Difficult customers are one of the biggest challenges for the customer services team within any business. In the age of the internet they are even more of a threat because a dissatisfied customer can leave a conversation and post content online or on social media that does your business no favours at all. However, difficult customers also represent an opportunity to turn a situation from a negative to a positive – once your customer service team knows how to.
Listen to difficult customers
It’s not easy to listen to someone who is unhappy with a product or service – even someone who is angry about the experience that they have had. However, listening is exactly what difficult customers need. This makes the customer feel that their complaint is being heard and it may even calm them down so that a more rational conversation can be had.
Empathise and engage
It’s not difficult to understand what someone who has had a poor experience wants from the situation – to be heard and to be believed. Empathy is a powerful tool when dealing with difficult customers because it is reassuring and demonstrates concern for whatever discomfort has been suffered. Asking questions, repeating back what has been said and using verbal cues to indicate agreement can all deliver an empathetic message.
Don’t take it personally
It can feel really hurtful and personal when difficult customers attack the business or the service being delivered. However, it’s important to retain emotional control and remember that none of this is aimed at the individual having the conversation but at the wider business. Difficult customers often “shoot the messenger” but it’s important that there is no retaliation and that the customer service agent handling the issue doesn’t catch the emotions of the customer and turn the situation into a battle.
When a customer is angry the most effective way to handle this is not to mirror the aggression or volume in their voice. Slow, calm speech and a lowered tone of voice will have an instant calming effect, indicating that there is no emergency and everything will be ok. Often, customers who have been shouting will find anger draining away when met with a soft, quiet, calm voice without any aggression or antagonism in it. Sometimes, the way we speak is even more important than what is said – that’s why controlled vocals are a key part of dealing with difficult customers.
Agreement and surrender
The old saying that “the customer is always right” doesn’t have to be taken literally. But in a situation where you’re dealing with someone very irate and upset, agreeing with them can be a powerful aid in terms of diffusing the emotion involved. Sometimes, angry customers who suddenly find themselves “winning” may even start to backtrack or defend the customer service person they have been talking to, against their own interests. Often, this will make the customer more open to finding a solution to the problem, as opposed to taking out an emotional response on the customer service person they are dealing with.
Training plays a key role in ensuring that your customer service team is ready and able to deal with difficult customers. If you’d like more information about our customer service training courses, and how they could benefit your business, please get in touch.