Merchant Blog

Blog Article: How to deal with difficult customers

Difficult customers can totally ruin your day, on top of that, they also can cause long term stress on both you personally and your business.

Stress can come in so many forms…typically people feel:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • They have sleep problems
  • Headaches
  • General Irritability (I get this one)

As a small business owner (or small business warrior as we like to call it), not only do you feel these things on a personal level, all of them will eventually bleed into your business life and you could end up with:

  • Decreased morale
  • Decreased motivation
  • Reduced productivity
  • Strained relationships with clients, customers, and employees
  • Decreased business and financial performance

Ugh. Worst.

We took a quick time out over the past few days to brainstorm some things that could help our partners manage some of the stressors in business. These strategies are all based on emotional intelligence and empathizing with your customers. The more you empathize, communicate, and identify your client’s needs, the better your relationship with them.

In the moment.

Working with customers isn’t always easy. When your customer is angry or frustrated, and you’re on the front lines:

Stay calm

You don’t want to respond to your angry client in an emotional way – this will make them more frustrated. Just be calm and try to get as much information as possible. One strategy to consider is using the client’s name. This can help the client feel like you’re hearing them.

Actively listen

You need to really listen to care. The best way to show you’re listening:

  • Making eye contact
  • Asking questions when you don’t understand something
  • Not brainstorming your next response while they’re talking to you (we are all guilty of this)

It can also be helpful to open your posture while you’re either sitting or standing. Closed positions such as folded arms may communicate that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.

Show concern

Empathize.  Find some common ground.  Certain phrases that help you do this include:

  • “I hear what you’re saying…”
  • “I see your point…”

Ask

Some questions to consider include:

  • “What could we have done differently?”
  • “How can I fix this for you?”
  • “What would you consider to be a reasonable solution?”
  • “How can we make it up to you?”

Apologize

Apologizing can help retain business. If you mess up, apologize.  A well-crafted apology has these elements:

Understanding Empathize with your customer with statements like “I’d be upset if I were you too.”

Sincerity Don’t give your customer a generic response. Instead, highlight key details you plan on fixing from their complaint. Avoid statements like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” (this is the worst). Statements like these don’t transmit real understanding.

Discuss solutions

When a customer is upset, you’re going to want to solve the problem, not only for your current situation, but also to prevent any in the future.

Know when the situation is out of hand

Sometimes, no matter how you respond to a customer, they still won’t calm down. Look for these things…once you’re at this point, the conversation me be past the point of no return:

  • Won’t stop saying personal insults to you or your employees
  • Won’t stop yelling or screaming at you or your employees
  • Won’t listen to any logic you present
  • Make threats to you or your employees

If a customer is displaying these behaviors in person, you may want to respond by:

  • Warning them that their behavior won’t solve the problem
  • Asking the customer to leave nicely, if they don’t calm down after a warning
  • If they’re still carrying on after being asked to leave, it may be time to call security or the police

Asking an enraged customer to leave is okay. It happens. You need to protect your business and your staff. Just be calm.

Learn to take difficult clients in stride

Difficult clients don’t have to bring you or your business down. With the proper customer/client management strategies, you can effectively de-escalate situations in no time. Be calm. Listen. Become good at apologizing. Realize that sometimes you just can’t satisfy everyone.

 

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