Anyone can be nice to nice customers. There's almost no skill involved in that. What separates the professionals from the amateurs is the ability to manage "difficult" customers.
Customers can be “difficult” (angry, upset, frustrated) for various reasons. Most of the time it’s because of something someone did, or failed to do. Regardless of whether the anger is justified or not, as customer service professionals we can take the opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one.
There are customers you will dislike because of their attitudes, complaints, and demands. While the experience may be unpleasant at first, these customers are very valuable to us. In clear language — and for free — they help us think about what we can do better. Constant improvement, as well as outstanding service, is at the root of every great organization.
- Listening is the first and most important step in dealing with anger. It calms the customer down and shows your concern.
- Sometimes what customers really want is for someone to hear them out and see their point of view. We can always give them that.
- Hear them out – do not interrupt, talk over, or hurry them.
- Avoid the tendency to think of your rebuttal while the customer is speaking.
- Remain calm. Don't take the complaint personally. If you did nothing wrong, the customer has no reason to be upset at you personally. You just embody the company in the customer's mind.
- Practice “sorting” - isolate the problem by ignoring sarcasm, exaggeration, and personal attacks.
- Give your undivided attention. Customers know when you’re just pretending to listen - they're on to "listening" tricks.
- Ask questions to get the facts.
- Paraphrase what the customer tells you.
- Take notes, and recap your notes. Ask the customer if you missed anything.
- Empathy is the ability to know how another feels, as if you were in their place.
- Empathy does not necessarily mean that you agree with the customer’s feelings or behavior, but that you do understand them.
- Be considerate of the customer’s feelings.
- Be courteous.
- Show interest and willingness to help.
- People can tell if you are trying to understand, or just pretending to understand.
- Empathy begins with self-awareness and self-control, understanding your own emotions and reactions, and managing them appropriately towards a resolution.
- One customer normally has more than one complaint, some valid, some not. Recognize what we could have done better.
- Apologize for our mistakes.
- Do not blame others or make excuses.
- Take ownership of the problem, even if it's not your fault. To the customer, you are the company.
- Thank the customer for bringing the problem to our attention, and for giving us the opportunity to make good on a mistake.
- If the customer is wrong, it does no good to say so. If demands are unreasonable, and you have no acceptable solution, you may need to get your manager involved.
- Be the customer’s advocate.
- Take charge. Take responsibility and initiative to do whatever you can to solve the problem as quickly as possible.
- Focus on what you can, not cannot do.
- Look for common ground, work towards a solution together. Discuss a range of solutions, including what the customer thinks is a reasonable resolution.
- Propose a solution and get their support.
- Determine what you plan to do, why, how you plan to do it, who else needs to be involved, when this will happen, next steps.
- Follow up. The customer’s principal expectation is that you will do what you say you are going to do.
- Learn. What did we learn from this? How can we prevent it from recurring?