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5 Steps for Dealing with Difficult Customers

Author: Efuah Faler
March 9, 2017

dealing with difficult customers

Dealing with difficult customers can be one of the most challenging parts of a job. Say too little and you’ll come across as disinterested. Say too much and you run the risk of causing further aggravation. It can be a very fine line.

As someone who’s worked in a range of call centres and help desks, I’ve had my fair share of tricky customers. But over time, I’ve come to realise what’s important in order to manage difficult customers successfully.

And in this post, I’m going to share them with you.

Step 1.) Remain calm and separate your personal emotions from the situation

This can be easier said than done. Particularly if a customer is blowing off a lot of steam. But try to keep in mind that if a customer has a complaint, more often than not it has nothing to do with you. It’s about the product or the service they’ve received. Be sure to remind yourself of this whenever a customer is upset. It will make you feel a lot better about the situation and you’ll be able to focus more effectively on the job at hand.

Bear in mind that if a customer does hurl personal abuse at you, that is not okay. In such instances, it would be wise to report this to your supervisor.

Step 2.) Listen more than you speak – then repeat back the customer’s concerns

When a customer calls a customer service helpline they are looking for a solution. They are looking for their concerns or wishes to be acknowledged. The last thing someone wants is to be ignored or interrupted. Even if you frequently receive the same complaint, don’t presume you know where an individual customer complaint is headed.

Avoid offering premature solutions and make sure you fully listen to and understand the issue. Repeat back the complaint to the customer to clarify. You’ll then be in a much better position to direct them to another department or to the right person.

Step 3.) Apologise and show empathy

It can be tempting to dismiss a difficult customer as irritable or overly sensitive. However, this should be avoided. Not only because it can make a customer even more aggregated. But because if you can fall into the habit of disregarding complaints, you might miss out on vital pieces of feedback. Which could be costly! 

You should try to emphasise with the customer and avoid laying the blame with them. So instead of saying “I’m sorry you think there’s a problem” (which is a polite way of saying it’s not our fault), just say “I’m sorry”.

Step 4.) Find a solution – even if it’s temporary

Some customer complaints can be complicated. They might require you to liaise with additional teams or transfer them to a different department. It’s not always straightforward and can be time-consuming. But try to remember to offer the customer with some sort of solution in the meantime.

For example, lets say one of your customers is having trouble downloading a file from your website. It might take some time to liaise with IT to fix the problem. So in the meantime, you can offer to download the file on your end and email it to them as an attachment. A short term solution like this will allow the customer to get on with their day. And they’ll really appreciate the effort you’ve made.

Step 5.) Keep in touch with customers

Explain the steps you have taken to resolve the problem and ensure it won’t happen again. Let customers know that they can follow up with you directly in the future. Customers will appreciate knowing there’ll be consistency if a problem reoccurs.

An email or a quick call to see how they are getting on with your solution will also help to keep your company back in their good books. This can also apply to customers who’ve reported no issues. A friendly “We hope you enjoy your item, let us know if we can help with anything” is a nice reminder that you care.

dealing with difficult customers

The key to dealing with difficult customers is remaining calm. Certain conversations will be hard or uncomfortable but try not to get too overwhelmed. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to focus on finding a solution. What helps you when dealing with difficult customers? It’d be great to read your comments below.


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