You might have heard some ghost stories as a child, but if you’re in the business world, there is nothing quite as scary as a bad customer. From the chronic complainer to the downright hard to handle, dealing with horrible customers can be like taking an extended vacation in Dracula’s mansion. No matter what you do, they always spot something wrong. Regardless of how good your product is, they still seek reasons to not pay. Thus, to help you detour your trip down that Dante road, here are 6 tips to deal with those trouble clients.
Halloween Edition: Surviving The Customer From Hell
1) Listen – Listening is extremely important in every avenue of customer service, especially when dealing with difficult customers. The customer ultimately wants to know that you care about them and understand their problem, so always be willing to listen to what they have to say, before doing anything else. As Snagajob writes, “The customer is more likely to be responsive if you let him or her vent,” so sometimes the best thing to do is to just sit back and let that happen. Repeat what they say back to them, so that they know you’re paying attention.
2) Empathize – Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Empathy can be an excellent tool to play towards the customer’s emotions and build a sense of trust. Be sure to use phrases like, “I understand,” and echo the issue back so that they sense you truly grasp their feelings. Remember, as Alan Fairweather says, empathy doesn’t necessarily mean acceptance, so you can still understand where the customer is coming from while, at the same time, taking blame for the issue. Also, try to avoid saying “sorry”, for the more times you say it, the more it loses its meaning. Be apologetic but make sure the customer knows that you understand both what they are saying and how they are feeling.
3) Don’t take anything personally – Always remember to stay calm and never take anything personally. While at times this can be hard, especially when dealing with a difficult customer, you must always keep your emotions in check—even if the customer’s aren’t. Regardless of what the customer says, never get defensive or confrontational. This only makes things worse. If you are nice, courteous, positive and calm, then the customer will be more likely to adopt that same attitude.
4) Work together to create a solution – Work with the client to resolve the issue to everybody’s agreement. Ask the customer, “How can we make it better?” and see if there is common ground on which to work. Even after the problem is addressed, make sure to follow-up with a letter or a phone call. This reassures the effectiveness of the solution and also helps to strengthen your relationship with this once difficult customer.
5) Know how to protect yourself – There will unfortunately be times when clients simply want to take advantage of you. In this case, always having your back covered is a good way to take the stress out of the situation. By creating contracts early that clearly delineate not only the scope of a project but also what is expected (such as the terms of payment) you can ensure that both sides know exactly what is anticipated.
6) Spot the bad ones – It’s a sad reality, but bad customers do indeed exist and nothing you can do will change that. For this reason, you should be on the lookout for signs early so you can better allocate your resources when dealing with them. Some signs, as Tom Taulli points out, are that the customer constantly chooses based on promotions, has a really high service cost relative to what they spend and is prone to switching services on a whim. While certainly there are signs to consider, you must always be careful when profiling customers, for it’s never a good thing to get it wrong.
Do you have a customer horror story? Leave us the details in the comments below and let us know how you dealt with them! Happy Halloween from the Funding Gates team!
This post was written by Arie Hefter.