The Customer Experience Series: Kill ‘em with Kindness


In the last post from this series, we learned to picture the customer with the issue as someone’s slightly confused, 95-year-old great grandmother. We do this primarily so that we’re always on our best behavior; but this exercise will also help us handle the nastiest of irate customers by teaching us to kill them with kindness.

I know you’ve heard “kill them with kindness” before, and I know a lot of you don’t fully understand what that means. Here’s precisely how you kill them with kindness:

  • The angrier they get, the calmer you get;
  • The louder they get, the quieter you get;
  • The more words they use, the fewer words you use;
  • The meaner they get, the nicer you get.

That’s the how you kill them with kindness; but the why is actually more important.

When you kill the unreasonably angry customer with kindness, you take away their only weapon: their power over you. The unreasonably angry customer has a problem… but, it’s their problem, not yours. Their problem is they need to feel superior and they can only do that by making others feel small. Killing them with kindness disarms them.

Only you can make yourself feel small. If you allow an angry customer to get to you; if you start to take anything personally; or (worse) try to go toe-to-toe with them, you’ll lose and they’ll win.

When you start these interactions with unreasonably angry customers, you’re on an even footing. They have an issue and you want to help them resolve it. Once they try to take control over you by making you feel small, you’re faced with a choice.

Only you can decide to give them control over you. Or, you can decide to kill them with kindness – giving you all the control.

But Steve, They Won’t Stop Yelling!

I want you to solve all issues, but I understand that even when doing everything right and properly trying to kill them with kindness, there are still those who are simply too far gone for the frontline to help. In these cases, you need to escalate their issue (i.e., get it off your plate and onto someone’s with a bigger paycheck).

However, ensure you’re only escalating the real issues. When you push every issue up the chain, you end up creating additional issues and ensuring there’s no need for your boss to keep you around.

Next up in the series: Empower the Frontlines, Dammit!

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at