One of the most valuable skills employees should have is people skills.
This skill set allows professionals to help customers navigate life, the major losses and wins, the rewarding milestones that will inevitably come their way.
When a customer is grieving, for example, businesses should know exactly what to say to that person. Of course, if you have a tech shop you should probably not worry that much as you don’t get too close to your customers.
However, in our business for example, life coaching, we must know exactly how to deal when a client is grieving. Those are vulnerable moments that should be taken seriously by anyone who is in the service offering position.
Oftentimes, companies have no policies in place for handling grief. Insensitive and ineffective responses from customer service personnel can negatively affect the reputation of a business.
So how do you talk to and help grieving customers and clients?
The 4 Ways to Talk to Customers Experiencing Grief:
1. Don’t Simply Say that You’re Sorry.
When a customer or a client faces a major life shift, such as a serious medical diagnosis, job loss due to the ongoing pandemic or death of a loved one, one of the most phrases that people often use is “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes, they use a variation of the phrase, such as, “I’m so sorry that you lost your job” or “I’m sorry that your dad died alone in hospice care.”
After a person’s death, for instance, instead of saying the word “sorry,” offer a nice anecdote or memory about the person who died. Raise questions that enable clients to tell their story. Then, keep quiet and listen. Let them freely talk about how they feel.
By allowing them to share their memory, you’re doing your best to help a grieving person smile. You’re providing the opportunity to share memories and stories, as well as learn things about their loved ones that they wouldn’t have known before. But most importantly, to process their feelings in the process.
If the client cries because their loved one died, or they might have to sell their home due to unfortunate circumstances, or whatever other reason… let them cry. Let them know that it’s ok not to be OK. They need to process their emotions. That’s how they start healing.
2. Avoid Blurting Out Common Responses that are Inappropriate and Hurtful.
Someone suffering from a loss often hears the worst things from people.
Usually, these words or statements come from individuals who mean well, but don’t know what they’re saying is inappropriate or hurtful.
If you want to say something to a client or a customer, make sure that you avoid stating these common phrases:
1. “Your loved one died doing what they love.”
Saying this belittles the feelings of the individual grieving. This statement projects the thought of making their grief logical rather than emotional.
Never pretend to know how the other person feels. Everyone grieves differently. If you’ve lost a loved one or were fired, this doesn’t mean that your journey is the same as theirs. Take note that every relationship is unique. Every grieving person, therefore, is unique.
3. “They are with God” or “They’re with the angels now.”
People try to mean well when they say these statements. Religious views aside, though, these statements can cause the grieving person to be angry with God. These statements are even more inappropriate if you tell them to an individual who’s not religious or doesn’t believe in God or the afterlife.
4. “At least, your loved one isn’t suffering anymore.”
This is inappropriate for a couple of reasons. First, it can be hurtful to the grieving individual, as they are probably not in a place to feel “thankful” given the current situation. Also, this statement implies that the bereaved individual’s loss is reduced because their loved one was suffering.
3. Use Empathy.
Although you may not have gone through the same tough circumstances that your customer is facing, you may still empathize with them.
Do your best to place yourself in the shoes of your customer.
Here are a few guide questions to help you:
Does the customer require some time before they can even think about their finances?
Will their current situation make it hard for them to come up with a good decision?
Are their judgment skills impaired because of what happened?
4. Refer the Grieving Customer to a Grief Counselor.
Some individuals can move through stages of grief by themselves or with the help of a solid support network. Others, however, may need assistance with what they’re going through.
If you have a valued client who appears to be struggling after a major loss, consider referring them to a grief counselor you know and trust to offer further guidance.
Make sure that this professional is someone who’s a good fit for your client.
Don’t simply feel sad when you meet a grieving customer. Take note of these four suggestions, so you know what to say and do to a client who’s struggling and having a hard time processing a loss or adversity. When people are most vulnerable it’s crucial to take the responsibility of how you interact with them.