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11 Tips for Managing an Angry Transferee

Tips for Managing an Angry TransfereeEvery relocation professional, in-house or third-party, will encounter that one transferee. You know, the one you can never win over, no matter what you do.  The one who is ready for a fight right out of the gate, insisting that you took too long to make contact; the benefits offered won’t be enough; someone else had a better program; the kids need to finish the school year; the kids don’t want to move during the summer; the old house was appraised too low; the destination agent is not listening; the language is too hard and the movers are late.

I am certainly not belittling these issues. Transferees are bombarded with so much at once that they are bound to stress out and, sometimes, fly off the handle. It is our job to listen and problem solve on their behalf. Unlike us, this is most likely their first relocation and it can be a daunting task.

With career, family and community concerns all in the air at once, it is easy to understand why, otherwise composed people can lose their cool.

We recently polled our relocation services team for advice on how to manage an angry transferee gracefully and summed it up in the tips below:

Manage expectations upfront. Remember our post on managing expectations for international relocations? The same strategy should be applied for every relocation.

Hide and seek is for kids. Technology has made it very easy for people to hide behind email when facing a problem. It may seem logical to avoid the phone, and the emotions involved in chatting live, but it really is the worst thing you can do. “In my experience, hiding behind email only agitates the transferee further,” says Patti Zindel, Relocation Service  Manager. “Often when you speak with transferees directly to resolve an issue, they are far more receptive to the resolution.”

Don’t take it personally. A stressed out transferee who is not thinking clearly may say mean things. They don’t know you personally, so there is no basis to any of the insults flying your way. If you do get upset, end the call as quickly as possible and decompress by taking a walk, calling a friend or talking to a supervisor. Just remember, they will probably be up all night embarrassed about their behavior, while you sleep soundly because you know you kept your cool.

Give yourself a pep talk. If everything was easy all the time, no one would get anywhere. Problems give us opportunities to shine. Take on the challenge as a way to prove yourself. If you can rectify the issue, you will have endeared yourself to the transferee, the client and your boss.

Share the same side of the table. Put you and the transferee on one side of the table, and the problem on the other. “Then ask what ‘we’ can do together, within the rules, to make the situation better,” says Jody Jaeger, Relocation Service Manager.  “Be sure to listen fully, ask open ended questions and empathize before going into problem solving mode.”

Identify the real problem. This goes hand in hand with listening. A lot of people just need to vent when they are upset. Sometimes, they don’t know exactly what they are angry about. Or, worse, they displace the anger because avoiding the real issue is easier.  Maybe your transferee is yelling at the moving company, but the real problem is the closing on the new house. If you listen closely and stay calm, you should be able to get to the root of it all.

Kill ‘em with kindness. This universal rule for getting along is a customer service must. People tend to act as mirrors. If you are tense, your transferee will be tense. If you act genuinely kind, you may trigger their natural reaction to return the favor.

Sorry is not a bad word. If you made a mistake, own up to it. Say you are sorry and move on to resolution. “Most people aren’t emotional sadists and will calm down after an apology is made,” says James Moux, Relocation Service Manager. “I can’t speak for everyone, but saying sorry usually diffuses the situation. Of course, it has to be genuine and you have to move on to the fix.”

Don’t play the blame game. Wasting time finger pointing is only going to delay the inevitable. A problem occurred and it needs to be fixed. This is the only thing to focus on. If the blame genuinely lies with a third party, address it with them, not the transferee.

Hold the drama. Sometimes when people attempt to show empathy, they inadvertently jump off the ledge too. There is a fine line between being supportive and throwing gasoline on the fire. It’s up to the relocation manager to stay as calm and neutral as possible in order to keep the transferee focused on the solution.

Elevate when necessary. You can’t win them all. If you’ve gone through all of the tips above and you still aren’t getting anywhere, it may be time to hand the problem off to a higher authority and that’s ok.  Often times a disgruntled employee will take their issue right up the corporate food chain, sometimes even going around or over their direct report.  It is important to completely document the event and properly prepare anyone who might get the call.

Have you ever managed an angry transferee? We would love to hear your tips below.    

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