In business, the adage is “the customer is always right.” However, some customers take this way too seriously and become the nightmare of many employees and executives alike. Unfortunately, dealing with these difficult customers is a part of the game.

I have been in the line of customer facing role for more than 20 years and I have my own fair share of either wanting to wring the customer’s neck or scream and run away but I never cave in. Not once. Not in the face of the customer. Not on the phone with customer.

Pride, anger, frustrations, tears and embarrassment – all swallowed with a smile.

How do I do it and still smile, let alone stay sane? Here are some ways to deal with nasty customers – the Kally’s style!

1. Let them talk and listen

When a customer complains, do not speak while they vent. Let them tell you what exactly is the problem even if you can anticipate what they will say. Wait for them to finish before speaking.

There isn’t much you can do if the customer is ranting in front of you but to listen (even if the customer repeats himself for the fifth time in the past half an hour). However, if the customer is talking to you on the phone, I usually take the opportunity to clear some spam mail when he is complaining in circles.

2. Understand where they are coming from

As you listen to your customer, look from where they are coming from. What caused their anger and show to them that you understand their concern. Reasonable customers will calm down if they see that you see from their point of view.

Don’t treat the complaining customer as just another problem. Be genuinely interested in their problems and be sincere about wanting to help them even it may be out of your means.

3. Use your calm and low voice

Some customers can be very loud when they complain. When you talk, stay calm and use a lower voice. If you are calm, the customer will notice and calm down.

Don’t let them know that their loud voice has affected you! If customer is shouting at you, don’t retaliate, don’t shout back. Instead, keep quiet, collect your cool and try to reason with a smile (for the million time!).

4. Act fast!

For many difficult clients, time is money and you have to make sure you respond to their concerns ASAP if they are not happy. Acting fast will make sure they do not get angrier at you and stay difficult to handle.

What customers hate the most is that you had to transfer them somewhere else because either you do not have the knowledge to serve them or you are not empowered to help them.

Instead of waiting for your company to send you for training, take action first by learning the business from different people in different department. Grasping basic business processes will help you to see the issue clearer and provide with a better solution for your customers.

5. Imagine there are people watching you

If the customer’s voice and complaint is getting too much for you to handle, imagine that you are not the only person there. Imagine that there are other customers or clients there and they are looking at your capacity to solve problems. Stay confident and cool throughout the event to keep your temper in check.

6. Find some sense in the tirade

If your customer complaints and points a valid argument, work with it and speak to the customer about it. If you find a problem which you can solve can calm heads down and let customers know they matter to the company.

7. Repair your relationship with a parting gift

As the person representing the company, you have to make sure your relationship with the customers remains good. Give the customer a “parting gift” of some sort which would help them feel like they were right and you were in the wrong. It could be a voucher or a discount when they return to the shop.

It can be a gesture of goodwill that doesn’t cost much to the company. I love giving free daily quotes or even go out of the way for nice customers.

8. Learn from the experience

Difficult customers have a lot of benefits to businesses. They show companies and businesses which areas they need to improve on. Learn from these complaints and see how you can solve the issue to prevent further complaints.

Learning to improve after each complain is what made me want to be a customer service manager because it made me want to change things and to speed up the change, empowerment is a must.

9. Don’t take it seriously

When customers complain about your service or product, do not take it personally. They are not complaining about you so do not stress too much about it.

When it gets too much for you, walk away and allow your colleagues to take over from you. It is much better to explode and regret your actions later.

At the End of The Day

When you are in customer facing roles, you will meet all sorts of challenges along the way. Conflicts between you and your customer is high up in this list. Make it a point to solve these problems in a quick and professional manner to prevent further problems from popping up. 

For customer related articles, you may find these helpful:
Luxury Brand Does Not Equal To Customer Service
How to Resolve a Customer Service PR disaster
Let’s us all be a better customer

Can’t get enough of MiddleMe? You can find me sharing my thoughts here as well: 
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LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/kallytay

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39 replies on “How to Deal with Difficult Customers with Style

  1. ◇ Diamond Hard Brilliant EveryOne 😀 ; just Remember that The Service Providers ARE as Prone to Being as, or MORE!!!, “Difficult” as The “Difficult Customers” because of Rules and Regulations that CAN!!! Be Changed 🤔 ?

    …◇◇◇…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ♡ Singapore Airlines are Definitely My Favourite especially The Changi AirPort; but like a Naughty Husband I Must Admit to Occasionally Flying with Other Airlines 😮🤐🙄😉😊😂

      …♡♡♡…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In the airline industry, no one can outperform SIA yet. I love their professionalism and there are so much to learn from them. In some first world countries, tipping felt like a rip off as many are insincere plus they are unwilling to learn what real service means. Westerners are all about equal rights and they are uncompromising. Perhaps Asian hospitality have a tendency to overindulge customers so it creates resentment among Western service providers since they think, “Why should we put in so much effort to serve customers since we do not lack business or competition?” They forget that customer have the right to choose too. There need to be a balance.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for pointing that out! I am proud of SIA since it is my home country national airlines but I am also a fan of Emirates as well. I don’t really fly much with other airlines since I am a collector of miles with these 2 airlines.

      Companies don’t have much luxury to dish out poor customer service anymore especially with social media, their behaviour can go viral, causing them business to take a dive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You never show weakness in your Eyes to others. You never lose your Dignity, Respect, Honour and Grace as a Woman. Mimic back their own words let their tirade fall on themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I worked in the retail industry for over 45 years and the customers that come in looking for a fight are confused when you apologize and empathize with them. Some people feel that all they really want is an apology and someone to listen. I used to train my sales personnel to stop what they are doing if at all possible, apologize for their inconvenience and find a way to help. I would have other customers interrupt another customer that I was helping to vent and I would have to calmly let them know that I would take care of them as soon as I was finished. I did have to step in a few times to protect my employees from verbal abuse and foul language. Diffusing that kind of problem is never easy and to be honest no one wins.

    Liked by 3 people

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