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Dealing with Difficult Customers

12 June 2018

Customer service, as most companies know, is vital to the long-term success of a retail company. Selling products is one thing, but if a customer has a poor experience with your company’s customer services, they probably won’t shop there again since there’s no guarantee that another product they buy will get fixed or an issue dealt with.

But sometimes, you will encounter customers who are troublesome to deal with. They may be impatient, overly demanding, indecisive or even threatening, and they can appear in just about any customer service scenario. For many customer service representatives, this is either just another day on the job or a nightmare scenario, particularly for newer reps who don’t know how to react to a rude or outright intimidating customer. While there are various strategies to cope with a potentially rude customer, there are still some things that you need to bear in mind when engaging them.

An old adage that everyone in the service industry knows is ‘The customer is always right’, but most customer service reps will understand that this is more to do with avoiding conflict with difficult customers rather than an objective statement. Indeed, many customer service reps will have to deal with customers asking for help or assistance with something that should be easy to figure out. The adage comes into play especially when dealing with rude customers: while being a doormat is almost as bad as responding with your own rudeness, allowing the customer to vent and cool down before helping them can make helping them far easier.

The best way to Deal With Difficult Customers

In customer service roles, a degree of empathy for customers is pretty much needed, especially ones who are clearly frustrated yet remain polite. Customers are usually angry for a reason: perhaps they’ve just had to deal with a rude or inconsiderate customer service rep, they’re stressed out over the failure of something they deem important (such as a phone), they’ve been on hold for ages and so on. Some of them may be angry for reasons completely outside the issue, but either way, a good customer service representative shouldn’t feel personally attacked or get defensive if a customer lashes out at them for a perceived slight. They’re usually unhappy with the company or its products, not you.

Another common problem is an impatient customer asking for a quick solution to an issue you can’t solve. It can be upsetting when you’re put in the hot seat with a customer who doesn’t understand the role you usually play, more so if they’re impatient. Ideally, you should be able to redirect the call to someone more capable, but if not, there’s no point wasting your time and their time trying to figure out their problem if you really can’t do anything. Wait for an opportunity to redirect the call and assure the customer that their call is being taken seriously; that’s about all you can do in this scenario.

Difficult customers are what causes a lot of people to swear off ever working in customer service roles again, but they’re not the terrifying, insurmountable obstacle that you may think it is when you approach it from a different mindset. At the Change Consultancy, we’re excited about taking new technology, methods and workplace philosophy to reinvigorate companies and get them running at maximum efficiency in an age where change is fast and confusing.


Ryan Shotton