How would you deal with a difficult customer

Difficult customers are part of customer service. Nothing trains your public speaking and interpersonal skills like challenging conversations with angry customers. The communication scientist Paul Watzlawick was of the opinion that communication is not only based on the Factual level expires, but also on the Relationship level. You can use this knowledge to get through disgruntled customers Compassion and conflict skills to get them back on board quickly.

In our practical tips, we will show you how you can smooth things over if the worst comes to the worst.

1) Active listening

The first step in The direction of de-escalation is active listening. Above all, this means letting the customers finish speaking. As they describe their problem, demonstrate your attention with eye contact and an occasional nod.

It is also advisable to repeat customer statements for understanding. An example: "Do I understand you correctly that ..."

It shows that you are listening with genuine interest and reassuring yourself with customers.

2) Don't be justified or provoked

Of course, it is difficult to let a provocation or even an insult roll off. But it's worth it. Because when you start to discuss, the fronts harden. And your goal is a long way off.

If you stay calm, however, you can use your Stay on course towards clarification. This will ensure a productive conversation and avoid a heated debate.

Even if you have a different opinion in private or are convinced that you are right, you should not engage in discussions with angry customers. Because appeasement and balance are your top priority, it's not about winning an argument.

3) Don't take complaints personally

Try to make yourself aware that you are representing your company, not a private person.

This awareness of your role helps you to maintain a professional distance from the conversation.

Should you find it difficult to maintain a diplomatic direction, consider the ramifications for your business.

Because if you act unprofessionally, deeply angry customers will tell others about their negative experiences with you and the company. This may cost you future business.

4) Show understanding

When this type of situation escalates, it is usually because customers are feel misunderstood. You should therefore consciously influence the atmosphere of the conversation and present yourself as a partner instead of an opponent.

Phrases like “I can understand that you are angry” relax the situation. They express understanding and agree with customers (at least for the time being).

Try your Show compassion. To do this, verbally put yourself in the customer's shoes. Example: "If I were you, I would be angry too".

Also "We" formulations create a better mood: “We'll find a way”. The fronts are resolved here: the customers and they appear as a team that solves the problem together.

5) Asking forgiveness

In terms of diplomacy, it is beneficial to yourself to apologize in person or on behalf of the company. Even if it's not entirely how you feel, apologizing can go a long way with customers. A simple “I'm sorry” can be of great help in your conversation.

To do this, your facial expression and voice should be sincere. Because a half-hearted apology only drives customers further on the barricades.

You should also signal your willingness to help customers solve their problem: "I will do my best to help you".

6) Admit mistakes

To err is human. If you've made a mistake, put your head under your arm and admit it. Because that has a disarming effect and takes the wind out of the customer's sails.

Avoid saying "I apologize". Instead, choose the phrase “I apologize”. Because that gives customers the opportunity To grant your request and to reconcile.

7) The art of wise choice of words

Dealing with difficult customers is about Subtleties in tone. If you are unable to fulfill a wish, you should be careful about doing so.

Don't apologize for how customers feel, because that seems condescending. Instead of a sentence like “I'm sorry that you are angry that we cannot offer you a complaint”, you should be careful with the choice of words and remain objective: “I am sorry that we cannot offer you a complaint”.

Such small differences can quickly determine the success or failure of your customer meetings.

8) Finish conversations on a positive note

Even if the end result is not optimal, you should part on good terms and offer customers to look after them personally on their next visit. That expresses appreciation. It also shows you are genuinely interested in avoiding another bankruptcy.

9) Offer consultation

You too will come to your limits at some point. If the situation is too charged, you should interrupt the conversation and resume it at a later time. This gives customers time to calm down.

A possible formulation for this purpose is: “May I ask you to give me some time to think the whole thing over? I would like to meet you. Can I call you this afternoon? "

We all have difficult customers every now and then. Anyone who sees this as a challenge has great opportunities to learn on a communicative level. And remember: These de-escalation strategies can not only be used on a professional level, they also offer you added value in private conflicts.

Header image: Tero Vesalainen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Originally published June 19, 2019, updated October 30, 2019

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