Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Customers

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  • 0:00 The Angry Customer
  • 0:50 Is the Customer Always Right?
  • 1:44 How to Handle…
  • 4:36 Unexpected or Awkward…
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

We've all had experience dealing with difficult clients or customers at some point in our lives. This lesson will discuss best practices to use when dealing with difficult customers, and provide some key phrases that can help diffuse angry exchanges.

The Angry Customer

Angry woman

Julie ordered a dress for her sister's wedding weeks ago. The wedding is now three days away and the dress still has not arrived. Julie has called the retailer numerous times, and each time she is assured that the dress will be there on time and not to worry. Julie is furious as she prepares to call the store again. When the representative answers, Julie flies off the handle. She starts hurling profanities, demanding a tracking number, and threatening that she will report the business to the Better Business Bureau. The representative on the phone doesn't quite know how to handle this situation.

In this lesson, we will take a look at some of the methods that can be used when dealing with difficult customers.

Is the Customer Always Right?

We've all heard the saying ''the customer is always right'', a popular phrase subscribed to by those in the service industries. Unfortunately, the customer isn't always right, but they have to be dealt with anyway. Difficult customers exist all over the place. They can be like Julie and fly off the handle, or they can be more subtle about their gripes and complaints.

Advances in technology have given difficult customers a variety of avenues through which they can launch attacks on merchants, whether these are justified or not. They can leave reviews on websites, comments on social media pages, and distribute negative emails. Because consumers today have the power to damage a business's reputation quite quickly, it is important that employees are prepared to deal with difficult and angry customers before things get out of hand.

How to Handle Difficult Customers

Let's take a look at the strategies for dealing with difficult customers that the store representative could have utilized with Julie in order to diffuse the situation.

  • Use active listening - Let the customer tell you their story without interruption. Check in with them when they are finished to assure you heard them correctly and didn't miss any important details.
  • Watch your tone of voice - Angry customers will typically speak loudly or shout. You need to speak softly and in an even tone.
  • Offer a compromise - When you see there is not going to be an easy resolution, like in Julie's case, try to satisfy the customer through compromise. The representative could offer Julie the opportunity to choose a different dress and offer to ship it overnight without charge.
  • Put yourself in the customer's place - Imagine what you would feel like if the situation were reversed. It will allow you to be empathetic.
  • Understand that it's not personal - Remember, the customer is not yelling at you; they're venting their frustrations about the situation.
  • Stay calm - Don't get sucked in to the customer's anger.
  • Follow up - You may not always be able to resolve the customer's problem immediately, but be sure to follow up and keep them informed of the status.
  • Yield to the customer - If all else fails, tell the customer they are right, even when they are not. This usually tends to calm the customer down and provides an avenue towards resolution of the issue.

In addition to these strategies, there are certain phrases you can use to calm angry customers. These include phrases like:

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