Customer service work can be very rewarding. However, it can be challenging when difficult customers present themselves. It is important to remember that the difficult customer is not angry with you. The customer is angry at what you represent which is the company or agency. Following a few easy steps will help you handle difficult customers effectively.
- Skill level:
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Listen to the customer. Allow the customer to vent. Keep quiet throughout the venting process. Be sure the customer knows you are listening. Frequently acknowledge the customer's statements. For example, use statements like "I see" or "I understand" to let the customer know you are paying attention.
Ask the customer if there is additional information concerning his situation. Sometimes the customer may be so emotionally involved he forgets to provide pertinent facts.
Determine what the customer would consider an acceptable outcome. Don't promise anything. You may not be able to comply.
Inform the customer of what the next steps will be and give the customer options. For example, if you are able, ask the customer if you can return the call when the situation is resolved. This will give the customer time to calm down and it will enhance your credibility once you've followed through. If you're unable to return the call, ask the customer to hold the line.
Don't make promises you can't fulfil. For example, if the customer is placed on hold, never tell the customer it'll be "one second" before you return. Instead, check the line with the customer frequently.
Resolve the problem within the appropriate guidelines. Understand that every customer will not be satisfied with the resolution.
Prepare to face the dissatisfied customer. Have alternatives available, such as bumping the matter up to a supervisor if necessary or requested.
Explain how and why you came to the resolution you provided. Minimise the use of words like "policy" or "rule". It may provoke the customer to debate.
Close your conversation positively. Confirm what you have done and will do for the customer going forward. Give the time in which you can get those things done and be sure to meet your commitments.
Consider what else you can offer the customer to improve her situation. Sometimes this can be as simple as providing your direct line. Be careful here. If you weren't able to meet the customer's expected outcome, she may reiterate that expectation as a response.
Follow up with the customer to be sure the issue is resolved. Ask the customer if there is anything more you can provide. If possible, provide your direct contact information.
Tips and warnings
- Be patient. Detach yourself. You're the expert. Much of what the customer says is simply anger and/or personal perceptions.
- Don't use words such as "company policy, rule, or procedure". The customer will highlight how these rules are ineffective, hence the situation that resulted in her frustration.
- Do not become confrontational with the customer.
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