When it comes to people's hard-earned money, there's very little tolerance for error. Financial issues or concerns can skyrocket the blood pressure of even the most mild-mannered credit union member. From the wise mind of Albus Dumbledore, "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it." Here are 4 key, Hogwarts-approved tactics we think might help you calm a member who has gotten a little hot under the collar.
1. Remain calm. If you have a member who's coming in hot, it's really easy to get your own dander up in defense. But if you escalate, they'll escalate, and round and round we go in a battle where everyone loses. The foundation of any defusion strategy should be rooted in keeping calm and not taking it personally. Your calm will help the angry member see that perhaps their behavior isn't appropriate for the issue at hand and they will calm down in turn. People take their cues from each other.
2. Express empathy, not sympathy. First a definition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
Sympathy ( ˈsim-pə-thē \)
Empathy (\ˈem-pə-thē \)
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
If you express sympathy, you are saying you have the same frustrations the member has with their banking experience. This demonstrates a disregard for the CU and its policies, undermining the leadership's decisions. If you express empathy, you are saying that you recognize that the member is feeling frustrated and that you would like to help them find a resolution, without turning on your own employer. Perhaps you know there is a feature in your mobile banking app that causes a certain level of frustration with members who face a learning curve. It is okay to acknowledge that the feature can be confusing, but reassure your member you can help and take the time to educate them.
3. Apologize. It doesn't matter if they're wrong or right. A great way to calm an angry person and make them feel heard is to tell them you are sorry that they are frustrated. You don't have to lie and say you're sorry X event happened, because maybe it's a policy being enforced and they just don't like it. Apologize gracefully for any stress they've endured.
4. Offer a solution. Let's not dwell on the past, let's get them moving forward. What are the next steps? If they're upset about a late fee, tell them their options for the future for being notified in a way that works best for them i.e. setup eAlerts or mobile app notifications in their digital banking platform. If you have the ability to waive a fee for a first offense, it can go a long way to heal a relationship. Arm your member service representatives (MSRs) with the information they need on their members to make informed decisions. Some core processors have a member profitability graph which MSRs can view to know how much money the credit union makes off of any given member. This can be key information to know how much you can bend for a member and the greater good i.e. refund a $20 late fee because you earn $500 in interest income from the member every year.
In credit union member service situations, a truly irate member reaction is rarely based solely on the member experience. It's more likely to be a bad day that was made worse by a money issue, and the MSR just happens to be the person it gets unleashed on. Remember that we're all just people that sometimes lose our minds and need a little coaxing to get back to reasonable.