“Dealing with Difficult Customers”..and Everyone’s the Customer! by Margie Roop, LPCC-S, CEAP, SAP LifeServices Employee Assistance Program 1-800-822-4847 or 330-329-3767
What IS a Difficult Customer? One who evokes that uncomfortable feeling that suddenly the world is not right with you...we’re talking churning in the gut! One who behaves in a way that makes you want to crawl under your work station! One who quickly puts you in “near fight or fight” mode!
The Difficult Customer….. Gotcha all wrapped up? On the defensive? Wondering if it’s all worth it?* Wondering how you ever got here?
Want to avoid a few rounds? Avoid the upper cut Side step the jab Float like a butterfly but….not sting like a bee!
What we will learn today How to handle your difficult customer. Effective ways to respond to customer complaints. Methods for securing future business (making sure there is resolution)!
Understanding your Difficult Customer…you are challenged to: Look at your customer with new eyes. Adopt the customer’s perspective. Identify what the customer really wants.
Responding to the Customer Earn the customer’s confidence. Manage your emotions. Deal with the customer’s emotions. Communicate effective. Develop win-win solutions.
First-Basic Assumptions Most customers are NOT very difficult to satisfy. The customer is NOT always right! You are empowered to solve the customer’s problem. Some of your company’s policies may need to be adjusted!
Tips Redefine “Difficult”. Recognize the value of “Difficult” Customers.”
Redefine “Difficult” View them as “challenging.” View them as needing certain tools/skills that you normally don’t use. View them as an opportunity for you to do unique problem-solving.
Dissatisfied Customers Secure your job! Only 4% will speak up; but, they are at least willing to do what 26 others won’t do (but are thinking): speak up! At least your “so called” dissatisfied customers give you a chance to respond to their complaint!
Adopt the Customer’s Perspective Many in business view the product or service from how they see it, not the unique perspective of the customer. Avoid assuming what the customer knows. Put yourself in the customer’s place.
Don’t assume…..A customer might say that “other” companies can do the job, and, you knowing your company can do it (& knowing how time-consuming it would be)ask for more time, etc)…..How the customer sees this: you could not do what others could do!
Ask yourself… What would you do if you were this customer? How would you see things from their perspective? This might help you in identifying what caused your customer to be dissatisfied.
Identify what the Customer really wantsRemember the customer’s three main desires….
What they want…. Toexpress their emotions. Have their problem solved. To be heard.
Research your industry’s customers The worst mistake you could make is to presume to know your customer’s needs and perceptions, without asking! Conduct satisfaction surveys. Stay current on trends and patterns.
Identify the customer’s concern Take time to understand what it is they are frustrated about and why, i.e., are they short on time, limited in funds, etc.. Lend a listening sympathetic ear-this is maybe all they want!
Responding to the Customer Earn the customer’s confidence. Manage your emotions. Deal with the customer’s emotions. Communicate effectively.
Earn the Customer’s ConfidenceThey will size you up within the first seven seconds, so you must use effective customer service strategies from the outset of that interaction!
Remember to: Select the best service strategy. Project a professional image.
Select the Best Service StrategySay or do nothing-choosing this route will not only cause you to not try and improve your skills, BUT, you will also not become proficient at your job!
Pass the Difficult Customer to Someone else! This will only make the customer more upset; remember the saying “what goes around comes around…” Others may then pass their difficult clients on to you!
Ask for Assistance from Someone If you cannot find the solution for the customer, or feel you do not possess the skills, hand off to someone who you feels does, however, explain why you are handing them over to someone else.
Handle the Situation to the Best of your Ability!! Understand the problem clearly-from THEIR perspective. If you can change your attitude towards your customer, you will listen to them, see them, and feel differently around them.
Handling the situation… Use the tools described in this session. Always be eager to learn new ways to deal with difficult customers. By adjusting your attitude, you can choose how you will react and behave Towards customers-remember…
Handling the situation Perception is EVERYTHING!
Project a Professional Image Appearance-neat, clean, good eye contact, warm, open and friendly stance. Tone of voice-will reflect how you’re feeling-strive to sound calm-practice with friends and family!
Professional Image A few well-chosen words can be music to your customers’ ears-keep a list close by and practice: “ I am so sorry”; “Please, let me help you”, or “Let’s sit down to talk”.
Assert yourself Be confident and direct-not aggressive- otherwise, you will lose credibility! Letters/Email-use proper grammar, punctuation and wording. Never send out an emotionally-charged communique-you cannot take it back!.
Posture Stand tall-no slouching, fidgeting, or distracting behaviors. Slouching and not standing erect can affect your voice intonation and changes how you sound and come across. It can also convey non-interest in the customer’s complaint.
How to be Assertive Be specific and state the facts. Avoid saying “never” & “always.” Control your facial expressions. Keep direct eye contact.
Avoid personalizing customer complaints You risk coming across as defensive and further angering the customer. Remember, the customer is mad at the problem, service or product. You are not part of the problem, BUT you are a part of the solution!
Temper, Temper… Prior to diffusing your customer’s anger, make sure you have your own anger under control. If you find yourself getting angry after most encounters with customers, co-workers or family members, you have an anger issue!
Too Hot to Handle? Get help if you find you cannot check your anger at the door before work or before returning home. Access LifeServices (EAP), a company- sponsored employee, confidential counseling benefit.
Curb your demands Give up your demands that customers “should” “ought to” or “must” act politely…while it would be nice to desire that customers act in a diplomatic fashion, it is futile to demand such behavior and thus, sets us up for anger and frustration! (Thanks to Albert Ellis, Ph.D., father of Rational Emotive Therapy
Albert Ellis, Ph.D. If you analyze your demands logically, you can usually argue yourself out of them and out of your rage. Dispute your demands: “Why is it that customers can’t behave in ways you don’t like?”; “Why they must act as you would like..?”
Albert EllisOnce you can see that your demands (“shoulds”, “have tos”, “musts”) are unreasonable, you can then restate them as realistic preferences..” I want….I wish…I prefer..”“Now, how can I resolve this issue with this very fallible human being?”
Calm thoughts If you can think in this more calming fashion, then even when customers treat you unfairly, you can at least be fair to yourself by not getting yourself riled up in self-defeating anger!
Judge the Customer Fairly We have all acted “jerkish” at one time or another, but have not done so all of the time-same is true for other people. Don’t judge on one instance of acting “jerkish”-judge others fairly as you would do with yourself.
Labeling In labeling others as “difficult people”, we may be doing so in a self-serving manner, i.e., are they being labeled as difficult based on their failure to meet our expectations or demands?
Monitor your Stress Level Customer service representatives were recently ranked along side of police officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers (New York Times) as being within the ten most stressful occupations!
More Findings This stressful position was compounded in organizations that treated their employees poorly. These employees, unfortunately, go on to treat their customers poorly by unloading their frustrations onto them.
Take a Time Out If you feel like you are about to unload onto your customers, take a time out…get another opinion, or assistance from your supervisor. Limit the time out so as to not further frustrate your customer!
Stress Management If you are already engaging in healthy lifestyles including regular exersize, healthy nutrition and meditation, you are way ahead of the pack-this promotes “resilience” and will carry you through in challenging situations.
Deal with the Customer’s Emotions Address emotions first. Help the customer focus. Defuse the customer’s anger. Keep yourself and your customer focused. Set limits on customer behaviors.
Customer Emotions An angry or frustrated customer will not respond easily to logic, so emotions must be addressed first. Say: “I am so sorry that you are upset” or “I understand why you are frustrated.”
Customer Emotions Studies show that if emotions are addressed for about 16 seconds before responding to their complaint, they will usually calm down.
Help them to Focus Ask: “When did you start to notice this problem?” or “When did things start going awry?” Or: “How would you like me to help you solve this problem?” “What would you like to see happen?”
Defuse the Anger Be professional, polite, direct, model the mood you want them to adopt-cool and calm. Involve the customer in the decision-making process by asking for what the customer would do or suggest.
Keep Yourself & Your Customer Focused Do not respond with anger to anger or with stress to stress. Know what you want-know what your customer wants. Pay attention to the customer’s behaviors. Learn to be flexible.
Set Limits on Behaviors If your customer becomes abusive or obnoxious, stop the customer at that point. Follow company policy-if you do not know it-find out NOW! Any threat or hostile action should be reported to management or security immediately.
Set Limits In a calm fashion, say: “I really want to help you, but find it difficult to do so when you use that type of language.” or “I’d like to resolve this-will you allow me to help you?” Make sure you are prepared to deal with potential violence in the workplace.
Communicate Effectively Speak in a way that calms. Build rapport. Send the right nonverbal messages. Ensure your grasp of the problem.
Communication Restate the problem. Show empathy. Encourage the customer to tell you more. Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
Build Rapport Unite with the customer in addressing the problem: ”Let’s see what we can do to resolve this issue.” Mirror the customer-if they are standing, then stand with them; if sitting, sit with them and always making eye contact while conversing with them.
Send the Right Nonverbal Messages Seven percent of our message is conveyed verbally; 55% with body language and 38% with tone of voice. It is usually not what you say, HOW you say it! Tone of voice: Clarity, calmness, and confidence.
Ensure your Grasp of the Problem Listening-requires concentration! Focused Questioning-getting specifics, closed ended-questions, i.e., requires “yes” or “no” response. Open-ended questions help too- i.e., getting their opinion: “How did that product work for you?”
Summary Strive for a win-win situation. This is about enjoining others as people first and recognizing that everyone has an “off day” once in awhile. If we do not step up to the plate to resolve issues in a professional and friendly manner, the competition will!
Summary “Seek first to understand.” “Walk a mile in their shoes.” “Treat others as they would want to be treated.”
Call LifeServices EAP for support! 1-800-822-4847 or 330-329-3767
Good Luck Enjoy life and every encounter life gives you!
References Ellis, Albert, Ph.D., and Lange, Arthur, How to Keep People From Pushing Your Buttons. Crowe, Sandra, M.A., Since Strangling Isn’t An Option.