Jet Blue's Steven Slater Strikes a Chord with Overstressed Workers; Customer Service Authors Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest Offer Resiliency Tips

Aug 11, 2010, 11:52 ET from Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest

DETROIT, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Jet Blue Air Steward Steven Slater struck a chord with overstressed service people this week, when he did what many only dream about --- tell the customer off and abandon ship. It's no wonder. Customers are more demanding, businesses are leaner, and the competition for consumer dollars is fierce. That adds up to the kind of stress that can turn ugly.

"Mr. Slater doesn't seem proud of what he did. While he may embody what many of us would like to do when we get overstressed, he's a professional service provider. I'm willing to bet he's upset with himself. It isn't easy to handle unexpected anger in a constructive way," said Marilyn Suttle, co-author of customer service bestseller "Who's Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan," with Lori Jo Vest. The two authors offer these tips to companies who may be concerned about overstressed customer service staff.

Don't be shocked, be prepared – The surprise of being treated rudely can shut down the reason centers of the brain and produce a fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  Businesses who regularly conduct "war game" meetings empower employees with a plan of action to protect themselves.

Sidestep Last-Straw Syndrome – The issue isn't always what it appears to be.  Mounting pressures can cause an employee to lose control. Service providers need a place to share their frustrations constructively and learn stress reducing strategies.

Train now or pay later – When budgets are tight, stress-management, resilience, and customer service training may be the first programs to go. People can work well under pressure when they have the emotion management tools to succeed.

Define Limits – When a customer crosses a line into dangerous and abusive behavior, employees who do not feel supported are more likely to snap. Put a plan in place for managing customers who cross the line from difficult to abusive.

"Who's Your Gladys?" published by AMACOM/New York, tells the stories of ten companies that offer exceptional customer service, including Singapore Airlines (Singapore, JP), The Jack Canfield Company (Santa Barbara, CA) and Professional Movers (Walled Lake, MI). It was recently licensed for translation for sale in China.

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Lori Jo Vest

SOURCE Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest