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How to deal with difficult customers

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.

Controlled vocals

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.

In-House Training with PTP

PTP stands for Practical Training for Professionals and our aim is to make our training as practical as possible so delegates can return to the workplace with skills they can implement immediately. PTP now delivers training to over 40% of the FTSE 100.

What you get for your money

What is 1-to-1 training?

1-to-1 training can be based on any of the 100 plus courses that PTP provides, it includes an initial telephone conference of up to 1 hour, a 1/2 day (3.5 hours) on-site one to one training session at your premises with one of PTP's expert trainers and then a further telephone conference call of up to an hour within 2 weeks of the on-site visit.

You have the option of a line manager being involved in both telephone conferences, the second telephone conference which can be for feedback and action planning is generally scheduled during the on-site visit.

Who does 1-to-1 training suit?

Individuals taking on a new challenge or responsibilities. Professionals who want a trusted "sounding board" and thinking partner. Executives or managers who want to enhance their leadership effectiveness to achieve organizational and career success. Executives and professionals wanting to compete successfully but still retain balance in their life. Individuals who want to understand their blind spots so that they don't stand in their own way on their path to success. Executives and Professionals who want to improve their interpersonal skills so as to be more effective with bosses, peers, subordinates, or people in general. How much does 1-to-1 training cost?

A 1-to-1 training session costs from as little as £400 + VAT and will include an initial telephone conference of up to 1 hour, a 1/2 day (3.5 hours) on-site training at your premises and then a further telephone conference call of up to an hour within 2 weeks of the on-site visit.

What is U-Choose?

Choose from any of the 150 plus courses that PTP provides, and choose from 1 of our 50 plus UK wide training venues. You must book for 2 or more delegates and at least 4 weeks in advance, but that’s it, the course you want where you want it. The reason we ask for a minimum of 4 weeks notice is to enable us to market the course you have scheduled to other companies and organisations. However, if we fail to sell any additional places we guarantee to run the course just for you.

How much does U-Choose Training cost?

U-choose costs the same as our normal open courses i.e. the normal delegate rate. This includes lunch and refreshments throughout the day, framed certification and comprehensive training notes. A U-Choose booking can only be confirmed once we receive payment which can be made via credit/debit card, BACS or cheque. Payment is due at least 4 weeks before the date you request. Please note to be eligible for U-Choose you must book a minimum of 2 delegates on the same course & date.