How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Difficult customers can ruin your day – or jeopardize your business. Everyone in business has had to deal with the hard-to-please, difficult or irate customer. What is needed is a way to handle such customers without letting them hurt your business. Ideally, after speaking with you or another employee, that customer will leave with their problem solved and their attitude toward your business changed.

One important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot control another person’s behavior. The only person you can control is yourself. Even if you can’t understand such displays of anger, or you have your own problems with a low boiling point, you must keep a professional attitude for the good of your business.

If a customer approaches you angrily, your first job is to maintain control. Stay calm and listen until the irate customer has had time to thoroughly vent. As difficult as it may be, don’t allow the customer to push you into losing control. Try to keep eye contact and show the customer that you’re paying close attention to their complaints. Occasionally nodding or otherwise indicating that you understand can help to defuse the customer’s anger.

You can do more to bring about a successful resolution to the situation:

  • Show the customer that you are concerned about his feelings. Keep in mind your body language and your expression of sincerity. Don’t give the customer anything else to be angry about.
  • Ask the customer to give you more information about what happened. It’s good to tell the person that you need to clearly understand the issues, but don’t accept blame or responsibility just to bring the encounter to an end. Be sure you don’t blame the customer, either. That’s sure to add fuel to the fire.
  • Even if you’re the CEO of your company, and you have a customer service rep just within reach – tell the irate customer that you will help him by taking specific actions within a certain time frame. Make sure you ask the customer how he would like to see his complaint resolved. If you need to get advice or information from another employee, make it clear to the customer that it’s to his advantage.

You must understand that keeping customers is an extremely high priority. Bear in mind that placating one angry customer means that he continues to do business with you and you continue to make money from him. Make sure you follow up with angry customers to make sure that the situation has been properly addressed. Try to satisfy the customer so that he will not have a negative image of the business.

Have a complaint handling process in place. Know the art of handling complaining customers so that you don’t respond with a blank stare, or worse, the “That’s not my job” excuse. Have a telephone number and email address readily available and visible on your website and on your literature. School yourself in problem-solving techniques such as those found at a business e-coach website.

As important as customer retention is, don’t tolerate abuse. If a customer threatens to get physical or starts using profanity, tell him he’ll have to calm down or you will need to have him escorted out by the police or security. If he is phoning in, tell him you will have to hang up. Having a security camera, real or facsimile, in place may also be a good way to insure that the situation doesn’t escalate.

The use of CRM, or Customer Relations Management, involves sophisticated software throughout the business to track customers. It simplifies maintenance of a database of information on customer spending and other pertinent information. Databases such as ACT! allow businesses to post reminders to call customers and check on their satisfaction.

Thanks to online marketing, businesses and customers have been changing their relationships. Instead of behaving almost as adversaries, they now tend to view each other as partners in an effort to bring about a sale that benefits both parties. We can hope that these changes mean fewer angry customers as CRM and the online marketing model take hold.

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