As a business owner or manager, you’ll deal with all types of customers in your lifetime. It’s inevitable that some of them will be difficult. For most people working with customers, this is the trickiest part of the job, but it’s unfortunately unavoidable.
You’ve probably noticed that in today’s fast-paced digital world, customers expect so much more from the customer service they receive from businesses.
The good news is, there are some useful suggestions you can adopt when dealing with difficult customers that can not only make your life easier, but also leave the customer feeling supported and happy.
1. Prevent Complaints From Happening
The best way to avoid dealing with difficult customers is to put measures in place to prevent complaints in the first place. Invest in an efficient customer relationship management software, along with the latest inventory management tools, to ensure that you’re always on top of your game when it comes to your products and your customers.
When shoppers go to a store, they expect to be able to purchase your standard products without any of them being out of stock, especially if they check their smartphone to verify your inventory status. Posting accurate, detailed and updated product information will go a long way in minimizing complaints from clients.
You should also have a clear return policy that is simple and straightforward. If it’s too complicated, you’ll frustrate your customers. As per Joanna Markham, a tech writer at State Of Writing and Boomessays, “Be sure all of your customer service staff understand the return policy, and that you have enough staff to avoid long lines, a common frustration with shoppers. The checkout process, whether in person or online, should be easy, smooth, and seamless.”
2. Stay Calm
According to UBC research, rude customers can disrupt an employee’s sense of dignity and respect, triggering negative emotions that prompt employees to react in kind.
Take some deep breaths and speak slowly, maintaining speech that’s not tinged with emotion. Calm speech on your part will often soothe upset customers.
Remember, too, that most of the time, upset customers are not actually upset with you, but the company or other outside circumstances. Remind yourself that there are a lot of reasons the client could be acting in a such a brash or rude manner. They may have received some bad news, for example, or they’re just having a rough day.
Regardless, if you let them get under your skin, the conversation will probably escalate. Getting angry won’t improve the situation, and it could leave them with a bad impression of your store and brand.
3. Be Prepared
Firstly, Chron advises that you have a protocol in place that addresses common complaints and outlines procedures to record and resolve complaints, as well as a series of resolutions that are acceptable to your company. It also goes without saying that employees should be thoroughly trained on how to handle difficult customers.
But even if you take extensive measures to prevent it, you’re still going to encounter difficult customers at some point. Prepare yourself to view each of these experiences as a challenge and focus on improving each person’s experience.
Providing quality customer care can significantly differentiate a company from its rivals. So when you encounter an upset customer, consider it a challenge—put your skills and patience to the test and pass it with flying colors!
4. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Upset customers want to vent their frustration, and they want to feel that you’ve heard every word they have to say. That’s why active listening so important.
You can demonstrate that you’ve absorbed their comments by asking questions and repeating back what they’ve told you using phrases like, “What I’m hearing is…” or “It sounds like you’re saying that…”
Each person wants to feel important and that their problems matter. You can show empathy by “putting yourself in their shoes” and even apologizing (“I’m sorry, that must be so frustrating…”). This will convey to customers that you understand their pain and genuinely want to help them out.
5. Value Their Input
“The best way to disarm a rude customer is to involve him in taking away the problem that’s fueling his behavior,” says MindTools.
Most customers simply want a fair resolution, but difficult customers may be unrealistic or extreme with their demands. Remind them that you really want to help and counter their demands with fair and resonable suggestions so you can move forward with a mutually acceptable resolution.
Annoyed clients want to see that you’re taking action, not just apologizing. So even if you can’t do much, do something. Don’t forget to thank them for bringing the problem to your attenion so you can not only show the customer that you value their imput, but help your company improve.
6. Avoid Escalations
“I want to speak with your manager.”
Every customer support agent dreads those words! And the fact is, escalations take away the ownership from reps, putting them in a helpless spot, where they can’t do anything but wait for the manager or the supervisor to pick up the call.
“Customer escalations take away the essence of great customer experience for everyone.” ~ Ameyo
While customers can be demanding and use escalations to get faster resolutions, escalations are not the “death knell” for customer satisfaction.
In fact, every step we’ve discussed thus far is meant to prevent escalations. Guide customers step by step through your resolution process and inform them of all the possible options available to work out their concerns or complaints.
7. Be Consistent
As discussed in point one above, it’s crucial to have a store policy on customer service so everyone knows how to proceed with difficult customers.
Kyle Hunt, a customer success manager at Australianhelp and Paper Fellows, shares with readers that, “You want to be consistent, so break down difficult customers in different steps and how you would respond to each one.”
Each person in the company should be responding to customers the same way, and in the right way. Consistency builds trust and you can’t develop good customer relationships without it!
8. The Customer isn’t Always Right
There are certain situations in which customers will be wrong and nothing you do will appease them. They may even result to verbally or physically assault you or your employees.
“Adopting the principle of ‘The customer is always right,’ eventually hurts the business by demotivating employees, giving power to offensive customers, and also by creating bad experiences for the other customers.”
This behavior is unacceptable, and when/if it occurs, you must tactfully let the customer know that he/she has crossed a line (using insulting, threatening or racist language or behavior). If you’re constantly dealing with a toxic customer who isn’t willing to be reasonable or help you negotiate a resolution, it might be one of those rare instances when it’s best to let the customer go.
Keep in mind, too, that if your employees are regularly handling difficult clients and doing it without your support, it may result in employees leaving your company. Make sure your staff has the tools and training necessary to do their jobs well, so they can offer exceptional service to even the toughest of customers.
Encounters with difficult customers can be a very stressful experience, so it’s important to keep the perspective that few customers will actually be a problem.
Remain calm to deflate their inflammatory behavior and remember not to take any of their comments personally. Listen actively and apologize if it’s appropriate to do so.
When you show a genuine interest in the customers’ pain points by showing empathy and demonstrating your willingness to solve their problem, you can transform difficult customers into a brand advocates.
At the end of the day, the occurences you have with difficult customers are opportunities to shine where other companies might fail.
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