You’ve probably heard the saying, “The customer is always right”, but what if the customer isn’t. In fact, what if they are difficult customers; being demanding and unreasonable. What then? Do you yell back or ignore? Anyone who has worked in customer service can easily tell you how infuriating some customers can be – from the one that makes you repeat yourself twice every 5 seconds to the one that rains insults for a problem you have absolutely no control over.

A survey by Clickfox revealed that 63.9% of people factor in a firm’s customer service reputation when considering if they should purchase a product. This is why older Nigerian buyers generally prefer offline purchases to online purchases. They need to know they have someone to complain to if things go south.

These customers are often never angry at you, personally, but about your defective product or service. However, at that moment, you are “collateral damage”. So, how then do you handle these difficult customers?

Listen to the customer

No matter how irrational a client is, a customer is still a customer, and they are who your business is built to serve. When a customer vents, they want to be listened to and acknowledged. Cutting them off midway will not help the situation. The best steps to take would involve you maintaining eye contact, sitting up to look interested in what the person is saying, and finally, just listen to what you’re being told. Remember that at any point a customer feels you are disinterested in what they have to say, you are one step closer to losing such customer for good.

Show empathy

With the insults or level of screaming going on at the other side of the phone or right in your face, you can get angry as well, and this could lead to an unhealthy back-and-forth. Whilst this person may be difficult, the customer is still human. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand why they are complaining. It’s one thing to know what the problem is, but the “why” is equally as important. This requires you understanding what the person is saying, interpreting it and responding by reflecting their thoughts or feelings back to them. More so, in this moment, do not promise to fix the situation, because sometimes, you might be unable to. Your goal here is to ensure that the customer feels their frustrations are understood and feel that their complaints actually matter.

Lower your voice

Whilst responding to a client, especially one that is screaming on the top of their lungs, you should never engage them in a shouting battle. People are generally always on the defensive when they feel they are right. It is never a wise idea to try to calm down an aggressive or aggrieved client by trying to talk over the person. In every client-facing role, difficult customers will be present, and as such, it is necessary that you control your emotions and reduce your voice. Talk slowly but firmly. This strategy calms down the client and the problem can be tackled.

Deliver a prompt and well-mannered response

No customer likes to be replied late or worse, spoken rudely to. Not every complaint will be in-person or through calls. Some will be Facebook messages left the night before or emails sent during lunchtime. It is vital that as a customer service professional, you respond to inquiries, complaints, and feedback as soon as possible. Some companies have a mandatory 48-hours response time, and that helps whoever mans the company’s email, chat, and phone lines to respond to queries expeditiously. Whilst responding, however, it is key to do so in a polite manner. No customer likes to feel like a fool for asking questions

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Be wrong to be right

Difficult customers are not the easiest people to please, even when you have responded quickly and as courteously as you should. Trying to get such a person to see things your way may not work, so the best strategy is that of agreement. Do not explicitly say that your firm made a mistake because that could lead to lawsuits. Instead, agree that there is a problem (mention the problem), acknowledge it, and the fact that it needs to be rectified. Once customers see that you are on their side, they are more likely to be open to negotiating. At that point, you can provide such a person with something that suits their need or alleviates their issues.

Cater to the problem

You would think a difficult client is terrible when they are initially expressing dissatisfaction in your product or service through insults or simply, yelling. However, given such a problem is not rectified, it simply gets worse, particularly, when there is no viable alternative. If there is, you would lose such client. If not, the person’s attitude would be worse than it was the first time. As such, fulfill what you have promised- handle the request and solve the problem. If it is taking some time or will take some time to fix, call to apologize and try to get things done