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Customer Service: Best Practices for Front Line De-escalation Strategies

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Customer Service: Best Practices for Front Line De-escalation Strategies

Travel Oregon April 26, 2021


Alexa Carey (00:16):

Perfect. And I see people are logging in. Fantastic. Looking through, I see people from Polk County, some Roseburg, Southern Oregon, Oregon coast, Dalles. Oh, that’s fantastic. Oregon coast. Some from the more people from the Gorge. Fantastic. We’re so thrilled to have all of you with us. Thank you guys. We’re going to get started just a few minutes. We’re gonna let people log in. We’ll be getting started just around like 1102 or so. So just stay tuned and we’ll be getting started pretty soon. Fantastic. So for those of you joining us, we’ll get started in just a minute. Feel free to grab a cup of coffee where he gets started just one minute or so.

Alexa Carey (01:17):

If it’s helpful as well, if there’s questions that pop up, please feel free to use the Q and a feature that we have here within zoom. Again, chat is off. So please feel free. If questions come up to use the Q and a feature, we’ll get started in just about another minute or so It looks like a good amount of folks are coming in. Thank you guys all for joining us today. We’re get started in just one. And again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to use the Q and a feature and we’ll get to as many questions as we can, um, at the end of today’s session.

Alexa Carey (02:09):

I think we’ve got everyone. So thank you so much for joining us today. Happy November. It’s wonderful to have you all here. And we really appreciate you taking the time today to be able to join us. Not only just for this relevant content and recognizing that we had a very busy summer season, but also looking towards fall and winter and the importance of looking at some of those deescalation strategies, especially for our frontline staff. So today’s session isn’t delivered in partnership with the Oregon hospitality foundation. We’re so thrilled to have you guys here again, just for a little bit of house. Can we keeping, we’ll be taking questions at the end? So please don’t hesitate to use that Q and a feature. If there’s anything that pops up throughout the session today, this recording will be shared out along with the PowerPoint and it’s gonna be hosted on the travel Oregon industry site.

Alexa Carey (02:52):

And then this is the first of two trainings that’s focused around customer service, especially in the times of COVID and our next one be coming up on November 19th. So let’s go ahead and introduce you guys to the presenters that we have today. Our first is Michael Chamberlin Torres. Michael’s a restaurant and hotel professional with close to 14 years of industry experience his degree in hospitality management from the university of Denver. And in addition to supporting customer service training in partnership with the Oregon restaurant and lodging association, he served in management roles with Marriott international and the Michael Mina group and Sage restaurant group. So he brings a ton of hands-on leadership experience from frontline training to hospitality management services. And we’re just thrilled to have him here today to share some of those insights on deescalation strategies and the second person that we have on this training here today.

Alexa Carey (03:41):

It’s Wendy Popkin and Wendy’s career in hospitality and events began around like the mid eighties when she interned with Valley river Inn and UGI. And I see some people from Eugene here on the call today, since then she’s worked with travel Portland, she’s ran around tourism project management company and his word with a multitude of hotels and restaurants, or excuse me, hotels and conference centers. And now she leads the efforts for the Oregon hospitality foundation in connection with the Oregon restaurant lodging association, Orla, which supports the industry with workforce development and training programs. So, Mike, I’m going to go ahead and pass it off to you. Thanks again for training for today.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (04:18):

Excellent. Thank you for the intro on Alexa and everyone. Um, welcome to today’s seminar. I’ll go ahead and kind of kick things off and jump right into customer service strategies during COVID-19 deescalation for frontline staff. Um, a couple of things that we’re going to go over today, just a quick agenda overview for you. We’re going to talk about the common causes of conflict arising during COVID-19. So best practices just quickly for preventing and reducing conflict before it even starts. If we can prevent a situation from beginning, it’s even better than having to deescalate it next, we’ll move into defining what exactly is deescalation. We’re going to talk a little bit about goals and objectives in deescalating, a situation, what we’re trying to achieve. We’ll really dig deep into some tools and approaches during these difficult encounters. And lastly, we’ll talk a little bit about some steps to take following a rough encounter with the guests.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (05:17):

And we’ll wrap things up with a little review, and we’re going to introduce another tool for you and your teams to utilize in the future. So 2020 has been a year unlike any other that any of us have experienced, um, in my almost 20 years in the business, I’ve never seen a year like this one things are changing really rapidly and opportunities for conflict are unfortunately very abundant, probably the most common source of conflict that that comes to mind for any of us or that we’re seeing really revolves around masks and face coverings. But certainly there’s a lot of other situations that can come up. And these are always difficult encounters just between you and a customer. When you think about a mask or face covering, for example, that could create a conflict between you and a customer. You could have two customers who become upset with one another, um, over a mask or face covering situation, or it could be behind the scenes between two employees and one, um, you know, it was following different practice and guidelines in the other, uh, other situations that came to mind when I was putting the training together are, you know, availability of products or services.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (06:25):

It might be that your purveyors are out of business or are having delayed timelines. So you might be out of stock on certain products. Maybe you’ve had to change or revise your menu from what it used to be.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (06:36):

Um, piggybacking off of that, you know, incorrect information online, maybe outdated menu online, your hours of operation may have changed. You might have different systems for reservations. And if all of that’s not correct online, you might end up with some upset customers and the other main category, or just things like social distancing people not staying in line properly, people cutting lines, limited capacity at your restaurants. So this definitely isn’t an all-inclusive list. And when we get to the Q and a section at the end of the webinar, we’d love to hear from all of you, if there’s other particular sources of conflict that seem to be recurring, and we can talk about those and see if we can work through them.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (07:18):

Yeah, no preventative steps, um, to quickly highlight some of the things that you can do to prevent a conflict from happening is first to recognize the most conflicts arise out of relatively simple misunderstandings. And then from there, they grow into a more intense situation. So if you can provide clear, complete, and consistent information during the entire customer experience, what you’re going to do there is establish really clear expectations for your guests. They’re going to know what they’re getting into, and you’re going to prevent unexpected surprises as human beings. It really naturally invokes emotion in us when we go into something and we have a bar set here and then we experienced something else that can make us feel, let down disappointed, angry, deceived, unappreciated. Conversely, if you go in with a bar here and someone exceeds that expectation, you’re normally thrilled. It’s a pleasant surprise. But at the end of the day, again, when you have one expectation and you receive something else, something else, whether positive or negative, it’s going to create a lot of emotion and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (08:28):

So if you can follow this simple acronym there on the screen and get the word out to people that should help less intentions and getting the word out is sharing information online. That’s via your website, your Facebook page, your Yelp page, your Google landing page, all the various online resources that people reference when learning about your business, make sure that that information is current. And up-to-date not only with the basics of your business with a separate section that talks about what you’re doing in response to COVID-19. The second part of that is the you upon arrival. Pretty much every business I’ve seen now has signs posted outside to one degree or another, but not all of them have an individual out there or a greeter. And that’s something that if, um, you know, your, your finances allow for your business to employ someone to greet guests, I think it’s an excellent option for providing information upon arrival so that they’re not only expected to look at assigned, but someone can walk them through all of that.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (09:28):

It’s just more inviting for someone to say, you know, welcome to our business. Is this your first time coming here? If it’s our first time, you know, make sure to go a step above and beyond. So it’s great that you have a new customer. If they’re a repeat, yes. Make sure to welcome them back to your establishment, but then follow up with the question, you know. Great. Thank you for joining us again. We’re happy to have you back. Have you been in since we implemented our new safety protocols and if they haven’t walked them through something,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (09:57):

When you’re getting the word out and sharing information, it’s important that you’re a member that we’re in the hospitality business. So be hospitable, even in a pandemic, um, on the screen here, you’ll see a couple of examples on the left are some photos that I took from a restaurant here in the neighborhood that I really love and enjoy a great establishment. And you’ll note that the first word on both of those sides that they have is welcome. And then they go into talking about where to stand in line or to please wear your mask when you’re at the table. Um, but it’s very positive in its message it’s uplifting. And then you see at the bottom, you have a beautiful day and we appreciate your business. That sets a very different tone than images, similar to the one that you see on the right that are big, bold letters, stop attention. You’re just making people feel kind of unwelcomed before they even arrive at your business. Both provide the information that you’re trying to convey, but just in two very different ways.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (10:57):

Okay, now that we’ve talked a little bit about, uh, prevention of conflicts, you know, what is deescalation? What are we trying to achieve when we encountered a tough situation? So to share a couple of definitions from other people, the first coming from the forest science Institute, which provides resources and training for law enforcement, they say deescalation is not something that you do to a person it’s recognizing, creating and maintaining conditions that allow someone else to deescalate their own emotions, prominent author and speaker on the subject and Lamont views it this way. She says you can either practice being right, or you can practice being kind. So would you rather be right or effective? My personal take on it? How I described deescalation is that it’s an approach to conflicts where the is not to win an argument. The goal is to reduce or eliminate the impact of emotions on both the conversation and the actions of both people are all parties involved.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (12:05):

And I think it’s important when we’re talking about deescalation to note that it’s not the same thing as negotiation, nor is it the same thing as conflict resolution, there are similar, but when you deescalate a situation, you’re not trying to reach a deal per se, with the other person. And at the end of the interaction, things might not be resolved. It might be left a little bit unresolved. What deescalation really boils down to is it’s the process of breaking a chain of emotional reactions. So just to provide a very fundamental example, that’s not COVID related. I want to paint the clearest picture I can of what the escalation really is. That’s not walking down the sidewalk one day and I stopped to look at a beautiful tree. That’s there. All of a sudden someone runs up and they just shoved me. It pushed me. I immediately get upset.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (12:53):

I pushed them back. This is a rapidly escalating situation that could quickly get out of hand. Now let’s rewind. I’m walking down the sidewalk. I stopped to look at a tree. Someone runs up and push me. But instead of pushing me back, instead of me pushing them back, um, I pause and I say to them, Hey, why did you push me? So what we’re doing here is we’re already deescalating. So I say, Hey, why did you push me? And they begin to explain, well, didn’t you see, you’re standing on this chalk art that I worked on for three hours. I painted here for my kid’s birthday and you just ruined it to which I might reply. Wow, I’m really sorry. I didn’t see that there. I apologize. We’re probably not going to end the encounter being best friends. They’re probably not going to be happy. They might say something along the lines of like, do whatever, just get out of here. And I leave and walk away. But at the end of the day, it didn’t escalate. Neither of us got hurt. And that’s because I took that moment to pause and ask the question and engage in dialogue, as opposed to just going with my gut emotion and pushing them back,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (13:58):


Michael Chamberlain-Torres (14:03):

Goals and objectives and deescalation on a service level related to COVID. We might say, well, someone’s not wearing a mask. So the goal is to get them to wear a mask or they’re not social distancing. So the goal is to get them to give more space or to come back another time when we’re open, because our hour has changed while these are all correct, they’re really surface level and they’re not digging deep enough, right? So we need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture here. Number one, what are we trying to achieve? We want to achieve safety for all of our guests and all of our employees. We don’t want a situation to get out of hand to the point that it could become life or death. If you’ve read the news at all over the last few months, sadly, you’ve probably seen stories of people being killed over altercations related to face masks, um, seems ridiculous, and like something out of a fiction book, but it’s happening.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (14:57):

So we want to make sure that we avoid those types of encounters. Right? Second is legal compliance. All of our businesses have been asked to enforce these new safety protocols and guidelines. So that’s something important to consider businesses have been fine. Businesses have been shut down for failing to comply. So we want to figure out how we can follow the rules, follow the law while doing this next step, which is a positive customer experience. Again, at the end of the day, we are all hospitality businesses. We want to have positive memories and customer interactions, and we want to avoid what you’ll see at the bottom of the screen there, which is a really negative customer review. Again, stemming from a face covering or mask. And whereby someone went in and they weren’t wearing their mask properly. And all of a sudden they just felt attacked and yelled at.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (15:48):

So we want to create that positive customer experience. You need to remember that right now. There’s probably people coming out to your establishments that maybe haven’t been out in a little while. So it could be their first time getting back out there and they might not know exactly what they’re supposed to do. Another important consideration, I think to keep in mind is that depending on what statistic you look at, you know, we can have upwards of 60 to 80% of restaurants, independent restaurants, closing, and never reopening. By the time we get this pandemic under control and return to normal life. Um, so that means there’s a lot of people out there that maybe their first, second and third favorite restaurants are closed out of business. And this is their first time coming into your establishment. So you’re not only looking at the revenue and money that they’re going to spend today.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (16:37):

And as wild as things are right now to look at it, optimistically, there is real opportunity at the moment to garner and gain new customers, um, to your organization and try and keep them happy, providing outstanding experience with the goal, being that if you’re still open, hopefully in five or 10 years, they’ll be dining in your place and saying, Oh man, remember we never been here before. And we came in during the pandemic and it was like our one little away SIS, it felt safe and everyone was kind and understanding, and it was a little escape that we could have during that terrible time. And I’m so glad that we found it amidst that pandemic,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (17:16):


Michael Chamberlain-Torres (17:20):

So we’ve talked a little bit about goals and objectives at this point where I’m really going to delve into the tools and approaches for deescalation. So we’re going to talk about setting the tone, staying calm and being polite, discuss listening, to understand having compassion and showing empathy, choosing our words carefully, um, understanding and being aware of body language and thinking outside the box for solutions. Now these tools and approaches that we’re going to discuss, just please keep in mind that they’re like a one, two, three order to them. Some of them are things that you’ll bounce back and forth during an encounter. Um, and you might not necessarily use all of them. It just kind of depends where the, the discussion situation,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (18:02):

The leads.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (18:06):

I know I wished that I had a video for all of you guys to see your faces, as I say this next part, but staying calm might be the single most important thing that you can do to deescalate a situation. And you’re probably thinking sweet. I signed up for this webinar and now Mike’s just telling me to stay calm, but it’s not really the easiest thing always to do. It’s something that takes intention and consciousness and a bit of practice as well. But it’s probably the most important thing that you can do to deescalate a situation. Um, if you remember nothing else that I share the rest of the webinar, when things start to go awry, just remember to breathe and to tell yourself I control my own emotions. I control my own emotions because situations rarely escalate one sided. You’ve probably heard the saying that it takes two to tango and that really applies here. So while it’s not impossible for things to get out of control and only one person is emotional, it’s really not very likely that it’s going to go that way.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (19:07):

Um, that being said, you know, being calm doesn’t mean that you just need to give in and let the customer have their way and just say, okay, fine, come in without weight mass, don’t social distance. Now you still need to stand your ground, but you just need to be careful about how you do that. So you don’t want to offer an aggressive initial response to someone because that’s gonna lead to immediate escalation, um, nor do you want to be frightened or scared of the encounter. And you might not be able to control that emotion yourself, but try your best not to exhibit it because it could lead to a loss of credibility. Um, and the other person being unwilling to, to have a dialogue with you. Last point I want to mention here, um, when it comes to that initial emotional response, please, please don’t yell at people across the room.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (19:53):

Like, Hey, you put on a mask, cause they’re going to yell back. And if we’re looking at the science of the pandemic year, the last thing that we want are more airborne particles going around from people, yelling at each other. Our number one objective in deescalation is safety. So don’t engage in a loud verbal argument. That’s going to lead to a more unsafe situation. And the last piece of staying calm is trying to remember and keep in mind that it’s not personal. Even if it feels that way. Um, you know, with rare exception, someone’s not coming into your establishment saying, Oh, I’m going to go there. I’m looking for Michael. I really dislike that guy. I’m going to go in there, pick a fight and start yelling at them. They might try and make it personal. They might, you know, use profanity. They might say mean things about you or about your business. Just try and recall, um, that you’re, you know, an agent of your business. And what you’re trying to do is provide a professional calm experience for everyone. It’s not about you personally, That leads to the final topic on the slide here, which is being polite. You know, an example of this is what we’ve talked about previously with those signs, as people arrive at your business, you know, say hello, say welcome. Say, thanks for coming in. Um, introduce yourself. You know, I’m Michael, what’s your name to have a conversation with people, even if it’s an idea,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (21:23):

Compassion, listening, and empathy. It’s an important step in deescalation. What we’re trying to do is reach a shared point of view either by finding an agreement or just simply agreeing to disagree with someone else it’s about honoring their perspective and then asking them to honor yours as well. So compassion, listening and empathy help us get to that shared point of view. Um, compassion itself to define that further, you know, it’s about showing care and concern for someone else that’s in a tough situation. And then empathy goes a step further than that. And that involves really attempting to put yourself in their shoes, to see the world from their point of view, and then to reflect on how you would feel if you were in that same situation,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (22:10):

On the topic of compassion. And this first bullet point here, this pandemic is the fact that all of us in many different ways, you know, some of us quite literally have lost people that we love. Some of us have lost employment. Some of us have lost businesses. We’ve lost sense of security. We’ve lost the ability to, uh, you know, have close interactions with family and friends and loved ones. So there’s no one that this hasn’t touched. So have compassion. You know, if someone comes into your business and they seem upset and really irritable, they’re in the same boat that that all of us are. So start there. The second bullet point is that we can occupy the same physical space, but be living in two very different realities in a customer service training. I took years ago with JW Marriott. I learned a phrase that, um, for me it was really life-changing and it’s that perception is reality.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (23:05):

And I use that in my own customer service training all the time, but I think it couldn’t be more relevant today or when we’re talking about deescalation. And what perception is reality really means is that, um, all of us right now are on this webinar together. It’s November 2nd. You know, it’s the same time, but we have a million different individual realities that are based on our entire life experience. Everything that we’ve gone through has led us each to this moment. So we’re viewing the world through a unique lens, um, to use the example of masks, because we’re going to talk about that a lot today. And we already have someone might feel like masks don’t work. They go into this whole monologue for you as to why they don’t believe it. What you might may not may not know about that person is that they had some experience in their life where they were given incorrect information by a medical professional, and maybe it’s led to a lot of distrust for them personally. You don’t know that you might not agree with their perspective. You might believe firmly mass are the way to go, but at the end of the day, they have their reasons. They have their own vision and they have their own perspective on things.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (24:15):

Listening to understand, rather than listening to respond is going to be a really important tool for you when it comes to deescalating. When you listen to understand, you’re still gonna have an opportunity to respond to the person, but you’re going to be able to do so in a much more effective way that hopefully we’ll get them to listen to you as well. Listening to respond on the other hand is something that’s really prevalent in many of our interactions in society. Today, we hear someone saying something that we disagree with, and immediately we kind of shut down our mind. We hear the words, but we stop listening. Instead, what we start doing is we start plotting. We figure out like, okay, what are they saying here? Oh, I’m going to apply with this. I’m going to tear down their argument. We’re all waiting for that gotcha moment where we can tell someone else that they’re wrong.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (25:05):

But how often do we actually change minds that way? Like, have you been on Facebook lately and seen all the political banter going on? We don’t usually change people’s minds by just telling them you are wrong, because, and let me tell me, let me tell you why I’m right. So if we go back to that quote from Anne Lamont that we saw a few slides ago about, would you rather be right? Or would you rather be effective? The better approach in a conversation is to listen to understand. And when you do that, you’re not listening to build your argument, to build your reply. You’re listening to build empathy. So what you’re going to say to someone essentially is that I see what you’re saying about a, B and C, and I’ve listened. I’ve listened to that. And you know, and I understand your perspective based on what you shared, you experienced, you know, this experience, this and this, that makes sense to me as well. And I agree with you on these certain points. However, these other things we don’t necessarily CII. This is why I see it that way. Can you, can you understand, can you see it from my perspective again, you might not reach a deal. You might not convince them. You’re just trying to establish a dialogue whereby you can both have respect for one another and one another’s thoughts.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (26:28):

So on this slide, we’ll talk a little bit about, uh, judgements and avoiding shaming in making judgements. It’s really not a useful tool when it comes to deescalation. Um, on the next slide coming up here, we’re going to talk a little bit more about specific word that you can use. But as that relates to judgmental statements, you know, avoid saying things like, didn’t you read the sign, are you serious? Don’t you know, that these statements are all demeaning right off the bat. You’re not going to set the tone that you’re looking for with them. So do you use that first example? Didn’t you read the sign, there’s a few options, right? A they didn’t see the sign at all. Maybe B they have impaired vision, or there’s someone who can’t read. Think about either of those situations. If you have impaired vision or you can’t read, and someone says, didn’t you read the sign it’s like really insulting to from the get-go or the third situation is that yes, they did read the sign and they chose to ignore it anyway.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (27:28):

So making the statement didn’t you read the sign, it’s not really gonna do anything for you to look at at the same word choice, but in a different way. Um, all of us in the service industry know that, you know, bartenders or alcohol servers need to verify age if they think someone could potentially be on your age, but they typically do that by asking, may I see your ID, or can I please check your ID? Bartenders aren’t are up running around saying, don’t, you know that I have to check your ID or are you serious? Let me see your ID. It’s just a lot of good way to go about an interaction.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (28:08):

So talk a little bit more about verbal and nonverbal communication, as some examples here of word choice. Um, when you’re speaking, you know, avoid commands, try and use positive words and try and shift the focus from what you want them to do to what you need to do or what your business needs to do, because then it doesn’t come across. As you just telling them, you know, you have to do this because I said, these are just a few examples here. We could go into much more depth, but to, to run through them, as opposed to you must wear a mask, you can say, we ask everyone to wear a mask, including employees and all guests, social distancing is required. Please give everyone a little bit extra space, you know, at least six feet or so, the law mandates that you, our business is supposed to make sure that customers put on a mask, we have free masks available. Would you like one stop? You can’t come in welcome. The customer waiting area is right over here and we no longer allow. We now request that hopefully having run through those, you can see the difference again, that you’re using positive forward-thinking, um, terminology. And that the focus whenever you can is on you and your business and what you need to do, as opposed to telling them what they have to.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (29:36):

So verbal communication, the words that we use is really important. Um, but nonverbal communication equally important and big part of non-verbal communication is body language. So, because we’re going non verbal here, I just want to run through some pictures. A picture says a thousand words. Um, and you can, I think very clearly see the difference here. So on the left, you have an individual pointing master over their weight over there. The other image of someone using an open Palm to direct a guest, um, towards whatever they’re, they’re trying to discuss or display.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (30:09):


Michael Chamberlain-Torres (30:11):

Yeah. You can stand there and listen to someone this way, or you can stand with open arms, or if you’re asking them to do something, if you’re making a request request and plead openly, um, it just conveys a very different message than standing here. This is a defensive posture. Now, lastly, you could look at these two images and say, well, they’re both open neither arm. Neither of them have arms cross, but hands on the hips, slouching, um, facial expressions all make a difference as well. You might think smiling when you’re wearing a mask, uh, doesn’t really matter cause they can’t see your face, but the truth is smiling. Always matters. People can see it in your eyes and in the rest of your facial expression. Um, so I have that positive tone, not only when you speak, but in the way you present yourself.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (31:03):

The last step that we want to talk about is thinking creatively, thinking outside the box, um, the source of a conflict might seem very black and white. They’re not wearing a mask. They don’t want to wear a mask. I need them to wear one. Um, but things, when it comes to solutions, we can try and find something outside of that box. I think all of us have heard the saying at some point the customer is always right. I in preparing for the webinar today, saw feedback from a few attendees asking, you know, how do I handle that? That philosophy? The customer is always right. The very first job I ever had when I was 14, was working at a mom and pop Chinese restaurant. And the owner Ken told me, I think one of the more profound things as I reflect upon my career, there was a customer that was upset.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (31:51):

And I was telling him, Ken, I don’t know what to do because the customer is always right. I know that I’m trying to provide customer service. The customer is on his way and he stopped me and he said, Michael, the customer is always right, except when they’re wrong. And when I look at that today, how I view it isn’t that the customer is always right. It’s the, the customer is always the customer. People are always people. And sometimes people are right. Sometimes people are wrong. But as we look at deescalation, we really don’t care about who’s right or wrong. It’s one of the first things we said in the presentation today that we’re not trying to assign blame and we’re not trying to say right or wrong. So the customer is always the customer. The customer is the one keeping you employed and keeping your business in operation.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (32:38):

So you want to try do is find ways to say yes to their request. There might be situations where ultimately you just have to flat out, uh, decline to serve someone and ask them to leave. But that should be a last option after you’ve exhausted. Everything else should never be. Your first approach is you’re asking for this. I can’t provide that. So you need to leave. It’s not what we’re trying to achieve. Um, for those of you that are owners or managers on the call today, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to empower your employees, to make decisions with customers individually, to the best of their judgment. All of us have probably been in a situation where we call customer service somewhere. Let’s say we have a billing dispute and you call in customer service. And you’re thinking, I’m going to talk to someone. This should take me 10 minutes to resolve.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (33:32):

Next thing you know, it’s 45 minutes later, you’ve been transferred to three or four people you’ve had to. Re-explain why you’re calling every single time. And by the end of it, your blood’s boiling, your blood pressure is really high. You’re more upset about the customer service or lack thereof that you experienced during this process than you were about the initial complaint. So whenever we can, let’s try and solve it directly. Let’s not yet three or four team members involved so that you have a wall of people and one customer can potentially make them feel, you know, teamed up on. Um, and they’re going to be more defensive and less apps to comply in the end. So those are things to remember. Um, when we think outside the box for solutions, you know, your legal obligations versus what your compass company policy is. One example that someone asked me to touch on for the webinar today, uh, was a situation where, where customers are upset because they’re, they’re not allowed to pay cash, the business isn’t accepting cash.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (34:35):

And I’m not here to tell you whether or not to accept cash or your business. I understand the safety decision behind not doing that, but I think that’s different than the legal compliance we have when it comes to social distancing, to capacity in our establishments to face coverings. Um, so that might be one where you have a little leeway, right? Where you can explain to a customer we’re not accepting cash at the moment, they get very upset because they drove all the way to your business. They order food, they’re hungry. They want to pay you. They’re trying to give you revenue and you’re telling them you won’t take cash. Can you think outside the box and see how you might go about that? Maybe it’s a one time exception where you’re taking their cash. You’re wearing a glove when you do it, you’re setting it in a drawer that your company you’re gonna leave the money in there for two weeks to make sure it’s sanitized whenever you need to do.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (35:22):

But you’re finding a way to think outside the box. You’re looking for solutions out here in this area. Um, to further that that example of money might be a little extreme and depending where your business is at financially, maybe you can do this and maybe you can, but let’s say it’s something small, like a coffee cost, five bucks, a customer experience. If you were to say, no, we’re really not accepting cash right now for safety reasons. We don’t want to be handling it and giving it out. I trust you as a customer. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Can you give me a phone call later with a credit card number? If you don’t have one on you or next time you come in, bring a credit card, we’re happy to charge you twice. You take it a little bit of a risk, but I think you’re also engaging with that customer in a very real person to person way. And they’re gonna appreciate that. If someone told me like, I, I trust you that you’re going to call me later. If they don’t call. Yeah, you’re out the, you know, the cost of the coffee, but you could be building a lot of Goodwill, um,

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (36:25):

To provide another, another example for you. Uh, thinking outside the box, you know, recently I went to a restaurant in the neighborhood. I called ahead of time and asked them, do you guys have any tables available on the patio? And they said, yeah, sure. We have like seven or eight tables. No problem come right in. So I hopped in the car. I was in there in about six minutes or so. And sure enough, I arrived and there’s no tables left. They’re all full now working in the hospitality industry. I didn’t get upset about it. I understand things happen, but let’s say that I have, let’s say I wasn’t me. And all of a sudden, I start going off on this guy that I just called. And you said there were tables open. And I see tables open inside right there. Why can’t I just sit there, man, I’m really hungry.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (37:07):

I don’t have a lot of time. That’s why I called you guys ahead of time. And before you pitched me on some to go food, I don’t want food to go. I’ve been waiting for months to come down a restaurant. I called you like, what’s your problem? Why you guys lie to your customers? That guy would probably be like, Whoa, what do I do? This is a black and white situation. Like wants the table. I don’t have a table, but this is where you can start thinking for solutions outside the box. You could start with the reply, something along the lines of, you know, first of all, sir, I want to apologize. Introduce yourself. I’m Michael. I did take your call a few minutes ago. That was me. I’m sorry. What’s your name? Oh, you’re Alex. Alex. Nice to meet you again. I’m really sorry.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (37:51):

Like we’re honored that you came in here to dine with us after not having eaten out in several months. Like that means a big deal to me. I want you to eat here. Let’s see what we can do. I know that you don’t want to go. You already told me that, um, in your inner hurry. Okay. What if I go get a menu? I can bring you the menu. I can take your order out here. So the kitchen can get started. And I think we have a table that should be opening up in about 15 minutes. So the timing should work out. I can get you seated. We’ll bring the food out to you right away. That you’re that way. You’re not waiting longer to order. Um, and we can hopefully get things going. You know, you’re welcome to wait here, outside the restaurant in the line, we do ask that people wear masks when they’re in the line.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (38:33):

If you’d like, I go take a quick look at the patio. Like maybe we can get you set aside somewhere, standing room only. That’s still safely distanced six feet where we could get, you started with a beverage. If you want a beer or a coffee or something, while you wait, I might be able to do that as well. Does that, does that sound okay for you? So who knows? Maybe they’ll say yes. Maybe they’ll say no, but again, you’re thinking outside the box for solutions and you’re probably saying to yourself, well, that’s great, Michael, you had weeks to prepare this webinar and come up with that example. What do I do when I’m on the spot? And this is where it’s important for you guys to prepare, to keep track of, uh, situations that arise. So you can have some kind of go-to solutions in your bank.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (39:17):

And that’s something too, to work with your management on to make sure that what you’re offering is doable. And again, to make sure that it meets not only your, uh, your legal obligations, but your company policy as well. All right. Hopefully that gives you guys a toolkit to work with in terms of how to approach a situation where there’s conflict and things could be escalating steps, following a confrontation. I want to, to include these as well, because I think they’re important to the entire process. So first of all, if they weren’t already involved, make sure that you heard for me and your immediate supervisor or manager, um, just in case things come back around so that they’re not caught off guard. If you don’t already have one, please write this down. I recommend strongly that you create a written log to document these types of encounters with people.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (40:05):

So include the date, the time, you know, names of employees who were involved the cause of the conflict, uh, you know, what you discuss, what actions we’re taking and what resolution you reached. And then if you can also include the customer’s name that could be from their payment, from a reservation, if they had one, or you had another reason to introduce yourself and ask someone what their name is at the beginning, not only does it make it more personable and polite, but you’ll know what their name is for your log later, the reason I suggest you do this takes us down to that next box. There first, it gives you opportunities to learn from the experience. If you’re going through that log and you’re finding repeat situations, maybe it’s that there’s some better information or communication that you can provide on the front end that you’re missing.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (40:52):

So you can learn from those there. And then the second piece of thing, things relates to, um, legal compliance. So you’re trying to really hard to ensure that you’re following the executive orders and any city or County guidelines where you live for legal compliance. The last thing that you want to do is refuse someone service and then have that create a whole nother legal situation where someone’s claiming that they were denied service for a different reason that might be illegal or discriminatory in nature. Um, again, they might not be, it’s not that they’re trying to set you up. That might be their perception. Perception’s reality. They might have felt well. They told me, um, that I wasn’t social distancing properly, but actually I think it’s because I’m whatever. Um, so make sure that you have that documented. And if things ever come up, if you are contacted by the government with a potential discrimination claim where someone reached out lawsuit, you’ll have that documented.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (41:50):

And it’s something that can be entered in court. You’ll have dates and times if you need to go back and reference like video footage of an encounter. So log all that information. And then lastly, um, move on. It goes to what we talked about with being calm and with things not being personal, don’t allow that terrible situation to ruin your day or your week, or to stay with you the rest of the shifts, because what you’re going to end up doing without meaning to do it is the next time a customer comes in and you have a little conflict. You’re going to be carrying baggage from the last person, and you’re going to take it out on them without meaning to do so. And it makes it harder for you to stay calm. So at the end of the day, just say, you know, it’s done moving on next that encounters over and try your best to stay positive with your work.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (42:40):


Michael Chamberlain-Torres (42:40):

Quickly summarize for you guys, everything that we’ve talked about today on one slide before a situation rises, you identify and recognize common sources of conflict. I mean, from COVID-19 and talk about how you might address those, maybe do role play on your team, or have a cheat sheet of a, you know, a flow chart of how you can move through this, um, take preventative steps and get the word out. So online upon arrival and throughout this day. And I now recall actually that on that slide, I didn’t go too much into throughout this day. Um, I skipped over it, but that’s providing, uh, signage or a little tabletop cards in your restaurant providing that information throughout their entire experience. Um, you know, don’t forget basic customer service and being welcoming for people and keep the big picture in mind. You don’t have to win every single battle during an encounter above all else. Keep your composure, stay cool and calm, have empathy and compassion for others. Practice active listening, use positive and appropriate body language. Remember that your words matter in a boy commands, avoid judgmental situations and seek out creative solutions that are going to result in a win-win.

Wendy Popkin (43:53):

We really appreciate travel. Oregon’s support with this back to you, Michael.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (44:01):

Well, thanks Wendy. Let me go back to the last couple of slides here, everyone.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (44:06):


Michael Chamberlain-Torres (44:14):

All right. Um, well, as we, we move into the end of the session here, we’re going to open up the floor to take some questions for all you guys hopefully found the information we shared today to be, um, useful to you. I want to wrap up before we go into questions just by home that you’re not going to be able unfortunately, to solve every situation again, that’s why deescalation is different than conflict resolution, despite your best efforts. Some guests may still be upset, might just choose to ignore you. And I think we have a question that asks a little bit about that. So I’ll wait for the question before I delve into it, but thanks so much. Um, everyone I’m going to ask Alexa to go in and introduce some questions for us.

Alexa Carey (44:56):

Perfect. Michael, I’ve got a few hard hitting ones for you. The first one was coming from the South Willamette Valley area. And, um, their question is, or their statement was the main thing that we’re struggling with is what to do when our deescalation tactics aren’t working when Eugene, so we have Coots and the Eugene police department, what do we do while we wait for assistance?

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (45:18):

That’s a great question. Um, you know, I was refreshing myself today just to make sure I was totally up to speed on legal compliance and what you’re supposed to enforce. And it’s very clear guidance from Oregon, OSHA that under no circumstances, first and foremost, are you ever supposed to physically try and block someone from entering your business or physically remove them? That’s one of the most dangerous things you could do. So if someone just storms in and they’re not listening and they’re not wearing a mask, really the best advice that I can provide, um, is to try and, you know, keep distance in terms of your staff that might mean calmly approaching other guests and saying, you know, I apologize, but as you see, we’re having a little bit of encounter here. We want everything to be calm, but can I possibly move you guys to another table?

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (46:06):

I want you to keep a safe distance. Um, and then just, you know, notify the appropriate law enforcement. The guidance was basically do the same thing that you would do, um, prior to COVID, if you had refused service to someone and they still didn’t leave, uh, you know, I know that that doesn’t give you a whole lot of firm detail without knowing more specifics about your business. I can’t really come up with additional suggestions. Um, but as, as when you mentioned my email address, um, is included on the first slide of presenters, feel free to reach out to me. Um, you know, more than happy to learn a little bit more about your business specifically and see if I can think creatively, um, and try and come up with some other things that you guys can do.

Alexa Carey (46:52):

Perfect. Michael, the next question is around, how do you respond back to someone who says they cannot wear a mask?

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (46:58):

That is a fantastic question. Um, you know, you may just ask why they can’t wear a mask, um, at the end of the day, make sure you’re not asking people to provide any kind of documentation organism, a state that has, um, like written exceptions for masks. If someone tells you that they can’t wear a mask, uh, because they have asthma or they have another medical condition, it becomes, uh, an ADA situation. So you just to want to take their for it, that they have that condition. That being said, I think the guidance from the government here in Oregon is pretty clear that regardless of someone’s medical situation, it doesn’t mean that they just get to not wear a mask. What you’re required to do as a business is to provide them with reasonable accommodation. So you’re supposed to try and work with them to find another way to serve them.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (47:52):

So for example, if you’re, um, you know, in a place where you’re allowed limited indoor dining, um, or your retail place, and someone comes in and they’re saying, I can’t wear a mask, um, you have to let me in because I have a medical condition that they’re mistaken and that’s not the case. Um, what your business needs to do is say, well, I still need to allow you to, to shop here. Um, I’ll grab a pen and paper, let me know what products you would like. If you can please wait outside, we can get those all together and we can deliver them to you curbside to your car. Then you’re not denying them service. You’re not discriminating on discriminating against them based on their medical condition. But I think the guidance in law is pretty clear that there’s not an exception, um, for anyone at this point.

Alexa Carey (48:37):

Perfect. Thank you. The next question comes, I believe also from the Eugene area and her point is that it’s a little bit trickier for her since they’re an outdoor market and this is applicable to farmer’s markets as well. They can’t legally enforce some of the guidelines like face coverings. Do you have any specific tips for those types of situations when you are in an outdoor market and there’s easy access and eat grass? Yeah.

Michael Chamberlain-Torres (48:59):

You know, I, I think this is one where I I’ve, when I left out of this person, reach out to me so we can talk and, and discuss your situation a little more specifics. I don’t know, you know, what more you can do from a deescalating perspective, other than trying to go through the steps that we discussed today. But I would think, you know, maybe anything that you can do in terms of physical barriers with, uh, ropes or stanchions or Plexiglas, um, whereby you can at least try and engage in dialogue and have conversations with people to encourage them to socially distance or to wear masks. But that way you’re at least protected physically with that barrier while you’re having that conversation. Cause I can understand it can be very uncomfortable and I, myself wouldn’t want to be in a situation where I’m talking, you know, closely face-to-face with someone who’s not wearing mask about why they need to wear a mask. So, um, just try and physically set yourself up. And again, if you want to follow up with me directly, I think maybe if I learn more about your business, I can try and provide some additional suggestions there.

Alexa Carey (50:05):

Perfect. It is 12 o’clock on the dot. Um, we really appreciate everybody’s time and, and we need to wrap up. Now we’ll look at seeing any additional questions that maybe we didn’t get to today and see if we can send that out in the follow-up messaging. But again, really appreciate your guys’ time. Thank you all for joining us. Thank you to Michael. Thank you to Wendy for being here in Gratiot as well. So again, we look forward to being in touch soon. We’ll send out the recording as well as, um, other resources that were shared today in the follow-up email. Thanks for your time.