Dealing with Difficult Clients – Eight Customer-Service Tips


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My son is 17 years old. Like many teenagers, he has very little patience for people for whom he determines do not drive fast enough, do not understand his viewpoint, or in any other way interfere with him going about his life. I hope he outgrows this, but it also humors me how we both can view the same situation very differently. For example, when I drive, I look at the time as my time to relax, a time I don’t need to do anything else and a time I can simply let my mind wander. If one of my fellow drivers cuts in front of me or commits some other infraction, I invent a story of how that individual just had something horrible happen in their life and they are now distracted. I hope those who share the road with me afford me the same courtesy.

Good customer service can also be improved by simply altering your attitude and how you view the situation. If you have a particularly difficult client, here are a few coping tips:

It’s not about you – Your clients may be upset or frustrated. Don’t assume their attitude is based upon something you did, however. They may have had a fight with their boss, spouse or kids right before they called you. Don’t take it personally.
Smile Even if you’re on the phone, a smile can impact your mood and in turn will be evident to the caller.

Be thankful, even if what you’re thankful for is the fact you don’t live with the person who just reamed you out. I always imagine there are people who live with that ranter day in and day out. Remembering what we have to be thankful for can help improve our attitude and help us deal with that difficult client situation.

Show empathy – Acknowledge your caller’s feelings. “I can see you’re upset” or “I can see why you would feel that way” are both phrases that help recognize the caller’s situation. And, by helping the client realize you empathize with them, you can then move on to the solution.

You’re the expert – You know how your company operates and can help the person calling (and if you don’t, you should). Let the caller know you’re the expert by using phrases like “I can help you with that.” If you need to research a more difficult problem, let them know that as well, and arrange for a specific time when you will call them with an update. Even if you don’t have all the answers at that point, be sure to follow up at the agreed to time.

Escalate the call to your manager – If you aren’t able to satisfy the caller, transfer the call to your manager. Sometimes this will be the only thing that may appease the caller. If your manager is not available, you may want to transfer the caller to another expert, one of your colleagues with experience in that particular topic. In both situations, stay on the phone, and introduce the caller and the topic before disengaging, so your caller does not need to explain the situation again.

Take a break – After a particularly difficult client encounter, sometimes even a two-minute break can help you collect your thoughts and move on. If during the call a client is so enraged you aren’t able to move to a solution, give the client a break by suggesting you research the issue and arrange a call back. The time away from the issue may calm the caller down.

Take care of yourself – You are important. Treat yourself well. When I’m in particularly stressful situations, I make sure I eat better, get enough sleep, and exercise even more than normal. This in turn helps me feel more in control and helps improve my attitude.

Adjusting your viewpoint and attitude when dealing with difficult clients and adapting some best-practice coping tactics can help you provide excellent client experiences. As for my son? I’m still hoping he outgrows it.


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