How Do You Deal with Difficult Customers

April 28, 2021

When you're trying to offer quality customer service, you may have to deal with some difficult customers along the way. Whether a customer is upset about a service or product, you need to know the best way to handle the situation. After all, you don't want customers writing bad reviews about your organization.

So, how do you deal with difficult customers? Read on to learn some tips that will help you navigate this challenging situation!

Lower the Volume on the Problem

You may be wondering, "How do you deal with irate customers?" These are customers who may be yelling at you and causing a commotion. When a situation's volume goes up, it becomes challenging for you — or the customer — to think clearly.

A customer who speaks with a loud and angry voice will draw attention to their problem. And if the customer starts using bad language, this may concern other customers around you. Even worse, it may cause them to leave your business. 

When you're dealing with difficult customers, one of your first steps should be to de-escalate the situation. Lowering the volume is a simple way to do this.

Speak in a softer voice as an initial step. When you soften and slow down your speech, you will highlight the fact that the customer is speaking loudly. This may convince them that they, too, should lower their volume.

You also will divert attention away from the situation. By doing this, other customers may enjoy their experience without disruption. You could even take the customer to a private office or space in your business to continue the conversation.

Listen to the Customer's Concerns

Make sure that you give even the most difficult customers space to explain their concerns. Be an active listener. You may want to summarize their concerns aloud, too, so they can see that you were listening.

Avoid interrupting the customer when they're explaining their issues. You may come across as arrogant and unhelpful if you're constantly jumping in to clarify or correct statements. Instead, just be present and listen.

When the time arrives for you to speak, be methodical about it. Start by apologizing for the inconvenience and expressing your desire to help. Ask clarifying questions, too, to show that you are trying to pinpoint a solution.

Perhaps your customer is upset that they waited nearly an hour for their entrees. While you may explain that the kitchen staff was shorthanded, pivot to a solution quickly. For example, offer a free appetizer or drink. Or provide a discount for a future meal.

Acknowledge the problem and its cause whenever you're interacting with the customer. Then move to actionable solutions. In fact, you would be wise to have a few easy gestures or incentives ready for these situations.

Customer reviews carry a lot of weight when it comes to earning future business. Because of this, you may benefit from strategizing ways to pinpoint customer service issues. That way you can correct issues before someone starts typing a negative evaluation online.

Do you use Square to accept credit card payments for your business? If so, look into using this platform to capture customer reviews privately through Square first. If you have persistent issues, such as a slow wait time or delivery, you'll be able to see it in the reviews.

How Do You Deal with Difficult Customers? Understand Their Perspective

When it comes to dealing with difficult customers examples, the ones with the best outcomes show a level of understanding. In other words, you want to demonstrate that you understand the customer's problem.

For example, you may have a customer who is upset that there is a shipping delay for a mattress they ordered. If they don't have another place to sleep, a 3-week delay could be very inconvenient. Express your understanding that the shipping delay presents a big and unacceptable problem.

Explain that the mattress is back-ordered, so you can't move up the shipping time. This is a truthful response that lets the customer know the issue is beyond your control. But then offer some creative potential solutions.

Find a comparable mattress in terms of price and quality in your inventory. Confirm that it could ship more quickly, too. Then suggest that the customer cancel their existing order in favor of ordering the alternative mattress.

So how to deal with difficult customers? Another option is to add a few freebies to the order. A set of sheets or comforter could help ease the frustration over a shipping delay. 

It's also wise to take action on the front end to avoid difficult customers. If you catch flaws in your shipping strategies or products early, you may be able to avoid negative reactions down the road. Send your customers surveys tailored to your business so you can get the helpful feedback you need.

Get Assistance within Your Organization

When you're trying to practice strong customer service, you may need a little help. As an employee, you don't want to overstep your authority. And you may not have access to strategies that can help accommodate difficult customers.

For example, a customer may want to return an item after your store's deadline has passed. If you're working at the return desk, you should apologize to the customer for the inconvenience. But you also should clarify that you are not permitted to violate store policy to compensate them.

If explaining the company's position doesn't work, you'll want to reach out to a manager. Someone with more authority may be able to make an exception if it would help diffuse the situation. They could offer a store credit, for instance.

Calling for support from a manager also will show customers that you are willing to go the extra mile. They may appreciate this gesture and show more understanding.

Show Empathy in Your Customer Service Strategy

How do you deal with difficult customers? Show empathy as you talk with them. Put yourself in their shoes and connect with their situation.

If you're trying to stay resolute in your perspective, you won't make any headway. Give your customer space to talk. And as you listen to the customer, be aware that your mannerisms and expressions can communicate empathy.

Try nodding as they explain the situation. Always address your customer by their name when it's your turn to talk. And make eye contact to show that you're an engaged listener.

Most importantly, take ownership of the problem if you know that it was a mistake on your part. Acknowledge an error and apologize. Use clear language to assure the customer that you'll work to find a solution as soon as possible.

Ask Targeted Questions

Not all difficult customers will throw tantrums or write nasty reviews. Some may be difficult because they don't know what they want — or don't know how to explain a problem. An indecisive or unfocused customer can consume your time and keep you from helping others.

One of the best ways to resolve this situation is by asking clear, targeted questions. As the employee, you have the opportunity to help the customer crystalize their needs or concerns. Tell the customer that you need a little more specificity to determine the best solution. 

In some instances, you can use details to guide the customer to a specific product or service. By doing this, you may avoid future disappointment if you're aware that some products are out of stock. Use questions to gain a general sense of the customer's preferences.

For instance, your inventory of a particular toy may be on the low side. Ask the customer about the age and interests of the child for whom they are buying the toy. Then highlight a comparable toy that is less likely to be out of stock.

Similarly, if you know you're running low on a particular entree, ask the customer what flavor profile they prefer. You can highlight another entree that meets their criteria — and one that won't be out of stock. Even better, you can highlight an entree with ingredients that need to be used sooner rather than later.

Create a Plan and Articulate It

Especially if you are speaking with a customer on the phone, it's a good idea to summarize their issue — and your plan. You don't want to make empty promises, but you do want to offer to pursue the problem. A sincere apology followed by a plan for action can go a long way.

For instance, if you have a customer who's upset that they received the wrong sweater, they may feel like they deserve free shipping to replace it. If you're unsure whether you can offer free shipping for an exchange, be honest and clear. Write down their order number, name, phone number, and email so you can contact them with a concrete policy.

If you run a consulting service, the customer may feel like your services didn't translate into any clear improvement. This could be more of a reflection of their efforts than your services. Even so, don't dwell on this possibility.

Instead, offer to make things right. Suggest a complimentary session where you can go over any lingering issues. Or assign another consultant to bring a new vantage point to their situation.

Stay Positive

How do you deal with difficult customers? Even though it may be challenging, stay positive throughout your interaction! And if there are organic opportunities to bring some levity to the situation — or simply a smile — try to do so.

While you don't want to offer false hope, you can help diffuse the situation through positive energy and language. Use declarative statements. Tell the customer, "We will find a solution to make things better."

Once you've addressed the initial problem, ask the customer if there is anything else they need assistance with. This will communicate that you are sincere in your desire to help them — and not simply trying to make them go away.

The last thing you want is a negative review that becomes a blemish on your business. Feature positive reviews on your website while directing negative feedback to a separate form. That way, you'll be able to address problems privately.

Offer Follow-up Communication

When you're dealing with difficult customers, it's good to offer follow-up communication. You can check to make sure the issue is resolved or offer an incentive for them to do business with you again. Sincere concern coupled with a coupon or discount code could be the best way to win back their business!

If you can't offer an immediate resolution to a problem, jot down the customer's name and number so you can get in touch. Tell them that you will talk with a manager and respond within 24 hours, if possible. The key is actually to follow through on checking with the manager — and then call the customer.

And don't hesitate to contact the customer again a month or more down the road. It's easy to assume that a customer will dismiss you right away after a bad experience. But if they've encountered issues elsewhere or see that you care, they may be willing to give you another shot.

Create a Plan to Deal with Difficult Customers

Are you still wondering, "How to deal with difficult customers?" The good news is that you can tackle this issue by staying calm, listening carefully, and offering a plan. You can lower the volume of the problem and help find a solution.

Good customer service requires empathy and a good strategy. When you're ready to build positive feedback for your organization, contact us and we can help!

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