Here at Premier Restoration Hawaii, we always place an emphasis on hiring field technicians who have the skills to manage our customers’ emotions. I always say, “We can train someone how to dry structures, but we can’t train them to be patient while one of our customers is crying.” Because property restoration is such a technical trade, we like to think our performance on the job is what earns us those five star ratings on google; however, our ability to manage our customers’ emotions is probably the single greatest factor influencing whether or not that customer will leave us positive feedback. Below are some real strategies we employ when managing our customers’ emotions through a time of crisis.

Mirroring

When dealing with a water or fire damage emergency, it’s common for some people to become very emotional, dare I say almost hysterical. In fairness to them, the single most expensive asset of their life has gone through a catastrophe. One key skill we’ll use is called mirroring. If anyone has ever done couples counseling, you’ve done mirroring. When a customer of ours is done speaking, we’ll simply provide a recap of what they’re looking for in our own words to reach a point of consensus.  A lot of the time this will get our customer to focus on the facts surrounding their issue as opposed to the emotion attached with it.

Example:

Customer – “I’m so sick and tired of my upstairs neighbor always flooding my unit. Doesn’t he/she have any respect for me and my personal belongings? I just want this to stop happening”

Our Response – “What I’m hearing from you is if we find a solution to fix the flooding problem, you’d be interested in knowing how.”

Recapping

When people are in an emotional state, their capacity to retain information is significantly diminished. Far too often, our technicians onsite will relay key information about what’s going to happen next only to have that information forgotten or lost by the customer. Our coordinators are keen to always recap the next steps on any job every time they’re communicating with our customers. On larger or multi-unit projects, we’ll take it a step further by emailing updates with a brief overview of what we did that week and what is coming up next. Taking the time to recap information is a huge step in making sure everyone stays informed.

Example: Email to our Customer

Thank you for meeting with us today. Our technician Randy was on site today to perform an inspection of the damaged areas. This information will be relayed to Brett, one of our estimators, to prepare an estimate for repairs. This estimate will be submitted to your insurance carrier for approval. Once the work is approved, we’ll be contacting you to sign a contract and discuss when work can get started.

Notes

Communication is the key when people are frustrated. I know I already explained how memory retention dips when people are stressed, but we find that the more frequent our communication is with our customers, the smoother the process usually goes. We have a metric we track called FLIs (Files Lacking Interaction) which indicates which of our customers have not heard from us in 7 days. Usually, a simple phone call, even if it’s to say we’re still waiting on your cabinets to come in, is very helpful in making our customers feel cared for during their time of need.

Hopefully, these real strategies can help the next time you find yourself surrounded by frustrated occupants. Lastly, never underestimate the power of a $10 Starbucks gift card not as an apology, but as a tool for relief. When I was a technician, I always kept a few in my truck. Whenever one of my customers was stressed out, I’d hand them a gift card and tell them to have a coffee on me.

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As featured in the Building Management Hawaii November 2020 issue written by Anthony Nelson, President, Premier Restoration Hawaii.