Whether you run a retail store or you provide business-to-business services, you'll occasionally come in contact with a customer who tries your patience. These tough customers can monopolize your time, create a stressful atmosphere and make employees and other customers uncomfortable.
Knowing how to identify and handle difficult consumers can help you turn a negative situation into an opportunity to build a stronger relationship. Difficult customers come in a variety of forms, including:
Assess your customer service IQProper handling of difficult customers can defuse potentially explosive situations and turn dissatisfied clients into loyal customers. Taking the wrong approach, however, can permanently sever the business relationship and generate bad word of mouth.
Make customer retention a priorityEnsure that everyone in your organization understands the value in retaining customers, even the difficult ones. Losing a customer means losing the value of all the purchases he or she would have made for years to come. This is known as lifetime value (LTV). You and your employees will work harder to find solutions for difficult customers when their lifetime value is kept in mind.
Listen upOne of the best things you can do when faced with difficult customers is to listen to them. By listening to what they're saying, you can come up with solutions.
Use calming and focusing techniquesIf customers get angry or start yelling, employ calming techniques to defuse the situation. Keeping your tone of voice even can compel someone who's screaming to lower their voice. When customers go off on tangents or are indecisive, bring them back to the issue at hand by asking pertinent questions.
Arm your employees with knowledgeThe best weapon against difficult customers is proper training. Give employees the tools they need to deal with stressful situations.
Focus on solutionsOne of the quickest ways to get a customer to stop harping on a problem is to ask them what you can do to rectify the situation. Once you have an idea of what the customer wants, you can identify and offer solutions.
Follow upMake it company policy to follow up with difficult customers to make sure they're satisfied with the agreed-upon solution.
Say no to abuseAt no time, should you or any of your employees be expected to endure physical abuse or profanity. When faced with this situation, maintain your composure. Inform the customer that if they don't change their behavior, you'll need to hang up (if you're on the phone), call security or escort them out of your establishment.
Set up a complaint systemWhen difficult customers refuse to accept any of the solutions offered, provide them with an opportunity to air their grievances. Assure customers that someone will respond to them within a certain amount of time.
- Most disputes can be avoided by effective communication. For example, post your policies on returns or refunds and be sure to place them in a place where customers can see them. If possible, try to include this same information on receipts or sales agreements.
- Take notes when talking to difficult customers over the phone. An angry customer will only get more upset if they have to repeat information over and over.
- If you start to feel upset or angry when dealing with a customer, it's best to excuse yourself and ask a co-worker to step in. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all it takes to diffuse a situation.
- Often it's best to let customers vent their anger without interruption, or you risk setting off the complaint from the beginning.