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5 Ways to Handle Difficult Customers

No matter what type of work you do, it’s likely you have encountered a difficult customer. It’s more likely, however, you have encountered many difficult customers. Maybe – just maybe – you are even a difficult customer yourself to others on occasion. After all, customer service nowadays isn’t always what it should be. Keeping that in mind, consider the five tips below on how you can deal with difficult customers.

Tip #1: Let Your Customers Vent 
Customers don’t always aim to be difficult. Often, they become difficult because they feel they cannot express what they have experienced, how they’re currently thinking or what they want from you to make them feel satisfied – or at least better. While you can’t always give them what they want in exchange for their complaints or requests, you can choose to listen to them. Letting your customers “vent” can help them feel as if you care, as well as allow them to get whatever it is they want to say off their chest. From your own first hand experience, you can probably understand this is often the best medicine to heal something that isn’t working right.

Tip #2: Genuinely Listen to What Your Customers Say 
It’s easier said than done, but genuinely listening to your customers can help you more more efficiently find a resolution. Too often, however, employees choose to “tune out” when customers become difficult and instead respond to them in a generic fashion that does not lead to a resolution. Make the choice to hear what your customers are telling you, as well as aiming to understand their perspective. While you can’t always deliver a final resolution that meets their expectations, you can acknowledge that you heard what they said by repeating the key elements of their complaint or frustrations. By repeating what they have said, customers are more likely to gain trust in you and feel supported in your efforts to help them.

Tip #3: Identify Any Constraints You Have in Supporting Them 
Difficult customers vary in reasons, but one thing they have in common is that they all want direct attention in helping to find a resolution for their problem. One way to help deliver this is to tell them right away any constraints you have in supporting them. For example, if they want a full refund on something they purchased and you know you can’t immediately give this to them, let them know. Yes… you’re likely to hear another ear-full of frustrations and disappointments from your customer, but follow this with what you can do for them. In business, if you can deliver bad news with good news, that always helps ease the pain of the not-so-great news.

Tip #4: Act Quickly When Supporting Difficult Customers
Time means everything to an upset customer, so make it your company’s priority to act quickly when a client isn’t happy. This could be as simple as replying to a tweet they shared with you that expressed their concern or refunding them for a defective product. Whatever their “difficult” is, react to it in a timely fashion to avoid them becoming more upset, frustrated, disappointed and difficult. Very simply,don’t put off peeved customers. However you can help them, do so right away.

Tip #5: Learn From Every Difficult Scenario 
Difficult customers – like it or not – have a lot to teach businesses. Are you finding that most of your difficult customers are brought to life by similar circumstances? Possibly your difficult customers have some other things in common? Evaluate who your difficult customers are,then evaluate why they are this way. While there are always exceptions, often you may find that the root of the problem is not the customers themselves, but rather your business…or worse,  you or an employee on your team. By taking time to unveil these problems, you can take the time to find solutions that will help avoid difficult customers in the future.

In Conclusion
Life – like business – introduces conflict, frustrations and more. Make it your choice to deal with these moments and the people involved in them in as professional of a fashion as possible to avoid more escalated, undesired scenarios later. And as I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, you may even learn a thing or two from difficult customers that can help your business and even you  find stronger success.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Author of Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business, as well as the Founder of Retail Minded and the Independent Retailer Conference.



One Comment

  1. KIKANME Christopher
    July 7, 2015 5:29 pm/ Reply

    The problem I have border on key customer having to owe you PUTING you in risk,also due to the fact they are key cliient you trend to manage the situation to avoid issues with your customer but in this situation the company see you as a thief,and that you are the cause of the debt.meanwhile the business is a credit business in nature.
    Please advice me on how to go about this problem.

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