In my book, Results Driven Organizations: The 4 Keys to High-Performance Workplace
I discuss the elements of going beyond providing customer service and providing an experience;
A customer experience. Even during times of crisis, customers expect an experience. How you serve your clients and customers during a crisis makes all the difference even when they are difficult.
Let’s talk about difficult customers. Difficult customers come in a range of personality types: angry, intimidating, impatient, demanding, indecisive, and different degrees of each.
The basics of dealing with irate customers are:
1. Keep calm
2. Tune in
We are all going through it right now but just like the popular poster says, “Keep calm and carry on serving.”
Remaining calm ensures that the encounter does not escalate into a shouting match. Always keep your voice low, the customer will have to eventually lower their voice. When you react in a way that mirrors your customer, it can cause an escalation of their anger to try to shout you down. By remaining calm, you remove their excuse for getting louder.
There is one caveat with this. Don’t remain calm, but use a sarcastic tone of voice or continue to repeat the same canned response back to the customer.
Which brings us to the second point.
Listening is paramount! Tune in to what your customer is saying. Don’t jump to any conclusions about who is right or wrong in a confrontation, but listen to what makes this case unique. By demonstrating that you are listening in a patient manner and asking questions to clarify the source of your customer’s displeasure you will disarm them.
If you can’t help the customer, explain why and offer to find someone who can. Always follow up on such an offer and make sure the issue is followed up on until the customer walks away knowing there is nothing else you could have done.
Often this will require you to make decisions that make sense – which means you need to adhere to the spirit of your company’s policy on the situation, but never the letter of the policy. Policies are guidelines. If there is no policy in place, now’s a fantastic time to create one so that you can deal more effectively with customers who come to you or your colleagues with a similar problem in the future. I can help with that!
When trying to remain calm, it’s always a good idea to ask the customer what resulted in them coming to you and if they found you easily. The source of your customer’s anger may have less to do with your product or service than you think – and may have a lot to do with inconvenient parking, an argument with their boss, or a lengthy queue at your customer service desk (or 10 minutes wasted on the phone trying to figure out which option to choose from the automated phone system.
Try remembering what it was like the last time you called for support only to find yourself at the end of a long queue of other callers before you even got to speak to someone about your problem. Customers even the difficult ones will appreciate how you handle a situation and will almost always return.