Handling Very Difficult Customers – Training course and newsletter information

by ltconsulting on September 29, 2011

Our dealing with difficult people courses are one of our popular courses as it effectively demonstrates how to neutralise problem situations in the workplace. It covers a wide range of scenarios that occur in the workplace such as; working with aggressive people, disagreeing with others, handling bullies at work, dealing with ignorant people at work and working with unreasonable people. This course will cover mediation and will show delegates how valuable managing and mediating conflict is when managing or handling difficult staff/employee(s). The dealing with difficult people at work course also provides useful information for working with a difficult boss/manager and guidance on how to deal with bullying in the workplace.

Top tips for handling all difficult customers

  1. Remain calm yourself
  2. Don’t take it personally
  3. Ask relevant questions
  4. Give reasons for all actions/requests
  5. Listen closely to understand the problem
  6. Agree what the problem is without blaming the customer
  7. Restate content or feeling
  8. Propose an action plan/suggest options and then do it!
  9. Remain courteous
  10. Show in your voice that you care

What to do with an angry customer – your fault

  1. Listen – so you will understand the problem or concern
  2. Relate – apologise in a general way or in a broad sense
  3. Propose an Action Plan/Suggest Options – this will help to solve the problem

Examples: How to Relate

“Mrs Smiley, I understand how you must feel.”
“I’m sorry about the confusion.”
“Mr. Welch, I don’t blame you for being upset. Let’s see if we can correct the problem.”

Note that in the above examples, the apology is very general. You can always apologise for the situation or the confusion etc. without admitting that you or your company were wrong. Most customers will find the general apology acceptable.

When the customer has a legitimate complaint sometimes it’s best to relate by agreeing:

“Mrs. Johnson, you’re right. You were promised a call-back yesterday and we didn’t call. Let’s start again and get this problem solved.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Valdez I promised you delivery by yesterday and didn’t make it. This time I promise we’ll get it right.”

When a customer complains, offer your concern that they are upset, but do not take aggressive or hostile comments personally. Often an angry caller will display a lot of emotion. When this happens, do your best to remain calm and avoid getting caught up in the emotion.

Once you have done this, listen closely, relate and then offer an action plan. Make sure your action plan is one you can deliver. The action plan should be clear and concise.

“I’ll check with accounting and call you back with an answer before 4:00 o’clock today.”
“Let’s do this. I’ll call the technician and find out what time you can expect her and then I’ll call you. Will that be all right?”

What to do when the client won’t listen to you?

  • Explain the consequences of their current behaviour “it’s going to take us a lot longer tosort this out if you don’t give me your account details”
  •  Give them better options than the ones they are suggesting “if you let me speak to themI’ll be able to sort this out much quicker than you”
  •  Explain that your inability to act is not a ploy and it would be easier for you to “grant themtheir request but you are caught in the middle”
  •  Tell them you understand their frustration and that you would feel exactly the same
  •  Explain that “if you had the power to give them what they wanted you would do it”
  •  Give them a choice of behaviours if they become aggressive

“If it were up to me Mr Jones I would issue you the ticket now as the last thing I wish now is to be shouted at by an angry customer. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing I can physically do now to update the booking. The system will update itself by 4pm and I’ve put in a request for this. The only thing I can promise you now is a call back at 4pm to let you know what is happening then.”

I’m finding it difficult to concentrate if you keep shouting at me. I’ll sort this out but I must ask you to help me by staying calm and giving me the reference number. If you choose not to I’ve got no choice but to terminate this call. Now, what would you like me to do?”

What to do when dealing with an abusive customer

  • Show understanding to the problem
  • Let the customer know that their language will not help the situation
  • Relate to them personally
  • Say something like, “I know this is a problem for you but I can only help if you will let me” (an empathetic assertion)
  • Encourage the talker to talk out feelings of aggression (the longer the customer talks the less aggressive they will become)
  • If you cannot calm the individual, arrange for a break (e.g. tell them you will ring back or
  • that you are going to fetch a document; look up a reference number etc).

What to do with a non responsive customer

  • Map out the call i.e. let the customer aware of what you’re going to do during the call or
  • what will happen after you have finished speaking. This puts customers more at ease
  • as they can see what will happen next.
  • Ask open questions
  • Respond favourably to their answers
  • Ask closed questions frequently to see if the customer is still with you

What to do with an emotional customer

  • Ask questions to uncover the reality of the situation
  • Show understanding and sympathy, if appropriate
  • Avoid getting caught up in their emotion
  • Restate the cause; the problem as the customer sees it and the feelings associated
  • with the problem
  • Let them know you agree with their right to have such feelings “you’re right to be upset
  • about this”
  • Ask ‘How’ questions to get the person to a problem solving mode
  • Move to ‘Action plan’ as soon as you can
  • Try to manage the result – not the emotion

What to do with a confused customer

  • Slow down
  • Show empathy
  • Know your systems and find ways of describing your forms and procedures that are
  • simple but non-patronising
  • Encourage the customer at each stage with a simple ‘thank you’

What to do with a verbally demanding customer

  • Recognise that the customer is very stressed/distressed and this is causing the
  • aggression
  • Raise your assertiveness level to show the customer that you are not intimidated but
  • don’t match their aggression level
  • Explain that their language will not help them or their situation by outlining the
  • consequences
  • Show willingness to solve the problem both verbally and vocally
  • Reframe the context of the language
  • Give them options
  • Show understanding to the problem
  • Relate to them personally

What to do when the customer demands to speak ‘to your boss’

  • Explain that you would be willing to help them if they could give you more information
  • Ask open questions to uncover the problem
  • What to do with an obstructive customer
  • Ask questions to find out the root of the problem
  • Summarise the problem as the customer sees it
  • Show understanding
  • Ask if you both could start again
  • Show willingness to solve the problem

What to do with a customer who you believe has behavioural problems

  • Recognise their pattern of behaviour early and break the cycle
  • Be clear and explain clearly what you wish them to do (or stop doing)
  • Set standards of behaviour and be assertive in your delivery
  • Show understanding not sympathy

Delegates who attend our Dealing With Difficult People training courses will:

Other related courses include assertiveness skills, mediation skills, negotiation skills and communication skills for managers. Click here if you need more information regarding Dealing With Difficult People training courses or contact Total Success who will be delighted to talk to you via e-mail.

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