We have all been there, dealing with a customer who seems too demanding, is difficult to work with, or is just plain annoying. Actually, we would propose that the majority of people out there in the customer world are actually reasonable people. But, difficult customers are out there, and we all need to learn how to do business with them.
There are a multitude of reasons why a customer might be viewed as “difficult”, but the truth is that difficult people tend to become that way because either some part of our core service has failed, or they perceive that some aspect of our core service has failed. Either way, it is in your company’s best interest to resolve the situation smoothly and elegantly. And if you don’t? The answer here is fairly obvious; if you don’t handle the situation properly, chances are these difficult customers will not do business with you again, bad-mouth you, or both. For small businesses, these are simply not acceptable outcomes.
The key to turning around a difficult customer is how you handle them. With that in mind, here are our best tips for dealing with difficult customers:
Listen. Above all else, the customer will sometimes want to vent. It is not wise to jump in with solutions at this point, but to let them have their say. Show the customer you are listening, by your body language, nods, etc.
Don’t use trigger words. I can’t / Sorry / But / It’s our policy / I’m not allowed. These are all trigger words that will usually explode the situation even further. By all means, think of alternative ways to phrase what you’re trying to say, such as I can / Thank you / And… / Here’s what we can do / Let me look into it.
Empathize. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see things from their point of view. You may think they are making too big of a fuss, but for whatever reason it is a big deal to the customer and they want you to recognize that. Customers will often judge your level of service and decide if they will continue to be a customer, not by whether you have solved the issue or not, but by how you have handled the situation. They are more likely to forgive you and keep being a customer of your small business if you handle the situation gracefully.
Don’t let it become personal. If you let the customer get to you, it will almost always show, whether in your tone, your body language, or your words. Again, this will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, try to remember this is not personal. It’s a difficult business situation that you can learn from!
What are your tips for dealing with difficult customers? Let us know!