Dealing with difficult customers is never an easy task. A study by Gallup showed that “about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.” There’s no doubt that the stress from having to handle angry and frustrated customers can equally make you feel frustrated; it happens to people all the time.
However, working with difficult, angry, or frustrated customers doesn’t always have to be a hard or stressful task. It can be a lot easier than you think, and better still, you won’t have to end the conversation with regret or frustration but with a happy and satisfied customer.
So how can you do this? Today, I will be guiding you on some practical ways to deal with demanding customers with these three steps.
Step 1 – Creating the Right Atmosphere
1. Ask them to Explain the Issue:
Merely asking a difficult and upset customer to explain the situation goes a long way in making the issue less complicated. When asking for an explanation, your body language and the tone of your voice matters a lot. Use a calm and concerned tone (and be genuinely interested too).
Ask the customer for their name and refer to the customer using that name. Using their name tells them that they are not just another random customer to you but an actual person with whom you can relate. It also creates the impression that you are interested in what they have to say. Let them know your name as well so that it can be easier to communicate with you.
Every customer wants to be heard. They want to give their part of the story, and by asking them to explain, you are making them feel welcome and essential to your business.
While they explain, try to see the situation from their perspective. This might be difficult, especially if the customer is angry. In such a case, let them speak and do not interrupt, except they ask you a question directly or you are allowed to speak.
2. Listen to them:
When customers are laying a complaint or giving an explanation, it is crucial to listen to them. Always listen to them and pay attention to what they are saying too. Just like asking them to explain, listening with undivided attention also makes them feel important.
Also, don’t try to make a defense or argue with them as this will only escalate the intensity of the situation. Instead, just let them say all that concerns them, and then, you can move on to the next step.
3. Show interest in what they are saying:
Asking the customer to speak and listening to them is not enough. You also have to show interest in whatever they are saying. And if you’re honestly not interested in what they are saying, don’t act it out. Instead, encourage them to speak and show a genuine interest. Take notes as they talk, and to remind them that you are still listening, you can put in a few short but relevant questions or remarks.
Your body language tells the customer if you are concerned about what they’re saying or not. This is why you should make a conscious effort not only to be interested in what they’re saying but also to appear interested. So, how can you show that you are interested?
- Give them nods of approval: Occasionally nod as they speak to encourage them to keep talking. However, you should control your nodding as it could become distracting or make you appear unattentive if you do it too repeatedly.
- Maintain good eye contact: Eye contact is an effective non-verbal communicator. Maintaining eye contact with the customer lets them know that you are both listening and interested in what they’re saying.
- Lean forward: Don’t slack in your chair but lean forward as this also shows interest in what they’re saying.
- Smile when necessary: A friendly demeanor contributes to creating an excellent atmosphere for communication. Don’t keep a straight face throughout but occasionally smile as they speak. Also, use different facial expressions to match what they are saying.
- Try to connect with and understand them: Like I earlier said, trying to see from the customers’ point of view is essential in creating a pleasant atmosphere for communication. Try to put yourself in their shoes and empathize with them. Empathising makes it easier to remain calm, especially if the customer sounds rude or unpleasant. Instead of getting defensive, keep an open mind, and try to connect with the customer.
Step 2 – Effective Communication
It would be a lot easier to deal with customers if they had to be the only ones talking, but sadly that is not the case. To be able to handle difficult customers, have to be able to communicate with them. So, how can you communicate effectively with an angry or difficult customer?
4. Be prepared:
Preparation is key to effective communication with customers. You have to know your stuff. When customers require an explanation from you, you should be able to give it. If you are not sure or have no idea of the right answer to their question, then that’s okay too; you can ask someone in your team or politely refer the customer to someone who can help them better.
However, being prepared with the right information is not enough; you also have to be ready with the right reactions and behaviors towards customers. Always bear in mind that you will encounter a demanding customer, but how you handle that customer is imperative, and therefore, you must be prepared. Remember not to act or speak impulsively but instead, make carefully planned responses.
5. Select your words with care:
When communicating with a customer, especially a difficult one, the words that you pick are significant. Try not to use rude or triggering words. A wrong selection of words hinders effective communication and leaves both you and the customer unhappy. The words that you select can either turn the customer to or against you.
6. Be confident (eliminate fear)
When communicating with customers, be confident. Allowing fear can negatively affect communication with the customer. Provide explanations and answers to questions confidently. Be clear and concise and give direct but polite answers instead of beating around the bush.
It is often hard to remain confident when communicating with demanding customers, but remember that a clear, honest, and polite response is what customers expect of you. It is hardly possible to please every single customer but, instead, do your best to offer exceptional service to each customer.
The use of hand gestures helps in communication and also to dissipate fear. Gesturing makes you appear confident and knowledgeable. So when you begin to feel scared, you can make gestures. Also, being prepared reduces tension and fear.
7. Pay attention and repeat details:
Just like I mentioned earlier in this post, paying attention is very crucial to effective communication with customers. Another good tip is to repeat the critical details that the customer may have mentioned while discussing their concerns with you.
Repeating the details is to confirm that you understood them correctly. Not only does this clarify information, but it also reassures them that you are paying attention, which often makes them more cooperative.
8. Keep your cool:
Remaining calm is one of the hardest parts of dealing with difficult customers. When a customer is rude, the best bet is to remain calm and act professionally. Remaining calm builds respect both for you and your organization.
Refusing to take matters personally can help you keep your cool. Don’t imagine that the customer is angry at you in person but instead think of the customer’s anger as being directed to the discomfort that they feel and try to make things right.
While making an explanation to a customer, keep your voice at a calm and relaxed tone. Also, be aware and stay in control of your body language. Do not show hints of anger or impatience but maintain a calm and composed demeanor.
Although it is vital to remain calm when communicating with customers, it is often easier said than done. So how can you stay calm?
Stay prepared: Like I earlier said, being prepared keeps your emotions and reactions in check. Always bear in mind that you will face an unpleasant situation at some point in time and plan your responses ahead of time.
9. Give a clear and calm explanation:
In the case of a misunderstanding on the part of the customer, offer to give a clear explanation. Remain calm while explaining as being bitter defeats the purpose of the explanation.
Wait for an opportunity to speak, but if the customer doesn’t provide you with one, then calmly and politely ask for one.
10. Do not take sides:
When a customer lays a complaint, make it a responsibility to hear them out. Remain neutral and do not take sides. Understand that you may be wrong and instead of taking sides or trying to make defenses.
The best way to remain neutral is by trying to view the situation from both perspectives. Make judgments and resolve every situation.
11. Be diplomatic:
Taking a subtle and calculated approach in handling difficult customers can help to resolve any unpleasant situations efficiently. Give positive comments and insert some humor when appropriate.
Be flexible in your interaction with customers. Show understanding and keep an open mind. Be willing to make the necessary compromises to maintain a good relationship with customers.
12. Present a solution:
Every customer desires a solution to whatever problem they may have. First, you have to find out what the problem is, then, according to the complexity of the problem, come up with a suitable solution.
If you are unable to come up with an answer immediately, you can ask a colleague, your superior, or look for an alternative.
13. Let them know the next course of action:
Do not leave customers in the dark concerning the issue at hand. Let them know what the next step is. If you were unable to immediately come up with a solution, at least let them know what you plan to do about the situation. Will there be some compensation? Will you get back to them? When? Give them the details on everything and keep them on board.
Putting in the effort to keep your customers on the same page as you will not only make the situation easier to handle, but it also builds your relationship with the customer.
14. Take necessary actions if the matter escalates:
In a situation where the issue escalates, and the customer becomes extremely verbally or physically abusive, what do you do?
Calmly let the customer know that there are boundaries. Do not respond to the customer in the same manner. You can report to the higher management of the organization or call the organisation security or even the police if it gets out of hand.
15. Take a break:
After dealing with a tough customer, there’s no doubt that you need a break. You can take a walk or meet with friends.
However, don’t beat yourself for your encounter with the customer. Instead, think of what you could’ve done better and plan on improving.
Step 3 – Making them Happy
16. Compensate for problems:
Errors or inconveniences to customers created by low-quality products or services often cause losses to them in one way or the other. Making compensation for the discomfort that they may have experienced is an excellent way to make them feel happy.
There are various ways of making compensations ranging from discounts to replacement. Going the extra mile to compensate shows them that you are willing to make a change.
Making apologies is something that you should become accustomed to if you want to maintain happy customers. Many times, the customer may be wrong, but even when that is the case, start with an apology.
Don’t go overboard with this, but let the apology be short and precise. Think of it this way; there isn’t much for a customer to argue or be unhappy about if you have apologized already. Do not hesitate to make an apology if you are really at fault. Apologizing makes customers less unhappy and more open to cooperation. It’s a win-win situation.
18. Thank them for sharing their concerns:
Saying thank you to customers clearly shows that you appreciate them and that their feedback is essential to you, which means a lot to them.
It not only encourages them to give you feedback when they are displeased but to provide constructive feedback when you do a good job.
19. Follow up:
After wrapping up your conversation with the customer, remember to follow up with them. You can send emails or call to ask how they are doing. Give them the necessary updates and occasionally ask for their feedback. Following up builds a strong relationship with the customer and will cause them not only to come back to your business but to refer others too.
Customers are the lifeblood of every business, but it is challenging to deal with them sometimes. However, following the steps outlined in this post can make handling even the most demanding customers a lot easier.
What has helped you the most in dealing with difficult customers? Let us know in the comment section.
Esther Alu, the Founder of TheAceBusiness.com is an entrepreneur who writes step-by-step guides for starting several business ideas. She is constantly learning and discovering effective ways to help her readers launch and grow successful businesses.