Scream at them, throw the phone at the wall and tell them that you will ban them from purchasing your products in the future if they don’t calm down!
Is this really the way to go about dealing with difficult customers?
No. No matter how many times you could be dreaming of it during this busy Black Friday and Christmas season. There are ways to deal with them and not lose your mind at the same time – which is what we will discuss in this post. This post is mainly for all the frontline, customer-facing staff, but if you’re a manager who would like to learn how to empower your staff through CX, email our corporate education director at email@example.com for more information.
One of the main benefits of providing an excellent customer experience is that you mitigate the amount of unhappy customers and as a result the amount of difficult interactions with them. As well as this, when customers are happy with their experience of the product/service, the staff will be less under pressure and more engaged at work.
Customers who complain are also valuable to you. We talk all the time at The CX Academy about how complaints are an opportunity. Here’s why. 8 out of 10 dissatisfied customers will leave you and you won’t even know why. But the difficult ones who complain are the 20% who you can convince to stay and strange as it may seem, when you solve their problem brilliantly, they will become your most loyal customers.
This is why it’s important for everyone in the company, not just customer service agents, to be responsible for CX. By understanding the value of customer experience and the impact it can have on the company’s success, every employee can contribute to creating a positive experience for customers. From sales and marketing to product development and support, everyone plays a role in ensuring that customers are satisfied and their needs are met.
However, the experience won’t always be great for every customer. And sometimes (more often in busy periods like Christmas or massive sales) mistakes will happen and customers will be disappointed, stressed and angry. This is when you might have to deal with these ‘difficult customers’. They’re simply people under a lot of stress who wanted and expected a great experience and instead were disappointed.
The CX Academy Framework
The CX Academy framework is made up of six emotional drivers which you can use to deliver exceptional customer experience. One of the most important and useful emotional factors of our framework, which we teach about in our courses in much bigger detail, is the ‘You Fix Things’ emotional factor.
This factor acknowledges that during your relationship with your customers, things will go wrong. You as a company will make mistakes. Your suppliers and partners will too. Perhaps, maybe even the customers themselves will make mistakes and then blame you for them.
As we mentioned already, the great thing about it is that whenever things go wrong you are presented with the best opportunity for your company to turn your customer into a loyal advocate. Research shows that fixing things ‘brilliantly’ often increases the emotional bond you have with your customers to a higher level than it was before anything happened.
How to deal with Difficult Customers?
Here is a practical step-by-step guide that you can use to help you deal with difficult customer situations.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
The customer doesn’t know you and the issue they have is with the experience they’re having with the company. So don’t take their words personally. However, do show them that you care.
The trick is to find that sweet spot between being hypersensitive and caring deeply.
Unfortunately, when people are under the influence of strong emotions they can easily make you feel guilty even if it’s not your fault. By using empathy and showing your customers that you care, they are more likely to understand that you will do your best to solve their issues for them.
2. Actively Listen
Through active listening, you are able to focus on what the customer is saying and what they mean. If done correctly you should be able to repeat back to the customer paraphrasing what they said to ensure mutual understanding of the issue.
Sometimes people just want to be heard – really heard. So just listen, let them vent out and most importantly take feedback and send it to your CX manager who will be able to look into the action points into how you can improve the customer experience in the future.
3. Keep Calm
Fire doesn’t put out the fire. It’s understandable that some customers can be particularly demanding, but raising your voice will never sort out the issue – it will only make it worse.
If you need to, put the customer on hold, to give yourself time to calm down and think of a polite and respectful response. As well as this, don’t be afraid to give the customer a warning.
Most call centres or e-commerce shops will have specific guidelines as to how many warnings you have to give to the customer before you are allowed to hang up or ask the customer to leave the premises. It’s 100% understandable that the situation they’re in is not the best, but nothing allows them to disrespect or abuse staff.
Know your rights and your company policies to be fully aware of your options.
4. Offer a Solution
Is there a solution for the customer? Perhaps you have the empowerment to provide the customer with a voucher or a gift to apologise for the issue? Even a simple act, such as taking ownership and saying sorry can help the situation calm down.
This is really where the bulk of the ‘Your Fix Things’ emotional factor comes into play. Whatever the case, you need to be able to present the customer with a solution to solve their problem. If you have the ability to provide multiple options even better!
In the event that there is no simple ‘fix’ don’t be afraid to reach out to a more tenured colleague or escalate the issue to the manager. In almost every company the higher you go the more empowerment you have, and if the customer is not satisfied with the solution that you can provide with your empowerment, going to your manager is a great next step.
Remember: In any situation where a customer makes a complaint or has an issue, it is your job to do whatever you have to, to solve it. If you don’t have enough resources – ask for them from your manager, team lead or supervisor.
5. Take a Break
After the call, chat or interaction take a well-earned breather. Your mental health is the most important so make sure that you do whatever you have to do after a difficult interaction with the customer to regain your positivity and ability to provide an excellent customer experience to other customers.
It’s incredibly important not to strain yourself with these negative emotions. Even if the situation ended well it may have taken an hour on the phone with a lot of angry language and emotions.
To avoid burnout, go outside and get a bit of fresh air, and go and chat with someone to get some of your thoughts off your mind. You can also simply take 5 minutes for a quick meditation session. Do whatever you need to, to not let your past customer interaction affect your approach to the next customers.
Do you want to learn how to provide an excellent customer experience? Enrol in our Professional Diploma in CX today. Or maybe you think your whole team should get the training? Reach out to our Corporate Education Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org