Unfortunately, difficult customers are a part of business. Whatever industry you work in, you will not be able to get away from them. Luckily, there are ways to deal with a difficult customer to reach a resolution that suits you and them without pulling all your hair out in the process.
When dealing with difficult customers your goal is to create a resolution as quickly and effectively as possible. You should get to this resolution on your own terms however and not give into unrealistic demands.
Check out our 9 ways to deal with difficult customers below…
1) Remain calm
Although the saying, “the customers are always right” is difficult to follow, you are in danger of damaging your businesses reputation by loosing your control and stooping to a difficult customer’s level.
When speaking with your customers try to maintain a calm and professional tone while also remaining assertive. You should also never say or write anything that can be used against you, whether that is within your wider niche or with your future relationship with this customer.
If you are able to remain calm and level-headed when dealing with a difficult customer you are giving yourself the best chance of resolving the problem being presented to you, whilst still maintaining as good a relationship with that customer.
Remember, if a customer becomes rude or abusive and you feel yourself losing control, you always have the option to end the professional relationship with that person.
2) Use reflective listening
Reflective listening is a conversation strategy comprised of two key steps. It is used to confirm to your customer that their problem has been properly understood.
To successfully use reflective listening you must understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their words and their body language. You then, respond by reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard back to your customer.
Reflective listening is a one of the great ways to deal with difficult listeners as it helps make your customer feel heard and valued. Although you may not be able to solve their issue straight away you are creating a scenario in which you are diffusing a difficult situation.
3) Use active listening
Active listening is a listening technique that requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. This includes both physical and mental prompts throughout the conversion. These can be as subtle as eye contact or responding yes or no as the customer is detailing their problem.
By deploying active listening, you will be able to really understand what the customers' problem is, as opposed to just consoling them during your conversation. Once you really understand what the problem is, you can create a plan of action that is going to solve their issue quickly and effectively. Active listening ultimately gives you the best chance of understanding and solving the problem.
4) Repeat back what your customers say
A key part of active listening is making sure you and the customer are on the same page. An effective strategy for difficult customers is constantly repeating back parts of the conversation.
It is best to repeat back the parts that are the root cause of the anger and frustrations they are feeling.
Once you have repeated back their issues you can ask them if you are correct with what you have taken from the conversation. If you are, you are building confidence in the customer that you know what needs to be done to reach a solution.
5) Explain the steps you will take to solve the problem
When a difficult customer reaches out with a problem, an excellent way to deal with the customer is to clearly explain the steps that you will take to solve their problem.
Explaining the steps that will be taken helps with a difficult customer as it allows them to see how their problem will be solved. If you can clearly define how the problem is going to get solved, you will be able to reassure the customer that a solution will be met. This will defuse some of the customers anger and in turn help them to be less of a difficult customer.
6) "Chunk" the problem
Chunking is the process of a taking a problem, and breaking it into several smaller, more managing problems.
By breaking a problem into smaller, more manageable pieces you make your customers issue easier to solve. It also helps the customer as it allows them to see exactly what steps need to be taken before a solution has been found to reach their overall problem.
7) Use time to your advantage
Difficult customers are often hard to deal with as they are uncompromising and want a solution straight away. In a situation like this setting a timeline and explaining the amount of time needed to solve the will help create a realistic set of expectations in the customer’s mind. By managing this expectation from the outset, you give yourself a window to solve the problem comfortably and efficiently at hand.
The timeline created also gives the difficult customer a definite date that a solution will be met. This means they can easily plan their work around the solution.
Just be careful not to promise to solve the problem too quickly causing you to miss a deadline!
8) Let go of fear
Often when dealing with difficult customers there is a fear either upsetting and losing a customer or being put is a situation that you do not want to be in. It is vital that you let go of this fear and deal with the customer in a confident and fair manner. When running your business or dealing with external clients you should have set of guidelines and parameters that you know you can comfortably work to ensure you are happy exchanging your products or services.
Although it is essential to listen, understand, and work out the next steps when dealing with any customers, it is not vital that you immediately produce a solution that suits your customers. It is your prerogative is to stick to your guidelines and parameters regardless of how the customer is behaving. Do not get bullied into a situation that ultimately you are not happy with.
9) Be sincere
Sincerity is an amazing technique to build rapport with difficult customers. Just as you can tell when you are being patronized or not listened to, so can a customer. Ensure that you are using a sincere tone of voice, and if speaking with them in person remain engaged and mirror their body language.
Most importantly it is vital that you remain respectful and take the high road to defuse tension. By remaining sincere you will make the customer feel like they are being taken seriously.