How to Deal with Difficult Customers
Last updated February 21, 2023
If any aspect of your job requires customer service, you will likely run into a difficult customer from time to time. Difficult customers come in all variations, including: angry, impatient, intimidating, demanding, indecisive, and overly needy. No matter the case, quality customer service is always your first priority when dealing with a challenging customer. In moments of conflict, you represent not only yourself, but also your company. How you handle a situation will make an impact on how customers feel about your company’s brand and whether or not they remain customers.
You cannot control anyone else’s behavior; however, you can influence how customers respond to you. Use the following tips to help guide you the next time you’re faced with a difficult customer:
Maintain your professionalism at all times.
Get control over yourself. Never argue with customers. As a professional employee, you must always strive to be the polite and calming voice of reason to deescalate any situation. Your behavior should never become volatile, aggressive, disrespectful or rude, even if the customer is displaying those same behaviors toward you. If you find yourself losing control, step away from the situation or ask a supervisor to take over. Remember, the only thing worse than losing a good customer is losing your job over a reaction in the heat of the moment.
Let your customer vent. They want their problem acknowledged and understood. The most frustrating thing a customer can experience is feeling like they’re being ignored or undervalued. Maintain eye contact and adjust your body language to show that you are fully focused on what’s happening. Pay close attention and occasionally repeat or paraphrase what you hear the customer say to demonstrate attentiveness.
Show the customer you care.
Demonstrate some hustle. If you have to look up an order number, exchange an item, or call a manager, do so quickly. Give the impression that your only concern is resolving your customer’s problem. Take your facial expressions and body language into consideration and make sure you’re giving off positive, supportive and friendly energy.
Do not blame the customer for their problem.
You’ve heard the phrase, the customer is always right, right? Well, once you’ve dealt with a difficult customer or two, you come to find this well-known standard is not always valid. The important thing to remember is that regardless of whether or not your customer is right, they need to believe that they are. Try using “I” statements instead of “You” statements. For example, instead of saying “You shouldn’t have lost your receipt if you wanted to return this item,” try instead “I need a receipt to complete this return.”
Try to resolve the problem, or get someone who can.
Even if solving the customer’s problem isn’t listed among your job duties, never give the impression that there’s nothing you can do. Find out the problem and if it’s within your power, solve it. If you can’t fix the problem on your own, find someone who can, quickly. Communicate to the customer that another employee who can better resolve the issue is on the way.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Never guarantee or promise something to a customer that you do not have the direct power to make happen. If you have a solution but are unsure of whether or not it’s possible, double check with your supervisor before offering it to the customer.
Don’t take it personally.
Often times, customers can’t reach the “boss” or figure in charge who could immediately fix their problem. As a result, the chain of command has funneled them to you. Therefore, you may end up receiving a lot of the frustration, anger, and emotion meant for someone else simply because you are the first (or at times, only) person the customer can communicate with. Don’t take it as a personal attack on you, your character, or your job performance.
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