Proven Techniques to Handle Difficult Customers
Handling difficult customers either face to face or on the phone can be an intimidating or challenging task especially if it is charged with irrational statements and emotion. Your natural reaction would be to feel defensive and try explaining why the situation occurred. This kind of reaction will only make the situation go worse.
According to research, for every twenty-five customer complaining, only one expresses feelings and thoughts directly to the company that is responsible for the problem. The rest of unhappy customers will not contact you instead will tell others regarding their unpleasant experience. Often, this comes with a compounding effect and there can be hundreds of prospective clients with negative perception about your company but you won't know the damage it can bring to your credibility and losing sales opportunities.
Advice on properly dealing with difficult customers
- Do not take it personally: When you listen to a customer complaint, you can become emotionally involved making you feel hurt which turns into anger. These can be warning signals that you are defensively reacting instead of responding to the customer in a calm way. Such behavior will show up in the tone of your voice and speech rate, which make your customer think you lost control. Instead of taking it personally, welcome the complaint and seeing it as an opportunity the customer gives you to fix their problem. Customers who do not complain will not come back either and chances are, they will spread bad news about the company you are representing.
- Acknowledging the customer: This means recognizing them with real gratitude. This is a stepping stone in taking control. Start by breathing slower and deeper as it allows your voice to be calm which will then project credibility and warmth.
- Listen actively and empathize: The sad news is that a lot of customer relationships and sales opportunities are lost because of poor listening. This can be a huge cost to any business. Active listening is about putting your full concentration on what the customer feels or says. Also, it requires you to be patient enough without interrupting even if what the customer tries to say is incorrect or the right person that is supposed to handle it is not you.
- Ask questions: This will present an opportunity for you to take control, reduce the frustration or anger of the customer and to build rapport with them.
- Look for a solution: When you have all the information you need, you will be in a position to solve the problem of the customer. It can sometimes be as easy as providing a credit or refund but there are also times when it can be more complex than you first thought.
- Follow up: It is non common for a complaining customer to receive follow up to check if they are still unhappy. This can be simply done by making a phone call or sending a thank you card in email.
Basics of Active Listening
- Listen to the information is about making conscious effort to listen as well as tune into what is being said.
- Understanding the information and interpreting it accurately may involve paraphrasing to make sure you have completely understood what the customer said. Understanding the feelings of the customer and read between the lines or figure out what the customers are really saying.
- Evaluate the information instead of jumping into conclusions. This is important whether or not you agree with what the customer states.
- Finally, respond to the information. Both your verbal and non-verbal reaction should be in harmony and communicate that you have paid attention, understood and assessed what the customer tells you. This creates mutual understanding.
If the complaint has been handled pretty well, chances are they will come back to you and buy from you again. If you are a new company, you may need some training for your staff on dealing with angry customers. There are many companies out there that can exactly provide you customer service training, coaching, sales training and the likes.