Nowadays, topics like customer service and customer focus are top priority for many organizations. Employees are encouraged to make sure each and every customer gets treated friendly, with the NPS as the holy grail on the horizon. But what if the customer himself is not friendly at all? If he is frustrated and unreasonable, or threatens to use physical violence? How does the employee stay friendly and customer-oriented in a situation like this?

Frustrated, angry and aggressive customers are a problem of all ages, but in recent years it seems to have worsened. An issue that can be difficult to cope with for employees with good intentions, who are only trained in picking up purchase signals and solving complaints. Because while the latter skills can be sharpened and maintained by practicing them regularly, one might hope that an outraged customer will not slam his or her fist on your desk every day!

Skills you don’t want to practice

At the same time, dealing with frustrated and aggressive customers while staying customer-friendly is not only of great importance for your NPS score, but also for the safety of your employees and customers themselves. Being able to de-escalate a tense situation, but also knowing what to do if that fails, requires a set of skills that can only be learned and maintained by a lot of practice. Exercise that you would rather not see in practice, because that would mean that customer frustration and aggression are a daily recurring issue.


That means the popular 70-20-10 model for learning and development does not apply directly in this case. This model suggests that an individual learns roughly 70% from practice, 20% from colleagues and managers and 10% through training courses. Now, the paradoxical situation occurs where you prefer to see that 70% practice-based learning reduced to zero. Because in that case, your employees will never face frustrated or aggressive customers. This means it’s all the more important to make sure that the part you can positively influence (the 10% training) is as effective as possible.

Continuous practice

A single live training with your team will not get that done. Such a training can be helpful, but the acquired skills will be forgotten again if they’re not used for a while. Moreover, a regular live training isn’t cheap and creates lost income from employees not being at their jobs. The solution is a blended training program, including both online and offline training spread over a longer period of time. When physical aggression is seen as a serious risk, training how to deal with this physically is required. Apart from that, the soft skills such as recognizing the type of aggression and applying the right method, can be trained online through video role play.

Customer-friendly in every situation

This way, employees are continuously training the necessary skills. They are reminded to exercise regularly through a weekly notification, telling them a new video exercise is ready in their training app. They will then record their personal reaction to the video exercise, at home or during a short break, and are provided with coaching and feedback to increase their skill level. This way, an employee will always know how to be customer friendly, even to an unfriendly or an aggressive customer. And that’s true customer friendliness!

Curious about how such training works in practice? Read our case study about DIY-chain Praxis!

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