June 12, 2023

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Your organization’s commitment to managing and delivering great customer experiences is key to your success. By learning how to deal with difficult customers, you can create a better experience even in the most difficult and challenging situations. 

This is a topic that should be addressed as your team develops a customer experience management strategy, which drives the growth of countless organizations across a wide variety of industries. 

Delivering great customer experience (CX) leads to increased loyalty, lower churn, better online reviews, more referrals, positive word-of-mouth marketing, and higher-value customers.

However, not all interactions with your customers will be smooth sailing. Crossed arms, deep and heavy sighs, pensive frowns, and sometimes even threats to leave negative online reviews: these are telltale signs that your customer isn’t happy.

Learning how to deal with difficult customers is a crucial skill that every business owner, brand manager, and employee must master. 

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

By following the strategies below and maintaining a customer-focused approach in all interactions between your brand and the customer, you can turn challenging situations into opportunities to improve brand reputation, strengthen customer relationships, and deliver great experiences. 

Remain Calm in Every Interaction

When dealing with a difficult customer, it’s essential to stay cool, calm, and collected. Most of the time, the customer is frustrated due to a problem or issue they encountered; they are reacting to a negative experience. Even though it may sometimes feel personal, the customer is not mad at you (or your employees). 

Train your team to remain calm in every interaction and show empathy to the difficult customer by acknowledging their emotions. This approach should help defuse a difficult or tense situation and establish a starting point for constructive dialogue and resolution. 

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Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a great skill to master when learning how to deal with difficult customers. ​​It involves focusing your full attention on the customer, understanding what they are saying, and responding in a thoughtful manner.

When they express their concerns and frustrations, listen carefully without interruption. It’s also important to demonstrate that you genuinely understand and empathize with their perspective by paraphrasing their comments and summarizing their concerns.

Be Solutions-Oriented

Instead of dwelling on the problem, try to shift the conversation toward finding a solution. Learning how to deal with difficult customers requires the ability to propose actionable steps that lead to a better customer experience. Offer alternative options if necessary, and be willing to compromise (offering refunds, vouchers, exchange, etc.) when the situation calls for it. 

When your team is solutions-oriented and committed to resolving the issue, the customer will feel more valued and willing to work with you toward a satisfactory outcome.

Provide a Channel for Leaving Private Feedback

It’s smart to communicate with the difficult customer and provide information on where they can share feedback privately. This allows your team to resolve specific issues without these issues becoming negative online reviews. 

Encouraging private feedback can mean something as simple as providing full contact information (name, email, phone, etc.), distributing customer satisfaction surveys, or running an email or SMS campaign to solicit customer feedback. 

If the difficult customer does end up writing a harsh public review, be sure you have a process in place for how to respond to negative reviews in a timely manner. 

Proactively Monitor Listings, Reviews, and Social

Smart customer experience management is proactive rather than reactive. This means you don’t wait for a phone call, an email, or an online review to resolve the customer’s problem or meet their requirements. 

To prevent difficult customers from damaging your brand reputation, have a system in place for monitoring your brand’s local listings, online reviews, and social media profiles. Investing in online reputation management software should help you drive efficiency, particularly if you’re managing a brand with hundreds or thousands of business locations. 

When your brand becomes truly proactive and intuitive, you’ll be able to handle difficult customers easily, see through customers’ eyes, and better understand their needs, wants, and expectations.

Learn from the Experience and Act on Insights

Continuous learning and improvement are crucial for long-term success. And your organization’s interactions with difficult customers can serve as a powerful opportunity for growth and improvement. 

Take time to reflect on each situation. Analyze unsolicited feedback and act on the insights you glean from this feedback. Develop and refine strategies to prevent similar issues in the future. Based on the outcome of your dealings with difficult customers, you can identify areas of improvement for your business processes, policies, and products. 

Final Thoughts

Learning how to deal with difficult customers can be challenging. But by approaching these types of interactions with patience, empathy, and a problem-solving mindset, you can recover potential detractors and deliver exceptional customer experiences that set your brand apart.

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