Regardless of the industry we work in, most of us, at one point or another, have had experiences dealing with difficult customers or clients.
For me this means fielding countless emails and phone calls from customers with unreasonable requests and constantly handling complaints for things that are entirely out of my control.
Pair the frustration of these things with a client or customer who is rude or overly demanding, and that can be a recipe for disaster – but only if I let it reach that point.
Instead, I’ve learned to follow a few simple rules in order to keep my sanity intact and keep those I’m dealing with feeling heard and satisfied with the results. The following are 7 tips on how to deal with difficult customers.
1. Listen Fully. Don’t Interrupt.
Most of us have a tendency to interject as soon as we hear something we don’t agree with or that we know isn’t accurate. However, when it comes to dealing with difficult people, this usually just adds fuel to the fire.
Instead, allow them to deliver their complaint fully before responding. This will ensure that they feel heard, and can help give you an accurate picture of where they are coming from.
Remember: collect all the facts first, then respond.
2. Be Sympathetic (If Possible)
People respond well to sympathy, because it helps them feel as if you can relate to what they are saying and you are looking out for their best interest.
Responding with things like, “I’m sorry, I know that must have been frustrating,” can give the impression that you are feeling their pain – and not just trying to brush off their complaint.
If you’re willing to offer up some sympathy, you might notice an immediate change in the tone and overall feel of the conversation – suddenly you have become allies instead of enemies.
3. Be Overly Communicative
Dealing with a barrage of questions on a daily basis might be irritating, but informed clients – those that are constantly kept in the loop – are generally much happier then those who have no idea what is going on and how their money is being spent.
Be up front and have an open door policy so any issues that may arise can be squelched before they turn into full on battles. This can also ensure that you won’t be blamed down the road for things that the client was already informed of.
4. Don’t Take Professional Interaction Personally
Usually when we feel attacked, our instinct is to be defensive. Yet, when someone is in attack mode, their actions are more about themselves and how they are feeling – not about you.
You will likely never know what is going on in someone else’s life that might be spurring them to act a certain way towards you – you simply need to be aware that there is usually far more to the situation at hand then what meets the eye.
5. Remain Upbeat & Positive
If someone is looking for a fight and you’re not willing to give it to them, it’s only a matter of time before they’ll look elsewhere.
So for those difficult customers or clients who are hell bent on getting your blood boiling, remain calm and positive if possible. Let them know that you hear their complaint, but you’re more interested in searching for a solution instead of dwelling on the problem.
6. Make a Conscious Plan
Determine the type of client you have and plan accordingly.
Sometimes knowing the type of person you are dealing with ahead of time can help you quickly pacify any issues that arise.
Is the person passive aggressive? Controlling? Nit-picky?
Try to get a grasp on where they are coming from – what their motivation is, what their concerns are, how they interact with others – all of these factors will help you to determine how to handle them from the get go and possibly keep them happy from day one.
7. Pick Your Battles
You may not agree with what your client or customer is saying, but not every disagreement warrants a full-on war.
Make concessions where necessary – give in on things you don’t necessarily agree with if keeping the peace offers a bigger pay out in the end. Not only will this keep your client happy, but it will save your energy for the bigger issues that may arise down the road.
Sometimes adopting the mantra “the client is always right” is just as much for your benefit as it is for theirs.
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