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How to Handle a Difficult Customer

Like it not there will always be that difficult customer that you need to deal with. People come in different emotional shapes and sizes and customers are no different. Your success as a business can hinge on how you handle a difficult client or customer.

To understand how to deal with a difficult customer we first need to understand “What is a Difficult Customer

Defining a difficult customer: A difficult customer is someone who makes it difficult for you to provide them with service.

A difficult customer is difficult because they pose a problem for you in the following ways

  1. Emotions: They challenge your emotions such that it is difficult for you to stay composed if you are not aware, and even when you are aware they still make you work for your composure.
  2. Service: They make it difficult for you to provide a service as they either hold up the phone queue, chat queue, teller queue, or simply just define everything that you do as not good enough

In my book, difficult customers come in different types which include the following

Types of Difficult Customers

1)VIPVery Important Person: Wants all the attention and special treatment. They might not even have a big title in their life but because they feel that they are very important they will demand that you treat them above everyone else.

2)KIAKnow It All:  Thinks they understand everything and you can’t really tell them anything they do not know. This type of customer probably knows all their shopping rights and “have been with the organisation for a long time”. No matter what you suggest to them as a solution they probably believe they have a better way to deal with it.

3)Angry Birds: Always angry and need you to understand that they are angry. You never actually know why they are angry, maybe someone stepped on their toes a few minutes before they met you, or maybe they don’t like your deodorant, or perhaps the service from your company has really been bad and they have had enough, either way they are just angry.

4)CIM: Confusion Is Me. They are not sure what they want but they need you to help them to make a decision. They can drag their time and your time. They can be depressed, sad or other seemingly timid emotions but in the end they are just challenging your emotions. If you are not careful you are the one who will end up being confused.

How to Deal with the Difficult Customer

First deal with yourself.

Remember they are being difficult not to themselves but to you, so in order to deal with them you need to “Check yourself before you Check them“. Until you deal with yourself you might never be able to deal with the next person.

I am going to borrow from my book (Five Principles of Programmed Success) the first principle being Relax Focus and Control.

1. Relax

  • Breathe: Be you don’t try to deal with the customer if you are not in the right state of mind, it will cause bigger problems.
  • Don’t match the customer’s energy: One you start matching the person’s energy, tone or bod language you might just escalate the situation. Remain calm and composed.
  • Observe the situation: For a moment become an observer of the situation so that you understand

2. Focus

  • Focus on the Customer not their Emotions. Don’t get caught up in trying to make the customer see how unreasonably they are being. Emotions are never easy to deal with as they could be a symptom of something completely different from what you are observing at that moment. Instead address the customer before  you not the emotions.
  • Focus on the business and product: Focus on the business being complained or addressed to. Don’t try to bring in everything that may not be necessary. The more you move away from the subject the higher the chances of birthing new issues the customer had not thought about.

3. Control

The final piece of the puzzle is in all this remain in self control. You cannot control the company, the client, the product but you can control yourself. Keep yourself in observation all the while being sure you are focusing on the correct problem and not the symptom. Being emotional at work can make you react to petty issues resulting in big decisions being made.

A Few Tips further Tips

Other tips which are fundamental to dealing with customers

  • Everyone wants to be listened to, so listening is key to be able to solve any problem
  • Your body language, your tone, your words all show if you are listening. Pay attention to how you are projecting yourself, you might be saying one thing but your body communicating something completely different.
  • Sometimes looking like you understand can be all the understanding that is needed.
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