8 Ways To Be If You Like Difficult Customers

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In my last post, I talked about the fact that I’m learning that if I’m going to effectively deal with difficult customers it starts with ME.  I thought it only fitting to expand on my understanding of difficult customers and what makes them so difficult.  Again, I’m not discounting the fact that many customers are difficult but there are things I can and have done to make a customer more difficult than they need to be.  If you’re a person that always seems to get the difficult customer on the phone here are some things you might be doing right:

1. Be Impatient- Why do the long calls always come right before breaks, meetings or time to clock out?  Take it from me, the more impatient you get, the longer the call gets.  If you want my advice, take a seat, listen closely and be as patient as you can possibly be.  I personally have a notepad open and take notes on the call.  If you make the customer repeat themselves, the call will only get longer.

2. Be Right- True story.  I had a lady call support extremely angry because sales promised her six months free.  She wanted a supervisor but before I took the call I listened to her sales call and pretty easily figured out she was lying.  Long story short, I took the call and told her she was lying.  We argued and the end result was goodbye customer.  Was I right?  Yes.  Could I have struck up a compromise?  Maybe.  It pays to listen and seek to understand before jumping to conclusions.

3. Be Firm- This is the cousin of being right.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been firm on something only to realize I was dead wrong.  I once argued a point with a customer for an hour before realizing I was dead wrong.  Take it from me, I feel like such a goat when I do that.  Unless what you are telling the customer is etched in stone somewhere, put the caller on hold and double check with a coworker.

4. Be Louder- Picture this.  The customer is giving the same rant you just listened to in the 5-minute voice mail they left 10 minutes ago and you don’t want to hear it again.  It’s even worse when you know the solution to their problem but they won’t let you talk.  The best way to shut them up is to talk over them and talk louder.  My coworkers have quoted me, “Sir, sir, listen to me, sir…”  Just listen and let them finish.  The louder you get, the louder the customer will get and no one wins.

5. Be Fast- Right up there with impatience is moving as fast as you can through the call.  The faster you go, the more likely you are to miss something.  Let’s focus on taking the extra time to get it right the first time.  It also doesn’t hurt to educate the customer along the way.  Your coworkers will thank you.

6. Be Slow- One of the best things you can do with a difficult customer is to put them on hold and let them simmer.  Avoiding them will definitely make them go away.  Another good thing to do is to make them wait a long time for responses.  If you have a difficult customer diffuse them by giving their requests top priority and don’t put them on hold for the heck of it.

7. Be Distant- You can mask it as “being professional” or reading from a script but to the customer it comes off as cold.  Keep in mind that these are people you are talking to.  If you can successfully make an emotional connection with these people, you take huge strides toward building a loyal customer.

8. Be Offended-  If you are a CSR, on any given day you will hear all of the swear words.  Except in very few cases the swearing is not directed at you but at the problem.  If you take offense to that swearing and disconnect the call, chances are they will call back and this time they WILL swear at you.  I think there is a place to ask the customer to use more respectful language but you cannot convey that message in an escalated tone.  In most cases, take pleasure in making a connection with them, fixing their problem and hearing their positive tone of voice at the end of the call.

I think I just gave you eight reasons why I should be fired from my customer service job. In all seriousness, I hope you were able to pick up on my sarcasm.  For all of you customer service professionals that have done all of these things, the best way to be is to Be Humble.  In all customer service encounters, ask yourself “How could I have done better there?”  Never stop improving yourself!

Undoubtedly, the difficult customers are the ones that make you earn your paycheck, but if you look at them as a chance to shine, you will have no problem facing difficult customers head on.  Be Awesome!

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Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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