We're Enchant. We're a nice company that provides customer communication software. While we prefer to enchant our customers, sometimes it doesn't work out that way. For those times, we've written the following guide. To help you, and to help us.
Let's face it.
Dealing with upset customers is unavoidable in customer service. No matter how good your firm's customer service department is, you're bound to have run-ins with disgruntled customers along the line. They range from angry customers who vent their frustrations over every little thing to those who repeatedly ask for a refund because they don't want to pay for something they already bought.
How you deal with difficult customers can make or break a business.
13% of unsatisfied customers will tell 15 or more people when they're disappointed with your brand. So, when an unsatisfied customer leaves, you're not just losing one customer; you're losing several prospects at the same time.
When an unsatisfied customer leaves, you're not just losing one customer; you're losing several prospects at the same time.
Therefore, it is an essential customer service skill to know how to deal with difficult customers. You need to understand how to defuse and resolve tense situations to reassure your customers of your commitment. That being said, no two customer service scenarios are exactly the same, and each one will likely require a different level of tact and diplomacy.
In this article, we will talk about the various difficult customer service scenarios you are bound to encounter and the strategies you can employ to enhance the experience for everyone involved.
Difficult Customer Service Scenarios and How to Handle Them
The Angry Customer
Scenario: The angry customer is probably the most common scenario for any business that deals with customers regularly. This customer has a bone to pick with your service and lets you know exactly how they feel. 83% of angry customers will switch brands after a negative experience with a brand. So, you need to handle an angry customer tactically.
Tips to Handle it: The best way to handle an angry customer is to be calm and collected—if you reassure them that you're doing everything you can to help them out and make things right, they'll usually calm down pretty quickly.
You should apologize for the issue, even if you think the problem is minor or nonexistent.
Be careful not to draw the apology out too long, or you might end up with another issue on your hands. Once they've calmed down, explain how you plan on fixing the situation — even if that means offering a free service as compensation for their inconvenience.
Sometimes, it can be hard to satisfy an angry customer, so try your best to pacify them, discuss the action plan, and move on to the next customer.
The Refund-demanding Customer
Scenario: A refund-demanding customer feels like they've been cheated on and would complain that your product is unsatisfactory.
Tips to Handle it: Ask them why they want the refund. This will give you an idea of where to start, and it might help them feel heard and understood—which can be important in ensuring that they don't leave with a negative impression of your business. After a negative return experience, 84% of online shoppers would stop doing business with a brand.
84% of online shoppers would stop doing business with a brand after a negative return experience.
According to Harvard Law School, difficult customers believe they'll get what they want by using threats, ultimatums, demands, and other tough-bargaining tactics. The right approach, however, can soften many customers.
You might win them back if you can resolve their issues. Try to get the full story of what happened. It might be that they didn't understand what they were buying, or maybe there was a technical issue with the product itself that could have been resolved had the customer contacted you earlier.
Whatever the case, work with them to see if there's any way for you to remedy the situation without giving them their money back. If all else fails and you cannot resolve the issue, explain your company's refund policies and set clear expectations for the procedure and turnaround time for refunds.
The Restless Customer
Scenario: The restless customer has been waiting to be attended to for quite some time. They may have a busy day or perhaps a boss they need to report to. A restless customer might also be angry but more likely to be frustrated.
Tips to Handle It: Be sure to apologize for the delay. Show that you care about the reason for their frustration. Then, answer their queries as simply and clearly as you can.
However, help them understand your average response time and set clear expectations in case they need answers to time-sensitive queries in the future. Research shows that 44% of social media complaints are triggered by customers who lose patience while waiting for a response.
44% of social media complaints are triggered by customers who lose patience while waiting for a response.
You can avoid the bad publicity on social media by making the experience better for these impatient customers. Take the time to set up an autoresponder that replies to every email sent to your inbox. This automatic reply can be set up to tell customers when normal working hours are and when they can expect to receive a reply. This can be especially helpful if your team doesn't work on weekends. In that case, different messages will be delivered on weekends and weekdays.
You can also set up the autoresponder to refer customers to other customer service channels, such as self-service or even a FAQ page.
The Arrogant Customer
Scenario: Despite being the one in need of assistance, this type of customer often comes off as if they know more about your product/service than you do. You might notice that they feel the need to show how much they know and how important they are. They usually have very strong but untrue assumptions about your product or service.
Tips to Handle It: When this customer gives you the chance to talk, praise their knowledge and ask them to clearly state how you can be of service.
You'll find that this type of customer rarely has any gripes with the product itself or its features. Their criticism is often directed at your business model or certain uncontrollable factors. If they start giving out suggestions of how you should do things, do not attempt to correct their assumptions. Let them know that you appreciate their ideas and will pass them to the team. If they can't mention anything specific, end the conversation politely.
The Dissatisfied Customer
Scenario: No matter how helpful you are, you are bound to meet a dissatisfied customer along the line. Regardless of your time and effort, this type of customer will not let go of their grievances. You might find yourself stuck in a fruitless back-and-forth with a dissatisfied customer.
Tips to Handle It: There's not much you can do to help a dissatisfied customer. They are hard to please by nature. First, you should thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and help them understand that you are committed to assisting them. Tell them their concerns have been noted and will be addressed as quickly as possible.
79% of customers are willing to switch brands if another company gives them a better customer experience.
Also, you can check the company's policies to see what alternative solutions you can offer them. If all else fails, be sure to defer them to your manager or a senior executive. Research shows that 79% of customers are willing to switch brands if another company gives them a better customer experience. So, do your best to provide these customers with a satisfying experience that will reinforce their trust in your company.
The Confused Customer
Scenario: This customer scenario may appear somewhat similar to the arrogant customer (in terms of their misconceptions about your product or service), but they are quite different. A perplexed customer will likely be less aggravated and more receptive to what you have to say. They may be confused about an item in your company policy or a certain product feature.
Tips to Handle It: A confused customer must be listened to carefully, assured that their concerns are valid, and helped to understand how things work.For example, if they are trying to locate a downloaded file, ask them to explain what steps they are following and describe what they are seeing. This might help them locate the folder where the system is sending the file to.
You should not appear condescending when explaining to them. If your explanation somehow isn't convincing/satisfactory enough for them, you can always hand them over to a more senior colleague or supervisor to talk further on the issue.
The Chatty Customer
Scenario: This customer is in serious need of some companionship and, for some reason, they think that the right person to talk to is a customer service personnel trying to do their job. They may have started the call with a legitimate concern, but now, they are coming up with all sorts of reasons just to keep it going.
Tips to Handle It: You don't want to end the call abruptly when dealing with a chatty customer. They will most likely take offense if you do. You want to bring the conversation to a natural and polite close without spending too much time on the call.
74% of customers expressed that they desire more human interaction from customer support representatives.
After all, you are being paid to respond to customer inquiries, not to be their confidante. Chatty customers can be tricky to handle, but they are hardly the worst customers you'll have to deal with. 74% of customers expressed that they desire more human interaction from customer support representatives. So, try to be sympathetic towards them.
The Rude Customer
Scenario: This customer is rude and demanding, and they'll often try to tell you how to do your job. They may also be unnecessarily hostile and abusive.
In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to deal with these customers, but in this less-than-perfect world, rude customers are inevitable. According to a study by the University of British Columbia, employees who expect to deal with rude customers react much less strongly than those who expect civil customers.
Tips to Handle It: When dealing with rude customers, remain calm and collected. You don't want to turn the encounter into a fiery exchange of words.
You need to convey confidence and help them understand that their obnoxious display won't get them what they want.
Listen reflectively and try your best to get to the bottom of the issue. Offer a quick and straightforward solution if it is something within your ability. If you're getting worn out, you can get another team member to back you up.
Rude customers can be a pain in the neck, but you have to remember that it's not personal, even if it appears so.
The Vague Customer
Scenario: Vague customers will not be specific about what they need help with and may not even know themselves. This kind of customer is frustrating because they don't give enough information for you to help them.
Tips to Handle It: You may be tempted to tell this type of customer that you aren't able to help them because they don't have enough information about their problem, but we recommend a different approach: listen while asking targeted questions. For example, if they are struggling to describe how something is not working, you can ask them pointed questions about each step until you get to the problem area.
42% of consumers are willing to spend more for a welcoming and friendly customer service experience.
These questions should encourage them to think through their situation and develop solutions independently instead of relying on someone else's opinion or advice. Then you can offer more detailed suggestions based on what they tell you. According to research, 42% of consumers are willing to spend more for a welcoming and friendly experience. To deal with these customers, remember to be patient.
11 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Customers
Listen to the customer. There are many ways to listen, but reflective listening can go a long way when handling difficult customers. Don't interrupt your customer's story.
It's easy to jump in and tell them what you think they need, but wait until you have heard their whole story.
After listening to what they have to say, repeat back what they said to verify that what you understood matches up with what was intended. This will ensure that there is no miscommunication between you and the customer.
People who receive active listening responses feel more understood than people who receive simple acknowledgments. Research shows that 83% of customers felt more loyal to companies that understood and responded to their needs. Reflective listening helps you better understand your customers’ needs and increases your chances of finding the right solution to the issue.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
When it comes to customer service, empathy can help you in two ways: by strengthening your relationship with your customer and by helping you resolve problems more quickly.
On one hand, empathy lets you connect with your customers on a deeper level, which will lead them to trust and appreciate you more.
On the other hand, empathy allows for better communication and understanding between the two parties. Customers can feel that you truly understand their pain. Research shows that 65% of customers consider a great experience to be more influential than advertising. Showing empathy will help them believe that you are doing everything possible to resolve the issue.
65% of customers consider a great experience to be more influential than advertising.
You should ask yourself how you would feel and what you would like to hear if you were in the customer's situation. Remember that they don't know what you know and let go of any unreasonable expectations.
It can be very tempting to get defensive or sarcastic when your customers act out. Instead, focus on staying calm and keeping your cool.
If a customer becomes aggressive with you, do not respond in kind. Instead, take a deep breath and explain politely that you'd be able to serve them better if they would tone down the language.
In most cases, the customer will be thrown off guard by your placid demeanor and be convinced to take it down a notch.
Dealing with a difficult customer requires understanding your company's operating business model. You need to understand the product or service inside and out.
Did you know, 46% of customers say that they will abandon a brand whose employees are not knowledgeable? You should have a good grasp on the inner workings of product features and the policies so you can answer questions effectively. You don't need to demonstrate to the customer just how much you know, but be sure to educate them politely and respectfully.
46% of customers say that they will abandon a brand whose employees show a lack of knowledge.
Being prepared applies to knowing your customers as well as the product. If there is an established customer profiling system, check it out before getting on a call with a customer.
Check for open support tickets, satisfaction ratings, NPS scores, and other information. This will give you some insight and provide you with some pointers on how to proceed.
Remember That it is Not About You
The last thing you want to do is take the customer's words personally. When customers send abusive messages, it can be easy to get upset and assume that they are abusing you as a person. If that happens, remember that the customer doesn't know you as a person and is likely not even angry at you directly.
Keep your cool and maintain your composure when dealing with difficult customers. Ask them directly what you can help them with and ensure that the conversation revolves around that focal point.
No matter what happens when attending to a customer, refuse to let it affect your mood negatively during that shift. Take a short walk, or talk to a team member to clear off your mind before taking on the next customer issue.
Be Absolutely Sincere
Customers can tell you when you are sarcastic or not entirely straightforward. If you're apologizing for failings on the company's end, ensure that your apology is brief, warm, and sincere, even if you're dealing with an especially difficult customer.
Don't opt for generalized sentiments when apologizing, address the customer's grievances and present a positive outlook. It may be challenging to find anything to apologize for, especially when the fault is not on your end. However, seeing things from the customer's viewpoint can make things easier. If you can't apologize sincerely, it may be better to skip the apology entirely.
Thank Them for Bringing the Issue to Your Attention
Thank the customer for taking the time to voice their problem. They may have taken the time to call because they're frustrated and need someone available to help them out.
If you can't resolve the issue immediately, let them know you'll be in touch once you've come up with a solution. This will show the customer that you care about solving their problem and getting back to them.
Make Concessions, If Necessary
A concession shouldn't be your first resort when dealing with a difficult customer. However, sometimes you can't defuse an angry customer without making an exception of some sort. Research shows that 70% of customers whose issues were resolved in their favor said they would be willing to come back.
70% of customers whose issues were resolved in their favor said they would be willing to give repeat business.
You will generally have one of the following options to choose from:
- Suggest a solution that is a win-win. There is no reason to hesitate if you know how to satisfy your customer's needs without making any compromises.
- Suggest a compromise or a workaround. Your customer may not be able to get their ideal outcome, but give them something else in the meantime like free shipping for their next purchase. This can make them feel happy that they got something in exchange for their inconvenience.
Draw the Line
Some customers are difficult for no reason. They are those who are angry, rude, or aggressive and try to take advantage of you. They may even try to blame you for their own mistakes or problems.
If the customer makes a violent outburst, give them a stern warning. Remember to cite your company policy to not accept verbal abuse and your right to refuse service to the customers who do not comply. Give them a few moments to regain composure and then work to move the conversation forward. Should the customer keep making unreasonable demands in a demeaning manner, there is no need to continue the conversation. You should try to be empathetic and caring but draw the line somewhere.
Let Them Know That Their Issue is a Priority
Some customers may feel as if they are not important to your business. Sometimes, customer service agents further complicate this situation by giving them unsatisfactory answers and leaving their issue in limbo for too long.
A customer who feels dispensable to your business will find it hard to believe you when you mention you will need to put them on hold or call them back to provide a solution. They may repeatedly complain about you not caring or claim that you're not taking them seriously.
When you encounter customers like these, you should point out how the case matters strongly to you, the rest of the team, and the company itself. You can also point out the specific steps you plan to take after the chat to ensure the issue is resolved.
Once the customer is assured that their case has priority, they will feel more at ease waiting for a solution.
Follow Up With the Customer, If Needed
If you've promised to follow up with a client later, be sure to call at that scheduled time. You should do this, even if you don't have the promised update. Apart from reassuring them that their issue takes priority, it will show them that they can always rely on you to get back to them. This is the key to building trust and deeper customer relationships.
73% of customers are likely to share good customer experience with their friends and on social media.
Following a positive customer service experience, 73% of customers are likely to share it with their friends and on social media. Not only does this create deeper relationships with your current customers but also make it easier for the new prospects to trust your business.
Even though the customer is always right, working with them is not always easy. However, you can put processes in place to reduce the occurrence of common complaint situations for your business. For instance, setting clear expectations about delivery and refund policies can prevent unnecessary complaints.
Remember that there is no way to avoid difficult customers, and bad situations can still happen. However, you can improve your ability to communicate with them and turn the most challenging situations into positive experiences. The feedback you receive from difficult customers can also be valuable because it'll help you discover better ways to serve them. Difficult customers can sometimes turn into your most die-hard, loyal customers if treated the right way.
Following the strategies outlined in this article will give you an edge when dealing with difficult customers and help you create better experiences that'll ultimately improve your customer retention rate.