How to win with an irate woman

By Todd Liles How to win with an irate woman
How to win with an irate woman

You are going to have to work with irate women. It is part of the service business.  You can’t make it through your career without coming face-to-face with at least one woman that wants to do serious harm to you.  The real question is, “How do you win with an irate woman?”

I’m going to give you some practical tips on how to win with irate women, and I’m going to wrap it around a real life story.  (This story does have an irate woman, but these same tips would work for an irate man.)

The Fire Breathing Dragon

The irate woman’s name was “Kathleen,” and she was pissed from the moment go!  I met her while on a ride-along with a plumbing technician in Maryland. 

In normal everyday life, I bet Kathleen is pretty nice.  But on the day I met her, she might as well have been a Fire Breathing Dragon. 

The Start of a Bad Situation

The service call was a stopped up kitchen sink.  This was a repeat problem. 

We pulled up to her house, and parked in the gravel drive.  We faced directly into the open garage.  (Normally we would park on the street, but this was a rural farm area.)

When I looked into the garage, I could see boxes of “Biological Drain Cleaner.”  This particular bio-cleaner was the dry kind. One of the containers had been opened, was covering the shelves of the garage, and was on the floor.  I logged this into my memory, for it might prove helpful later in the call. 

I asked myself the following questions about my observations:

1.  Why does she have a case of bio-cleaner?

2.  Why is there a bottle spread all over the garage?

3.  Why are we back out here for a stopped up drain if she is using the bio-cleaner?

4.  Is she using the bio-cleaner?

Always make a mental log of your observations as you pull into the home.  These observations take a few seconds, and always prove valuable.

Don’t Anger the Fire Breathing Dragon

I recommend that you are out of your truck, and on the way to the front door within 30 seconds of your arrival.  15 seconds is better.  That did not happen when we pulled up. 

Actually, what happened was the plumber’s wife called.  He answered the phone, and began to get into an argument with her. 

Side-note – arguing with your wife before you run a callback is no bueno.  Just leave all of your personal junk and problems at the house. 

When you are at work, be there to win.  Winners need to be pumped up, not pissed off.

So, while the plumber is fighting with his wife, the Fire Breathing Dragon awakens!

Kathleen kicked her garage door open so hard that I thought it was going to come off the hinges.  As she stormed out of the front door, I knew she was mad, and we were in trouble!

I got out of the service van and went to greet her.  Because I was in the passenger seat, I think she thought I was the helper.  I say that, because she just walked around me.

Kathleen went to the driver’s side door, and knocked hard on the glass.  The startled plumber, that was still fighting with his wife, looked up in anger.  Then he gave her the finger!  Yes, the “I’m on the phone, wait one damn minute!” finger.

It was at this point that Kathleen’s human form begin to dissolve.  Her crazy red hair began to lift into the air.  Her eyes widened, and she blew big puffs of smoke from her cigarette.  Through gray smoke she said, “You had better fix this drain!  This is your last chance.  I will burn your villages and rain down the firey breath of hell onto your farmlands!”  (I made that last part up.) 

Then she stormed into her dragon’s den.  Angry.  Hot.  Furious!

The plumber was in his truck, still on his phone.  I stood there in disbelief.  We still had to go into her home, and try to resolve her plumbing problems! 

We enter the Dragon’s Den

There was no “Relationship Building” when we entered the home.  No friendly warm-up, or ice breaking methods.  No, the primary goal was to be quiet.  The plumber was mad at his wife, she was mad at us, and I was stuck in the middle.

Kathleen sat on an extra tall barstool to the left of the sink.  She sat there, but in my mind I imagined her perching with her wings spread out.  I stood to the right of the sink, and the plumber was in the middle.

As the plumber began to bend over to look under the kitchen sink, Kathleen moved.  I jerked my head up to look at her.  Thankfully, she was just getting comfortable, and not actually reaching for one of the dirty knives in the sink.

This was going to be a tough call.  I decided that I would look around some more to see what I could learn.  I was hoping to see something, anything, that could help me strike up a positive conversation.

Further observations – Inside the Dragon’s Den

From the kitchen window, I could look out onto her backyard.  There was a bright green patch of highly packed grass.  That was an obvious sign that she had a septic system.

Her septic system reminded me of her bio-cleaner in the garage.  Bio-cleaners are perfect for septic systems.

Then I looked at the kitchen sink.  It was an aluminum sink, and clearly had strong etching marks.  I found myself wondering, “What would make those kind of marks?”

Then I looked around the counter.  I noticed a small white bottle. I picked it up.  The plastic was thick, like the kind used to hold corrosive chemicals.  I turned the bottle around, and read the label “industrial strength drain cleaner.” 

Oh my!  I knew this wasn’t good.  But how was I going to explain the damage that this drain cleaner was causing to her sink and septic system?

Luckily, there was a warning label on the back:

“This product is industrial strength.  Do not use in aluminum sink.  May cause etching.  Not designed for use with septic systems.”

Ok, so I now had the information I needed to provide some leverage to the situation; and we needed leverage.  Now, I had to tame the Dragon, and move this call in a positive direction. 

This is how I did just that.

Taming the Dragon – How to Deal with an Irate Woman

#1 – Be nice

Up to this point, not much conversation had taken place.  It is hard to be nice if you are not communicating.  So, I took the chance.

“Sorry you are having these issues with your drains,” I said.

#2 – Let her vent

This is point #2, because right after you are nice, a mad woman may go off on you.  That’s exactly what Kathleen did.

“This is your damn fault!  You can’t seem to fix anything.  This is the 3rd time you’ve been out here, and I still have this drain problem,” she said. 

This is when it is hard not to pull out your sword and slay the dragon.  Why was I getting all of this blame?  I had never stepped foot into the home.  As a service tech, you have had this exact same thing happen to you.

Go back to being nice.  It is time for the client to vent, not you. 

When she has blown her dragon fire, she will be a little tired, and ready to listen.

#3 – Use evaluation skills to discover connecting points

Once Kathleen had worn herself out a little, I used the information from my observations to build connecting points.

“Kathleen, I noticed that you own a case of the bio-cleaner,” I said.

“Yes.  What a waste of money!  That stuff obviously doesn’t work!  I’ve been using it on this sink, and you see that it is stopped up,” she bellowed.

“Have you been using anything else in addition to this bio-cleaner?” ask.

“Yeah.  That right there.”  Pointing to the Industrial Drain Cleaner.

“Oh my goodness!,”  I say in a concerned, yet surprised, voice. 

“What?!” she questioned.

“How long have you been using this?”  I ask

“I’ve used it a couple times.  I put in the bio-cleaner, and then I put this on top of it.” she said.

“Well, that may be part of the problem.  Would you read this warning label please.” I requested.

I handed the bottle over to Kathleen.  She pulled her glasses out of her red hair, and placed it on the tip of her nose.  Silently she read the warning.  Then she took a big drag from her cigarette, looked at me and said,

“Well shit!”

In one big buff, the fire breathing dragon’s flame had been extinguished.

#4 – Focus on creating solutions, not more problems

It would be easy to rub this obvious mistake in her face.  That would also be a mistake on my part.  Making her feel worse wasn’t the solution anyone needed.

What Kathleen needed was a solution, not more problems.

It is critical to remember this: 

“You can be right, and not win!”

Seek a win.  Being right is something that egotistically immature plumbing technicians need more than winning.

So, that’s what we did.  We sought the real solution to Kathleen’s problems.

She needed her drains to work, she needed to feel good about buying the bio-cleaner, and she needed to feel good about using that plumbing company again.

We educated Kathleen.  Made our apologies for not explaining better how the bio-cleaner worked, and resolved the immediate challenge.

#5 – Keep the future in mind

When you start any service call, it should be with the future in mind.  You need to ask yourself,

“What will it take for this client to call us back next time?”

A new client is one of the most costly assets to acquire in business.  When you get one, you should do everything in your power to hang on to her for as long as you can!

Even though I’ve called Kathleen a “fire breathing dragon” throughout this post, she was actually a very good client.  She was also more than just a “woman.”  She was a lady that deserved our respect and attention.  She was also loyal.  She continued to use the plumbing company even after what she thought was a disaster.  She gave them a second chance!

In the end, I was able to see why Kathleen was so frustrated.  Yes, she caused some of her own problems.  Yes, she wasn’t nice about most of it.  However the loyal, second chance giving, Kathleen’s of the world are the reason why we are all in business.

To my understanding, Kathleen is still doing business with that very same plumbing company some 7 years later.

Question:  What advice would you have for handling an irate woman?   Please share and let me know what you think on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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