Dealing with difficult customers can take up a significant amount of time and effort, making it important for companies to come up with policies that enable their employees to defuse these situations as diplomatically as possible. These policies should center on impressing on customers that the company’s representatives are able and willing to both take responsibility for the issue and to resolve it satisfactorily. If policies of this type are pursued rigorously it can lead to increased client loyalty and improved client retention.
Simply sympathizing with an angry client is not enough. You need to offer solutions that will enable you to resolve the situation. When doing so, try to offer multiple potential solutions if possible. This sends a message to the customer that you are willing to go beyond what might be expected to make sure they are satisfied. When the customer chooses the solution they prefer, they become part of the process of solving the crisis.
If a customer is particularly difficult to mollify, you may want to set up a meeting to discuss solutions. This demonstrates to the client that you are committed to resolving the issue and makes it more likely they will they will accept one of the solutions you propose. The face-to-face nature of a meeting offers a chance to personalize the interaction with the client and dial down the emotion.
Remain Positive when Dealing with Difficult Customers
Don’t give in to the temptation to match your customer’s mood. If they are angry, becoming angry yourself will only worsen the situation. Stay positive and let the customer know that you are committed to solving the problem. A key to staying positive is to avoid taking the customer’s complaints personally. Remind yourself that this is a business issue and doesn’t reflect upon you personally. If you stay calm and retain your positivity, it demonstrates to the customer that their emotion doesn’t affect your attitude. Once they understand this, it increases the chances of defusing their anger as they see you are focused on resolving the problem.
To help keep a conversation with a difficult customer productive, use words and phrases designed to keep things calm. This can include apologizing, taking responsibility for the issue, and letting them know that you will be happy to help find a solution. Letting the customer know that you are committed to finding a solution helps to focus their attention on determining what that solution should be. A positive attitude can be infectious – after the customer has had time to vent, if you are relentlessly upbeat about finding a solution that attitude can help make the customer take a more positive approach as well.
Set Yourself Apart from the Competition
If necessary, use creative measures to keep the customer happy. For instance, you might bring in an outside expert to show the client that you are committed to resolving the issue. You can also bring in top management from time to time to demonstrate that your company is dedicated to customer service.
Proposing a solution which goes above and beyond what might be considered contractually necessary is another way to help resolve the problem and bolster customer loyalty. It also gives you a chance to turn a negative into a positive. If a difficult customer finds that you are willing to go to extreme lengths to make sure they are satisfied may well become a highly loyal customer. Thus, policies that allow your reps to effectively deal with customers of this type can serve the purpose of customer retention as well as helping to solve an immediate crisis.
Take Responsibility for the Issue
When a customer is angry over something, there are a variety of steps you can take to defuse their anger. Taking responsibility for the issue is key to successfully resolving the situation and, hopefully, retaining the customer. The following steps can be used in this process:
- Apologize: Saying “I’m sorry” helps calm a customer, even if your company is not at fault. “I’m sorry this happened,” or “I apologize for the delay” or similar language shows that you are willing to acknowledge the client’s distress. Apologizing helps resolve an issue, as it sets the stage for moving the conversation from the “blame” phase to the solution “phase.”
- Empathize: In some cases, a difficult customer is just as concerned with having their distress acknowledged as they are with having their issue resolved. By telling them that you understand that they have a reason to be upset and empathizing with them, you can help to lessen their anger and pave the way to dealing with the problem.
- Accept responsibility: As the company’s representative, you should let the customer know that you will take charge of dealing with the issue they are experiencing. Taking responsibility in this way helps to dial down their anger as the focus turns to ways to fix whatever problem it is they are facing.
- Offer a solution: In some cases, providing a solution is the easiest part of dealing with a difficult customer. More time is likely to be spent in dealing with their anger and getting them to calm down enough to move on to the point where problem resolution can occur. However, you should always be prepared to offer a solution of some sort. Failing this, the customer’s complaint is likely to become chronic, causing the company to lose business.
End the Conversation on a Proactive Note
Once you’ve come up with a solution that mollifies the customer, make sure to end the conversation positively. This could involve saying “is there anything else I can help you with?” or “does that take care of the issue?” or something similar that enables you to make sure that you have in fact dealt with the issue. Ending a conversation in this manner demonstrates to the customer your willingness to do everything it takes to make sure they are happy with the outcome.
Combining a positive attitude to solving the customer’s issue with a proactive ending helps promote customer loyalty and retention. If your customers find that angry complaints are met by a polite resolve to do what it takes to solve their problems, it should give them confidence that your company’s customer service is up to the challenge of dealing with even the most challenging situations.
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