Working in the customer service field, I’ve dealt with a wide variety of difficult customers.  There are those who may get along fine with your co-worker, but their personality simply rubs you the wrong way. Then there are those who are difficult to deal with for everyone.  But perhaps the most difficult type of customer is one who is just plain angry and will make sure everyone they talk to is aware of their anger until their problem is resolved.

Regardless which type you are dealing with, research indicates that customers who complain are still likely to continue doing business with your company if they feel they were treated properly.  It’s estimated that 90% of customers who believe they’ve been wronged never complain, they simply take their business elsewhere.  Here are some suggestions to help you deal with a difficult customer and retain their business:

  1. Treat them with respect. Unlike the customer, you are not angry so you are in control of your emotions.  If you lose this control, the situation may go from bad to worse.
  2. Show empathy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to understand why they are upset.  Whether or not their complaint is valid, your response should always be firm yet compassionate.  If the customer feels that you truly care about their situation, they may calm down and be more rational.
  3. Listen. This may be a very difficult task but most angry customers just need to vent their frustration and will typically calm down a bit.  Interrupting most likely will not help the situation.  After letting the customer vent, try a simple line of, “I understand your frustration: or “I’m sorry you’re experiencing this problem,” followed with, “I will do my best to assist you in resolving this issue.”
  4. Avoid blame. Obviously, you never want to place blame on your customer as this will most likely ignite their anger.  On the other hand, you don’t want to accept blame on you or your company as this could cause the customer to question your company’s competence.  Just let the customer know that you will try your best to resolve their issue.

After dealing with a difficult customer, take time to do a short breathing/calming exercise.  This will help clear your mind so your future customers won’t feel the aftermath of the previous situation.

These are just a few suggestions for dealing with difficult or angry customers. What works for you?

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