How to handle difficult customers

How to handle difficult customers

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How to handle difficult customers

Table of contents

  • Customer frustration is something that every customer support agent has to deal with from time to time and there are efficient ways to handle such situations.
  • Listening is the first key principle in dealing with a difficult customer 
  • Staying calm and patient when a customer gives you a hard time is a very important technique that helps an agent to look at the situation from a different perspective.
  • Divert a customer’s attention from the problem by offering a solution to their problem as soon as possible.
  • Describe to customers how you are planning to resolve their issues so they feel that they can control the situation.

 

What is your initial reaction to an outburst of emotions from an angry customer? Frustration? Confusion? An urge to talk back? Whatever your unfiltered emotion is it is not the right way to deal with a difficult customer. In order to properly handle an angry client, you should follow a strategy that would subdue a customer’s frustration. 

Customer service is a complex concept that encompasses many different methods aimed at satisfying customers and ensuring their experience is excellent. The industry standards dictate rules such as the customer is always right, identify and anticipate needs, never argue with a customer and many more. Such responsibilities require a great level of patience and the ability to build engaging conversations with clients. 

In this article, we’d like to unravel the question of how to handle a difficult customer – something that every customer service employee should know. Here are 7 steps to take when getting a call from a frustrated client.

 

7 steps to handle difficult customers

 

1. Listen intently

The first rule of dealing with angry customers – hear them out without interruption. Let them vent. Think of them as patients that come to a doctor with a specific problem. They expect the doctor to cure their illnesses and make their pain go away. Also, they expect the doctor to be compassionate and attentive to what they are saying. So when dealing with a customer, stressed out by whatever problem they have, be like a doctor – listen patiently, show understanding and never dismiss their issues as unimportant. 

How to handle difficult customers

2. Be patient and stay calm

Practicing calmness and patience during intense conversations with customers goes a long way and shouldn’t be underestimated. When facing an angry customer it is hard not to give in to the tension and keep calm. However, raising your voice and talk back to a customer should be avoided at all costs as it can cause irreversible consequences. This does not necessarily mean that you have to tolerate humiliation and suppress your feelings. 

The idea is that agents should have a preconceived mindset about situations like these. Whenever you get a client who’s yelling or angry you should remember that the customer is mad not at you but at the situation itself. This understanding will help you look at the customer’s aggressiveness from a clear viewpoint rather than from a defensive angle. 

3. Repeat the problem back to the customer 

To make sure you understand the problem, repeat the customer’s concern after he or she is done complaining. Not will it only clarify things for you but it will also show that you have been paying attention to what the customer was saying which can help decrease the tension level. This will demonstrate that you are invested and engaged in conversation  In other words, you should be on the same page with customers in order to get their trust and tone down their anger. 

4. Apologize

Once a customer laid out a problem make sure to apologize and let them know that you have a solution. By saying sorry, you acknowledge the customer’s problem and make them feel understood – something that every frustrated customer expects. 

It’s important what language you use when you are apologizing to a customer. A simple classic phrase like “I’m sorry that happened to you” or “Let me fix it for you” will not work if you speak with someone who is irritated. Instead, you can say “I can see why you’re upset, I would be too. I’ve looked into what caused the problem and here is what I found.” Or something of that sort. 

5. Identify customer’s expectations from you

You need to make sure you know exactly what the customer expects from you. Difficult customers can sometimes get caught up in anger or irritation which gets in a way of clearly stating the problem and explaining what they want. You should keep that in mind and always try to determine precisely what customers want. Simply ask them how would they like the problem to be solved or what solution are they looking for. 

How to handle difficult customers

6. Move the focus onto the solution

When you are dealing with angry customers you should try to divert their attention from what causes their frustration. After hearing them out and identifying the problem, introduce a solution. Start talking about the ways in which the issue can be resolved. In other words, focus on what the customer wants – the desired outcome. This principle will help calm down the client, avoid unnecessary tension and help you proceed with resolution.

7. Tell them how you will resolve the problem

Break the resolution process down into steps and tell them to your customers. By doing so you are making them feel that they have control over the situation which gives them peace of mind. Be detailed and elaborate in your description and give an approximate timeline of your further actions. You can let the customers know when exactly each step will be taken and completed. This way they know when to expect the problem to be resolved.

Final words

Dealing with difficult clients requires a specific strategy, otherwise, you can get thrown off by the customer’s anger and frustration. Following principles outlined in this article can help to avoid unpleasant encounters with customers and unwanted consequences. An important thing to remember when customers give you a hard time is that they are mad not at you but at whatever made them frustrated. So be patient as you navigate the problem and never talk back. 

Maya Momotok

Reviewed by Maya Momotok
CEO and cofounder of Wow24-7

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