How To Deal With Difficult Customers

Updated on 3 October 2022

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Deal With Difficult Customers

Even with the best intentions any business can find itself dealing with a difficult customer. A customer gets frustrated with the service they get or is unhappy with their purchase and you suddenly find yourself in the middle of customer service disaster.

Now more than ever customers expect a good experience from a business; from the time they enter your store, while they shop, when making payment and any after sales services. How well you treat your customer not only determines whether they continue to support you or go to your competitors instead, but also impacts your reputation, and ultimately the success of your business.

Fortunately there are ways of diffusing a tense situation and ensuring a happy outcome. Below is advice from the experts for handling even the most difficult customer.

1. Take ownership of the problem

When a customer is feeling frustrated, the last thing they want is you passing the buck. Customers want to know that you will take full responsibility for fixing the problem.

Femi Adebanji, author, customer service speaker, trainer and consultant offers the following customer service advice for achieving this.

“If the fault lies with us or our employees, then we need to step up and take complete ownership. Nothing is more frustrating and irritating for a customer than having a genuine problem or having a valid concern and then being given the runaround. Customers respect and appreciate when businesses take ownership of their problems and make themselves accountable for resolving such problems.”

2. Be sincere

“When engaging face to face with a customer that has an issue with our product or service, it is very important that the customer feels that they have our full and undivided attention,” Adebanji says.

It’s equally important that the customer knows that your concern is genuine, he adds.

“We also need to repeat what they have said to us so that they feel acknowledged and ensure that there is clarity and that nothing is lost in translation. Finally, we need to thank the customer and sincerely apologise for the mix-up.”

“’Sincerely, is the key operative word, here”, he highlights. “Today’s customers are savvy and can pick up if we are being genuine or just going through the motions.

3. Plan for the difficult customer

Ultimately, a service delivery incident, however unpleasant, can be a wake up call to what’s missing in your customer service process, whether it’s training or techniques. Moreover, having a plan for avoiding a difficult customer can help prevent future incidents from happening.

Veroshen Naidoo, from Business Partners Limited, a risk financier for SMEs offers the following tips for standards your team should live up to.

“Hone your customer service skills and offer excellent service. Friendliness, professionalism, empathy and respect are some of the important qualities that entrepreneurs should display when communicating with customers.”

Why you should accurately anticipate your customers’ needs

While dealing with a difficult customer is never pleasant, it can provide important feedback that allows your business to improve your customer service processes and help you to remain relevant.


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