Being a topical issue, handling a difficult customer will always be experienced in the business line of work. One of the more common sights you encounter which shows that a customer is getting frustrated crossed arms, heavy sighs, short replies.
Worse, these physical signs show they’re losing interest in what you’re saying, and your shot at keeping their business might be fading fast.
Difficult and even angry customers aren’t expressing frustration with you all the time. In some instances, their emotions are tied to external situations and psychological stimuli. What will always make you stand out is when you put your great communication skills to work, the ability to read the situation and use some of the key tips on managing difficult customers to save your customer from running away.
Practice reflective listening
When a customer is told “I understand,” by the service provider, the customer most times will get more agitated because the terms will not make you feel better.
Furthermore, such broad statements do not accomplish anything except infuriate the customer.
Reflective listening as a solution will cause you to understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their words and their body language. Then, respond by reflecting on the thoughts and feelings you heard back to your customer.
A typical example with a customer can go like this:
Customer: “I’m frustrated because we have a limited budget and you’re unwilling to offer us a discount.”
Customer Success Manager: “So, what I’m hearing is that our pricing is a barrier for your business. Your budget is tight, and I’m not offering a discount that meets your needs. Is that correct?”
If you’ve adequately understood their sentiment, move on. If not, say, “Tell me more, so I can better understand.”
Never promise you’ll fix the situation because you might not be able to. Your goal in this moment is to make your customer feel heard and valued.
Consider mental heuristic/shortcut.
A mind shortcut helps you make quick, efficient decisions based on how you feel toward the person, place, or situation you’re considering. Simply put, it’s the fact that we all made decisions and judgments based on our worldviews and experiences. It’s our bias.
In these situations, objective facts carry little weight. Instead, we run the decision or situation through our minds and develop our own opinions based on what we already know.
Tap Into The Beginner’s Mind.
The beginner’s mind is a strategy of approaching every situation as if you were a beginner. When you adopt this way of thinking, you enter every conversation with the “don’t know” mind, which keeps you from prejudging a customer or their situation. It also encourages you to live without nagging thoughts like:
• The customer should have already known they wouldn’t have a budget until next quarter.
• The customer should have read my email about their discount expiration.
• The customer should not have assumed I would be available for weekly consultations.
“Shoulds” put your mind on the defensive and jeopardise the productivity of the conversation before it even begins.
Approaching the discussion from a point of balance also means you let go of being an expert. Sure, you’re an expert in your product/service, and you might be an expert in customer service, but you’re not an expert in this customer, their situation, or the conversation you’re currently engaging in.
Let go of fear
Fear of a negative outcome drives many of our reactions. Commonly, fear makes us want to control things. If a customer is being difficult, we’re afraid to challenge them because we might risk the relationship.
If they express displeasure with your timeline or pricing structure, we’re afraid because we might not be able to fix the situation.
When engaging with a difficult customer, your job is to listen, understand, and discern the next steps not to immediately produce a solution.
So, instead of apologising, slapping together a mediocre fix, or validating feelings, say, “It’s unfortunate this happened. I’m aware of how this is affecting your business, and I appreciate your patience as I work to resolve this matter.”
Chunk the problem
Chunking is the process of taking one big problem and breaking it into several smaller, more manageable portions. These small portions are easier for us to tackle, and make us more willing to begin dealing with the issue at hand. Many people use chunking to organise their daily tasks. It’s equally helpful when managing challenging problems.
For instance, does your customer always have a reason why they can’t set up their account and get started using your business platform or tools? At your next meeting, ask them to help you break down each of the final steps you need to take to get things moving.
Simply seeing each task chunked can make it easier for your customer to digest what’s left to do.
Remember, anger is natural
Ever throw out a price or time investment required, and watch your customer become frustrated, maybe even angry, at how high it is? Or maybe you’ve been on the other side. A customer tells you how much they want to pay for your new product upgrade, and it’s so low it makes you mad. The fact of the matter is emotions are naturally wired into humans. In short, anger is our evolutionary way of bargaining.
When faced with an angry customer, avoid the (natural) tendency to justify your position. Instead, understand that they’re merely feeling undervalued and attempting to control the situation.
Take your customer’s frustration seriously, but not personally. Remain calm. And actively listen to what your customer says.
When you’ve confirmed you understand their frustration, thank them for communicating it, and tell them you’ll get back to them with a solution.
When a customer’s angry, no solution may make them feel better. Give them time to cool off, consult with your manager on the best way forward.
Keep calm and carry on
Conflict is a part of the business. How you react under fire impacts the future of your customer relationships.
The adage, “The customer is always right” still rings true. You have far more to lose by taking the low road and stooping to a customer’s level of hostility. Treating someone with disrespect can reflect negatively on you and your company, so reputation management should always be top of mind. Remember, people will often mirror the emotional signals you emit. If you respond with hostility and anger, don’t expect friendliness and understanding in return.
Robert Gonye is a business growth expert and influencer. He writes in his personal capacity.For comments and views: [email protected] robert_gonye; robert_gonye