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Dealing with difficult customers: 5 easy steps

Anyone who has done a stint in customer service has encountered at least one person who has made their day difficult. Unfortunately, these types of customers are an inevitability, meaning it is an organisation’s job to prepare their employees to deal with them with grace and tact. 

Below are five ways you can develop your customer service skills and handle even the most challenging of customers. 

1. Make the customer feel heard/appreciated

To start, thank the customer for sharing their experience with you. 

At this point, you are not trying to solve the problem; you are simply listening and ensuring that you have an understanding of the problem. Don’t interrupt, even if you have a solution, or argue with them, no matter how difficult this is. 

After you’ve let them finish, ask clarifying questions to ensure that you have the right information – this also shows the customer that you are actively listening to their concern. 

2. Keep a calm demeanour

Often, we subconsciously take on the demeanour and body language of those we interact with. By keeping calm and steady, rather than reacting to a customer, you may be able to diffuse the situation.

It may be natural to be defensive, especially when confronted by anger or other unpleasant emotions, but in the end, this can often make things worse. Responding negatively significantly reduces the chances that you’ll be able to resolve the person’s issue and may amp up the customer even further. 

On the other hand, maintaining a professional but assertive tone can allow you to remain in control and approach the customer with a calm, clear head. 

3. Build rapport and empathise

Empathy is a critical tool here, allowing you to demonstrate that you understand the customer’s situation. Perhaps they’ve had a bad day and are simply taking it out on the next person they see, or perhaps the problem has caused a real inconvenience for them. As a customer service rep, you have the power to help the person and improve their day too. 

Avoid falling prey to your own emotions and show the customer that you can see where they’re coming from and acknowledge their frustration or other emotions. If they feel as though you are on their side, they’ll be a lot more willing to work with you. 

A good way to empathise is to show you care, ‘I realise it is frustrating that our order will arrive late’.

4. Adjust to their emotional state

Depending on their emotional state, there are certain ways you should approach a customer. An unhappy or impatient customer is far different from an angry one. Make sure you take into account both verbal and non-verbal cues and adapt accordingly. 

5. Take action.

Once you have a picture of what the problem is, work with the customer to devise an appropriate solution. Make sure to outline the steps that you will take to resolve the issue so that they can understand how things will proceed going forward. And if you promise something (a callback, etc.), make sure you deliver! 

A next step is to check in with the customer a few days after the issue has been resolved to ensure that they are satisfied with their service, or to offer an extra incentive (gift voucher, etc.). This personal touch helps make customers feel as though the organisation values them.

Want to give your customer service team the tools they need to deal with difficult customers? Get a quick quote for our Customer Service Training course today!



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