Managing difficult customers is an inevitable part of running any business. They can be stressful, and even threatening at times. It’s important to remain professional and avoid using inflammatory language or responding emotionally to the customer.
In some rare cases, it may be necessary to sever ties with the client if they’re causing undue stress or negatively impacting the company. Here are some strategies to help you manage these difficult clients:
1. Be Patient and Empathetic
At some point, every business owner faces an unhappy customer. These customers might make unwarranted complaints or simply be rude. Depending on how you manage these situations, they can damage your reputation or lead to long-term loyalty.
Managing difficult customers requires patience and empathy. You must be able to listen to them without interrupting and understand their feelings and intentions. You also need to be empathetic so they feel like you care about their issue.
This helps prevent the conversation from escalating into something even worse. Customers who get angry often use abrasive language and lash out at employees. For example, a viral video of a customer attacking a taco vendor went viral in 2022. Crossed arms, heavy sighs and short replies are common signals that your customer is getting frustrated.
2. Listen to Their Concerns
Regardless of the situation, you should always listen to customers. This allows them to feel heard and validates their concerns, helping defuse the situation. It also gives you an opportunity to find a solution that satisfies everyone.
While specific strategies work best for different types of difficult customers, there are some general tips that every business owner should consider adding to their team’s toolkit. Keeping your team up-to-date with these strategies can help you avoid rude customer experiences and protect your company’s reputation.
For example, Katherine Yasi of Optimizely always dives into the customer’s profile before a call to see if they have any open support tickets or negative NPS surveys. This helps her get into the customer’s mindset and identify possible root causes of their frustration.
3. Be Clear and Transparent
Customers might be demanding, but you don’t have to resort to rudeness. Be transparent with your answers to their questions and explain how you can best resolve the issue. This way, you can prevent them from getting frustrated with vague responses.
Be careful not to use abrasive language or threats, as these can escalate the conversation and lead to bad reviews for your business. Instead, point them to your company’s or customer service team’s policies so they can read for themselves what they can and cannot do.
If you follow these tips to manage difficult customers, you can help them feel more satisfied with your product and turn their frowns into smiles. And who knows—these customers may become brand advocates, if their experiences get turned around.
4. Offer Choices
While it would be nice to operate a business based on the assumption that everyone is happy, this is not always possible. Dealing with difficult customers is an integral part of any customer service role, and learning how to handle these types of conversations can help your company retain customers and improve customer satisfaction.
For example, if a customer is a “know-it-all,” you may need to explain that your policies prohibit certain types of interactions. Using a framework like the DISC model can help you tailor these responses to your customer’s personality type.
When handling these situations, remember that it is important to avoid taking the customers’ behavior personally. Staying professional will allow you to resolve the situation and make the customer happier. A satisfied customer is a brand ambassador who will spread the word about your company.
5. Manage Their Expectations
Difficult customers can wreak havoc on staff morale, lead to poor customer satisfaction and ultimately result in lost sales. It’s important to have the right tools to deal with these customers and to turn their frowns into smiles.
When dealing with difficult customers, be transparent and clear about the situation. For example, Katherine Yasi of Optimizely suggests letting the customer know that you may not be able to give them the exact solution they want at this time.
It’s also a good idea to let them know about your company’s policies or guidelines for dealing with upset customers before starting the conversation. It shows that you’re prepared and are willing to follow established processes when necessary. It can also help to defuse situations before they escalate.