Turning Difficult Customers Around
Over time, you and your coworkers have probably developed some effective ways of dealing with challenges that come up in dealing with difficult customers. Sharing those ideas can benefit everyone.
- The seven situations of difficult customers (and suggested ways of dealing with them) are:
- You don’t know the answer to a customer’s question (Tell the customer that you don’t know the answer, but you will find out)
- You have to say no to a customer’s request (Explain why you have to say no; offer alternatives)
- Your computer is working slowly and the customer is getting impatient (Tell the customer your computer is working slowly; keep the customer informed about what’s happening)
- The customer makes an unrealistic request (Explain what alternatives you can offer)
- The customers doesn’t seem to believe you (Offer to show proof or backup information)
- The customer is angry (Stay calm; acknowledge the customer’s feelings)
- The customer doesn’t want to give you the information you need (Explain why you need the information)
Although the saying goes that the customer is always right, there can often be a lot of space between knowing that the customer is “right” and accepting that they have a point. It can often be extremely frustrating dealing with certain customers, especially those who show limited understanding of your situation. Sometimes, due to the limitations of your job, a customer will present you with a request that you simply cannot deliver on. They may well become insistent on the subject, and in some situations, customers have been known to become abusive. Dealing with this as a customer service provider can be difficult, but it is one of those challenges that makes you or breaks you in the role.
Sometimes customers are of the belief that a customer service provider is all-powerful. The belief seems to come from the fact that, as an employee of the company, you will have some access to the inner workings of the company. Frequently the extent of a complaint will be that “this doesn’t work and I want a new one/this one to be fixed/my money back”. Their displeasure will be clear, and may even shade into anger. Trying to defuse a situation like that is always a challenge, and requires a great deal of patience. It is not impossible, however – and emerging triumphant from such a situation can be a very big milestone.
The important thing to keep in mind when dealing with a customer complaint is that losing your patience with the customer will never lead to a satisfactory conclusion – for you and most likely for them. Although it may seem galling, and rather challenging, you will need to keep a firm hold of your temper and address their complaint to the best of your knowledge and ability. Tell them that you can see their problem and you will do everything you can to make sure it is corrected. Explain to them what you are going to do, and gain their assent for everything before you do it. If there is no way you can help them, do not chase a lost cause. Explain that you cannot help them, explain why, and offer apologies and a word of advice about where they can get help. This can lead to a positive resolution – but if it does not, at least you will have done what you can.