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3 Tips For Handling Difficult Customers

By | 05.11.11

It doesn’t matter how amazing your product is or what level of customer service your employees offer, at some point, you will run across difficult customers. Since every customer is crucial to the success of your business, it’s important to develop strategies for winning over the difficult ones. When done right, today’s difficult customers could become tomorrow’s raving fans.

Tip 1: Go beyond empathy

We’ve all heard about the importance of empathizing with upset or difficult customers. For some businesses, empathy is a means to having the customer perceive them as being on the same side of the issue instead of feeling the “us versus them” mentality. When employed by a skilled employee who seems to care about the customer, it’s a powerful technique.

Of course, when dealing with the most difficult customers, empathy alone isn’t always enough. Instead of merely saying the words to placate them, listening and really trying to understand is the key to handling difficult customers effectively. Even when a customer completely misunderstands the situation, taking the time to see it from their point of view will always work better than interrupting with facts.

Tip 2: Search for compromise

One thing that can set difficult customers apart from upset customers is the demand for seemingly unreasonable remedies. They may want full refunds, extensive credits or services your business simply doesn’t offer. While you can refuse such requests, seeking out a compromise can work wonders on a customer who’s unwilling to concede defeat. The key is to look for something you can offer to compensate them for their inconvenience without damaging the company’s bottom line.

Possible compromises may include:

  • Advanced notification of changes to their account
  • Partial refunds or credits
  • VIP treatment of their account going forward

Tip 3: Mean what you say

Have you ever noticed that you can offer all the concessions at your disposal to difficult customers and they never seem to merit the same response as a simple apology? This is because sincerity can be a rare commodity in the business world. Everyone understands that mistakes happen, but customers grow disenchanted with businesses that rush to damage control instead of offering a heartfelt “I’m sorry.”

Whether you’ll offer an apology or assurances that the issue won’t happen again, it’s only meaningful if you mean the words you’re saying. If you don’t, not only will your customer see right through you, but you’ll never have another opportunity to make things right with them through your words alone instead of financial concessions. As a rule, mean what you say and keep your promises to keep your customers happy.

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