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When the Customer Yells

communication, accountability

I have a friend who was working lawn care for a big name company for the summer. Part of their process is to ring the bell, even though most often the customers aren’t home. One day, he rang the bell, and a lady came to the door. She opened the door, took one look at my friend, and before he could even say, “Hi! I’m Brandon with …” she heaved a huge sigh, and said angrily, “You’re not the guy who came last week!” 

Brandon was taken aback, and quickly said, “Well, no ma’am, I’m not. Different technicians come based on demand and scheduling. Is there something specific I can help you with?”

“No. I’m really upset. I wanted the same guy to come back. Why didn’t the same guy come back?”

“Well, like I said, it just depends on the scheduling for the week. Why, may I ask, did you need that particular technician to come back?”

“Because I want to YELL at him! He did a horrible job! ….”

And from there, the customer launched into a 4 minute monologue about how horribly the previous technician had cared for the lawn. 

Luckily, Brandon knew of QBQ. He’d read the book and knew the material. He easily could have responded with lousy questions like “Who scheduled me on this route today?” “When is that other tech going to get his act together?” “Why is this happening to me?!” or “When are we gonna get better CUSTOMERS??”

But how did Brandon respond? He listened. He went to his “happy place”, as he calls it, and let her share her frustrations. He could have easily interrupted her and said again, I’m sorry, but I’m not that guy, so I’m not going to listen to this. He could have responded abruptly, rudely, defensively … but in that moment, he asked himself this QBQ, “What can I do to respond in the best way in this precise moment?”

A powerful QBQ to ask when confronted by an angry person is: “What can I do to respond in the best way in this precise moment?”


And so, he listened. And when she paused to breathe, he said, “I’m so sorry ma’am, let me get right to work making your lawn look beautiful.” That is how QBQ helps us in those moments—when someone’s yelling and mad and angry, QBQ helps me pause, collect myself, and ask a question that leads me to the best response or action possible.  And sometimes, that’s simply to say NOTHING. 

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