previous tenant. And yet that is the case. And so that my client didn’t bring me in to judge the policy, but to help them control calls in this particular category, the average talk time was 19 minutes and 33 seconds because people were upset. They couldn’t believe it. So there was explaining there was trying to offer options, but it never worked. So here’s what my clients were saying. Basically the debt is attached to the meter regardless who accrues the debt, ABC utility won’t turn on the water until the bill is paid. Well, that did is factual, but that did nothing to contain this situation. So I used priming specifically with words to rewrite what I wanted them to say. And then I later coached them.
Myra Golden (34:44):
So here’s what I came up with. As a solution. I have two suggestions. First, you need to talk to your landlord, tell them there’s a debt on the meter and that you can’t turn on water. See if they’ll work something out for you. And the second option, and I do this immediately look carefully at your lease to see if any clause protects you in this situation. Now, I didn’t just come up with this. I interviewed agents, I, I talked to management. I even went outside the industry just to look for what options, because the utility could not, they, they, there was no option they could offer. So as you can see, all of my options are outward focused. I have here in bold, my psychological primers. So two suggestions. I am trying to prime right here. Optioning. Remember optioning was one of our, our reframe techniques.
Myra Golden (35:33):
When you have two suggestions, it sounds like, okay, options are coming. Then you need to talk to your landlord. I’m trying to move the focus off of this phone call to what you can do. Talk to someone who can help you, that landlord second option. And that’s serving the same purpose as two options. I just want people to feel they have options. And then this, I do this immediately look carefully at your lease. I’m trying to spark a sense of urgency for the customer to get off of the phone and take action with whoever, whatever party might be able to help them and then protects you. I literally wanted them to feel like this utility is in their corner. We, we, we wanna help you in, we’re guiding you. So I, I took this statement to the team. They initially were like, wait, that we’re trying to control calls.
Myra Golden (36:18):
That’s so many more words. So I explained the psychology behind it. And I said, well, what you’re doing is not working in that category. The average call is over 19 minutes, but what we’re doing is psychologically creating the sense of urgency, psychologically driving people to, to get off the phone and to take actions. So after role playing with them and, and working on tone, we got the average talk time in this category down to about four minutes, four minutes, and about 18 seconds. That is a call control technique. It is de-escalation specifically reframing. I hope you’ll try it. That takes a lot of work on the back end. But if you use a platform like we’re talking about today, you can, you can create it. People don’t have to memorize it and they’ll be prompted. So I love this psychological priming. I love it because my background is psychology.
Myra Golden (37:06):
All right. The final step in the three R method is resolved. Now resolve, as I mentioned in the beginning, you know, we’re not, we’re more likely to contain the situation or bring down the temperature. If we had a resolution, we wouldn’t be here. Here’s the point I, I wanted to illiterate. So, you know, recognize, reframe, resolve. It’s easy for you to remember, but I know we may not have a resolution in problem interactions where we’re trying to preempt an escalation or we’re there. And we’re trying to de-escalate resolution is gonna be one of three things it’s gonna, you’re gonna guide the person to the next steps or explain like with the utility, like we, there is no resolution on this phone call. We cannot waive that $300. There is no fund. There’s no one you can talk to in our organization that is gonna make that sell it.
Myra Golden (37:53):
We are regulated. This is how it is. So the solution there is to move to the next steps by I talk to my landlord, I’d look at the lease or assure the person there is a solution. Assuming there is like, if, if you’ve gotta research and get back to them or in the perfect world, you are going to resolve, that’s it? That is my three R method. I’ve intentionally made it simple. It’s like wash, rinse, and then repeat what makes this method work is you are taking people out of that emotional right brain and people go to that right brain when they hear no. Or when they’re frustrated, because the news is bad or they think I’m gonna have to, there’s one more piece of paperwork, or I have to make another phone call, or I have to, I can’t do it on social media where I reach out to you.
Myra Golden (38:39):
Now I’ve gotta call your toll free number, whatever, all any of that will put them in the right brain. So when you link the chain with, I realize this is frustrating. That is recognized. You’re beginning to move them out of the left brain, reframing whichever tactic you use. It keeps people outta that emotional right brain. It keeps them focused. It keeps them moving forward, which is what you want. If you link the chain with the saving of recognition and you, you strongly use a reframe technique, believing that you can do it. And, and, and coming back with the second reframe, if the first one doesn’t work, you’re gonna go right to that last step of resolve, which is again, is we’re guiding them to the next steps. So you’re gonna get there. But if you don’t on the first try, I tell people back up and just try it again, do it one more time.
Myra Golden (39:25):
And in my experience, working with clients, if you go back and link that chain a second time with a different phrase, maybe this time is I can see your point on that. And then this time you’re going three w you’re going to get there now, wouldn’t it be fantastic. If you could prompt your agents to guide their customers, to guide your customers to the next steps. I think this is where this application again comes. It’s like a, it’s a cheat sheet. It’s like a person whispering in your ear. It’s like when I’m recording courses, having that teleprompter, like I don’t, I love when I record courses, when I show up in the studio and everything is right there, all I have to do is read it with enthusiasm and passion. That’s what this is going to do. So let’s just say, wait a minute, curse words.
Myra Golden (40:09):
I just moved in. This is not my thought. I shouldn’t have to pay $300. So then you take that psychological priming statement that I wrote and explained, well, the previous owner has an unpaid balance to have your water connected. The balance does have to be paid first. Now your tone is important. I realize this is not what you wanna hear as you’re moving into your, your new apartment. And then you, you prompt them everything. They need to say. You put those statements one sentence at a time, so they can read them in a very natural way. And so I love being able to give people cheat sheets. Like I’m so big on that. Like, I’m talking to you, I’ve got everything on the screen. I have notes. I, I have posted notes because we need a prompt sometimes because we can get in the thick of it.
Myra Golden (40:53):
Like a technology problem can throw you off, but you know what? If I’ve got my notes, I can come back. A raging yelling customer might throw you off, but if I can look at the screen and see what’s next, then I can come back. I can come back to center. Now, a final thing I’ll share with you before we go to Q&A, which I’m glad we get to do Q&A is when I am working with a client consulting or an in-person workshop when we have about a half an hour or half a day, rather like I did last week, we have practice. So I just encourage you on your own to take my three R method and sit down and, and practice what you want your people to say at every step when you practice and you give them feedback that that’s how we get where we need to go. Well, all right. I’ve given you a lot and now I wanna hear from you Lonnie, I’m gonna turn it over to you for Q&A.
Lonnie Johnston (41:49):
Perfect.Thanks Myra. So while everybody is typing their questions into the Q&A button, so you see a Q&A button there at the bottom. So please ask your questions. I’m just gonna let everybody know that Myra gave a couple examples of Balto there. If you’re not familiar with Balto , would like to see how we can guide calls, coach and critical moments. We score QA a hundred percent of our calls. If you’d like to see a demo of this, you see the link here with Balto.ai/get-demo. And we would love to show you how we take and coach people through these critical moments, like, like you saw Myra do here. So with that hit us up on the Q&A, we got just a couple more minutes for Q&A. I’m gonna start out with a question I have for Myra, if you know, I’m curious, even if it’s anecdotal, what is the feedback that you hear from customers as they implement like this three R method and de-escalation in terms of how it impacts their metrics you know, what sort of impact do they share with you that they see on from once they implement this?
Myra Golden (42:56):
Lonnie, Thank you. Thank you for that question. You know, and I love that you asked that because my three R method, it’s not meant just to de-escalate, just to get people a sense of control, but we wanna impact the metrics. I used to manage a contact center and I get that last week and I’m still excited about in person, cuz I, this is new again, but I was in person with a group that I’d done. My three R de-escalation method training with virtually during this pandemic and the director came down. I was teaching on empathy in this training, came down to introduce me. It’s gonna be a manager, but the director came down and to introduce me for training. And she said, you know, one of the best things about working with Myra again, and I say this with humility with pride and humility, I should say she said, one of the best things about working with Myra again is we had her three R training online and we saw a difference in call handling time. Our, our agents had a greater sense of control. So what she was saying is that they got the average handle time down, which is controlling cost. So that is one big metric. And then people feel confident as well. You want your team to feel confident right now where we’re losing people with the great resignation you want to do everything you can to make people feel good through our method will serve you in that way as well.
Lonnie Johnston (44:16):
All right. I think I’m gonna squeeze one more in Joseph Grace asked, do you have any suggestions for customers that are personally attacking or harassing employees that are, that are trying to assist any suggestions on how to frame the employee’s statement or keeping things professional? What, what would you say there?
Myra Golden (44:36):
I’m sorry. That happens. And I know it does you know, we have to protect our employees. They do not come to work to be verbally abused. So we’re going to have to draw the line when it’s personally attacking and, and that’s different as you know, from, from venting, from being upset, from being shocked. But I would give your arm, your, your employees with phrases on, on what to say such as I’m happy to help you yet. I’m not able to continue while you using this language, or I’m not able to continue when you cut me off. I’m not able to, to continue if you keep over talking me. So in a very assertive way, I’m happy to help. I can’t under these circumstances. If the language stops we can continue. So that is a diplomatic assertive way to say that if they come back and they still personally attack, maybe they, they got it right for a few seconds and they come back again.
Myra Golden (45:31):
Hey, Mr. Jones, I I’ve asked you not to, to speak to me in that way. What we’re going to do now is I’m going to, to ask you to call back and I’m going to disconnect call back at another time when you’re ready to talk. And so you want to a assertively, but diplomatically. So it’s not like stop Mr. Jones. You know, it’s not like Beverly’s approach was once you’re a profanity is to meet it. So we’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna be aggressive. We’re gonna be assertive. And my definition of assertiveness is say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t be mean when you say it and with that, you can draw the line without being rude.
Lonnie Johnston (46:09):
Well, that’s great. So I know we’re just a little bit over time, but I guess we’ll call this overtime. So if everybody wants to stick around, I know Myra’s got kind of an exercise here. So Myra, I’ll hand it back to you. If you want take them through that they’re willing to stick around for maybe just another minute or two.
Myra Golden (46:27):
Yeah, no more than two minutes. I’ll wrap it up and then I’ll give you a to go exercise. Thank you, Lonnie for moderating questions and giving me just a couple of minutes, when you choose to adopt and apply the techniques that we’ve been working on today, the three R method, good things are going to happen. When you transfer people out of the right brain, the emotional right brain, you’re gonna create a sense of calm and that calm is going to make things easier for your agents. When you positively position issues through the different reframing techniques, three W’s specifically, people are gonna, you are gonna have a greater sense of control. Your agents will, and you are gonna have fewer escalations that three w method is not just a reframed technique. Anytime you have to give bad news and you wanna do that in an assertive way, in a way that’s gonna guide people to the next steps.
Myra Golden (47:15):
That is going to be the perfect technique for you to use. So I look forward to you all applying the three R method and seeing that your agents are more in control. You get to have some of your time back, because you’re not running around having to return calls and calm people down. All right? So the very last thing that I wanna do is, and this is a takeaway. I end every one of my workshops like this. I want you to, to write out or type out, you can do it in your phone. These three words, start, stop and continue. And I’d like you to think of, think out, write out what what’s one thing I will start doing as a result of what I’ve learned in this workshop today. You know, I’m gonna start giving my team phrases for linking the chain or I’m going to start considering an application that might prompt and guide my people. What will you stop doing? You know, maybe you’ll stop just taking these escalations without proactively preparing your team, whatever that is for you. And then finally, what is one thing you will continue to do?
Myra Golden (48:20):
Well. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you for sticking around for the extra three minutes. Thank you for listening to my ideas, for how to bring down the temperature, guide your customers to the next steps while giving your agents the framework and the confidence they need. I wish you all of the success you are prepared to work for.