Difficult customers are a fact of life for most people in service industries, with some customers so well known to staff that no one wants to serve them. Whilst dealing with difficult customers can be a very trying experience at times – on the phone, in person, via email or social media platforms, etc. – it also presents opportunities.
It can be difficult, if not outright impossible, to see an opportunity when you’re being berated by an angry customer for an incident that had nothing to do with you, but it’s still important to remain calm, speak politely, listen carefully and look for a solution.
A solution may not always present itself, but sometimes it will. And the best way to identify a solution is to not lose your temper, or even curse silently, but rather to keep your cool, speak to the customer in a calm and polite manner, and listen to what they have to say. Don’t believe this will always be easy, but it can work. Not every time, but often enough to justify the effort. And the rewards are worth the effort involved.
But they’re not the only strategies you and your staff can apply when dealing with difficult customers. There are actually many strategies that can be used to handle customers who present difficulties, including the following strategies that the expert call handlers at Netcall Solutions often employ when managing our clients’ call handling needs.
As one of the UK’s most trusted call centres, we’re in a unique position to help businesses understand the importance of dealing with difficult customers in the right manner at all times. Our solid reputation speaks for itself.
Let the Customer Communicate Their Feelings
Unless a difficult customer is offensive or threatening, allowing them to communicate how they feel, i.e. vent a little, is often the best way to get the situation back on track. If you try to calm them down by speaking over them, you’ll likely only succeed in exacerbating the situation and making them even more irate. This reduces the likelihood of you finding a way of resolving the situation in a hospitable manner.
When an experienced call handler gets a call from an irate customer, they don’t try to calm them down, they listen attentively and let the customer talk themselves out. Once the customer has finished communicating their feelings, i.e. ranting and raving, they then apologise for the way they feel about the business. This helps to build empathy between the call handler and the customer.
Showing empathy, whether over the phone, in person or via written communications, is an essential part of diffusing a volatile situation with a difficult customer. Naturally, it helps if you’re showing genuine empathy, though there will be times when it’s very difficult to muster up any empathy at all for the customer, especially if they seem to have a problem with you personally.
You can show empathy with body language, with the tone of your voice, or with your words. It also helps if you repeat what the customer says from time to time, as this makes the customer feel like they’re being understood and their concerns are valid.
Imagine the Conversation Is Taking Place in a Crowded Room
Sometimes the conversation may actually be taking place with an audience of customers and staff members in a crowded room, but even if it’s taking place over the phone, imagining that a large audience is present is a top strategy to use.
By imagining that others are there listening and watching, many experienced call handlers find they’re better able to keep calm and that they’re in greater control of their emotions. Consequently, they’re better able to influence the dynamics of the conversation in their favour.
If you imagine other customers and your colleagues are listening to the conversation and watching your body language and the way you react, this can serve as a buffer that keeps you in line with the behaviour expected of you as a stellar employee. It also prevents the situation getting out of hand from your actions and that’s essential.
Understand It Isn’t Personal
Sometimes a customer’s anger is personal and directed at the staff member whom they believe is responsible for their problems, but most of the time this isn’t the case. When a customer service agent or a call handler feels they’re being attacked on a personal level, it changes the emotional dynamics of the situation negatively. This frequently leads to preventable problems that can exacerbate the situation further.
Remind yourself that it’s a business related issue and not a personal issue that the customer has. Seeing that they don’t know you personally, they really can’t have any genuine animosity towards you on a personal level, so keep to the issue at hand as best you can and don’t take it to heart. Anger is the most unintelligent emotion we as human being possess and there’s no need to use it just because someone else is.
Outsource Customer Service
It simply isn’t possible for most businesses to outsource all their customer service processes, but it’s often possible to outsource some, like overflow call handling and message taking, to an established, UK-based call centre like Netcall Solutions.
Our experienced call handlers are well-versed in strategies that help them to diffuse problematic situations over the phone, providing your staff with more time to focus on working out a solution to the problem that’s agreeable to all parties involved.
Naturally, they can’t negotiate a resolution with a customer over the phone on behalf of your company. However, they can play an important role by listening attentively to the caller and allowing them to communicate their feelings, by showing empathy and building a rapport with them, and by not allowing the situation to get out of hand.