How to calm an explosive client conversation

Expert says it's all about your mindset

How to calm an explosive client conversation

Mortgage brokers are all too acquainted with stress – whether it be their own or their customers’. Buying a property is an emotional process for most people, and when things don’t go to plan, even the most timid person can explode at the person they think is responsible. While most good brokers are generally not to blame for processing delays with lenders or unexpected servicing issues, as the face behind the transaction, it’s not uncommon for a disappointed client to take out their frustration on the broker who is helping them.

According to BoldHR founder Rebecca Houghton, the worst thing a broker, or any professional, can do in this situation is to meet emotion with emotion. Even if a customer has not properly informed their broker about income and expenses, or they’ve taken ages to get all the required documents to them and ultimately compromised the chance of making settlement, blaming the customer is only going to make things worse.

Yet, that’s what many professionals do as a result of the instinctive fight or flight response.

Read more: How to tell a client you have bad news

“When we receive poor behaviour, like when someone’s pulling their hair out or shouting at you, we see that as a threat, said Houghton. “So, we go into threat reaction, we’ll either come out fighting or we’ll run away - neither of which are very helpful.”

She said the first thing brokers should therefore do when a client explodes at them is to check their mindset.

“When someone is starting to go off the deep end, we really have to convince ourselves that they’re not posing a threat to us,” she said. “That this isn’t personal, this is situational and that you’re going to get shouted at only because they can’t shout to the wind.”

She recommended calming yourself down and reminding yourself that it’s not you that they are yelling at, it’s the situation.

“Really convince yourself and cool yourself down so that you don’t react emotionally as well,” she said. “Because two people reacting emotionally in a room ain’t going to end well.”

Then it’s a matter of finding the common ground between you and the client. She gave the analogy of someone arguing with their significant other. As soon as you tell your partner, ‘darling, we both want what is the best for this family,’ it immediately starts to cool the conversation.

“You’ve found that common ground that’s inarguable,” she said. “As a broker, it might be, ‘we both want to see you in that house in November’. It reassures them that you’re not the enemy. While the situation has disappointed and surprised them, you’re not the enemy in the situation.”

Read next: Broker success strategies for managing client expectations

If you need to blame the bank then do so, she said. Remind the client that you’re not on the same team as the bank, you’re on the same team as them.

“As a broker, you are a third party so you can blame the big boys,” she said. “They can be the bad guy if you need a bad guy. But in order to retain and develop your relationship through a difficult circumstance with your client, you need the bad guy not to be you.

“Find that common ground, make sure that they know that you’re on their team and keep your cool.”

While this technique can help brokers who find themselves in an explosive client conversation, prevention is always better than a cure. Houghton recommended managing client expectations from the outset and keeping them informed on the process as the best way to prevent an explosive situation taking place.