A couple of years ago I had a call from a Customer Service
Manager working in the paper industry. He wanted me to run a
seminar for his team, on "How to Deal with Difficult
I had several telephone conversations with this manager
organising dates, times and getting to understand his
business. If I was to describe his style on the telephone I
would use words like, businesslike, cold, curt and somewhat
impatient. I started to realise that if I was one of his
customers then I might have been a bit "difficult". He
certainly knew his business and I don't think he was a bad
person but warm and friendly - forget it.
There are actually very few genuinely difficult customers in
the world. And I hear you say - "we've got all of them".
However the majority of customers in the world are
reasonable people. They may not think the way, look the way,
sound the way that you do. However they are your customers
and if you want their business then you've got to deal with
them. They may get "difficult" from time to time if they
feel they've been let down. It's how you handle them that'll
determine if they continue to be a problem or if you can
turn them around.
Difficult customers and situations usually occur because
some part of our core service has failed or the customer
perceives it to have failed. We've not delivered on time,
the customer has the wrong product, it doesn't work or it's
not what the customer expected.
What happens then is, the customer comes to the interaction
with us in a negative frame of mind. It's what happens then
that'll decide whether they deal with us again or bad mouth
us to other people.
The trick is not just to concentrate on fixing the core
service issues. Telling the customer that
you'll replace the product, deliver it in half an hour or
knock something off the price, isn't the
answer. Sometimes you may not have an answer and the
customer is going to hear "NO". However as you're aware,
it's how you say "NO" that matters. Let's consider some of
the reasons customer interactions go wrong and why they may
become more "difficult".
* We don't care. - We don't sound or look as if we care, are
concerned or appreciate the customer's situation. Maybe you
do care, however you've really got to say caring words and
look and sound as if you care. After all, the customer can't
read your mind.
* We don't listen. - Too often we try to jump in with
solutions and don't allow the customer to vent their
feelings. Again we need to show the customer that we're
listening by what we say, how we say it and our body
* We let the customer "get to us". We often allow the
customers attitude to irritate or annoy us. This becomes
obvious to the customer, again through our tone of voice,
our body language and only fuels a difficult situation.
* We use the wrong words. - There are certain trigger words
that cause a customer to become more difficult. Some of
these are "cant, have to, sorry 'bout that". Even your
organisation's jargon can have a negative effect on a
* We don't see it from the customer's point of view. - Too
often customer service people think the customer is making
too much of a fuss. They think - "What's the big deal, we'll
fix it right away". The thing is, it is a big deal for the
customer and they want us to appreciate that.
Customers will often judge the level of your service based
well you recover from a difficult situation and they're very
likely to forgive you if you do it well.
Discover how you can generate more business without having
to cold call!
Alan Fairweather is the author of "How to get More Sales
without Selling" This book is packed with practical things
that you can do to ? get customers to come to you .
Click here now