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  • Writer's pictureDamian Miller

How do you handle a difficult customer?

Before anything else, think about their experience as a priority.

When speaking to a customer who is complaining or unhappy, it's essential to handle the situation with professionalism, empathy, and a focus on resolving their issue. Here are recommendations for both a good way and a bad way to approach this:

Good Way:

Listen Actively: Start by listening attentively to the customer's complaint. Let them express their concerns without interruption. Show that you value their input.

Empathize: Express empathy and understanding. Use phrases like, "I understand how frustrating that must be" or "it is disappointing to hear that - about your experience."

Apologise: If the situation warrants, offer a carefully considered apology - remember once apologising you’re taking responsibility. If you feel you need to investigate before committing to an error say “I will be looking into the matter for you as a priority and I will come back to you with my findings”. This is a lesson learnt in business by myself - personally.

Ask Questions: Seek clarification to fully understand the problem. Ask open-ended questions such as, "Can you tell me more about what happened?" or "Is there anything specific that went wrong?"

Acknowledge Responsibility: If your company is at fault, acknowledge it and take ownership of the issue. For example, "We take responsibility for this mistake, and we're committed to making it right."

Offer Solutions: Propose solutions to address the problem. Be flexible and willing to work with the customer to find the best resolution. Ask, "How can we resolve this to your satisfaction?"

Follow Up: After resolving the issue, follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction and thank them for their feedback. This shows your commitment to their experience.

Bad Way:

Defensiveness: React defensively or dismissively to the customer's complaint. For example, say, "That's not our fault" or "You must be mistaken."

Blame-Shifting: Shift the blame onto the customer. Say things like, "You should have known better" or "It's your fault for not reading the fine print."

Lack of Empathy: Show no empathy or understanding for the customer's frustration. Act indifferent or uninterested in their concerns.

Arguing: Engage in arguments or debates with the customer. Use confrontational language and refuse to accept any fault.

Ignoring the Problem: Pretend that the issue doesn't exist or ignore the customer's complaint altogether. Avoid addressing the problem at all costs.

Providing No Solutions: Refuse to offer any solutions or assistance to resolve the issue. Brush off the complaint with phrases like, "There's nothing we can do."

Closing Communication: End the conversation abruptly or rudely, leaving the customer feeling unheard and dissatisfied.

Remember that maintaining a positive, customer-focussed approach is crucial for building and maintaining a good reputation for your business. Always strive to handle complaints professionally, even when the situation is challenging. Customer feedback can be an opportunity for improvement and building customer loyalty.

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