Below are a few key things that you can do to help deal with difficult customers, and hopefully, turn them into happy ones:
- Listen to what the customer is saying and try to understand their perspective. Just because something is clear to us, doesn't mean that the customer understands why something has happened. Give the customer opportunity to explain their issue and acknowledge that you are listening to them via verbal and non-verbal cues (like nodding, etc.). Once they have explained, make sure that you understand the situation correctly by confirming this back to them - i.e. "So you're saying that X has happened as a result of Y and that you need us to resolve this?" - as this shows that you are listening and helps to ensure that you have the right end of the stick regarding the customer's concerns.
- Show empathy and be sympathetic to their situation. However, their understanding of the situation may not be 100% accurate - try to explain things clearly and coherently so that they can develop an appropriate understanding and realistic expectations.
- Don't take things personally - remember that it's not about you, it's about the customer and their experience. It's impossible to get on with everyone in your personal life, and the same is true for your professional life.
- Be patient, calm and professional at all times. You can't control the emotions of others, but you can try to de-escalate the situation by pausing before reacting and trying to remain calm with your responses. If the situation doesn't improve, you can remove yourself from the situation - for example, "Please can you stop shouting?", and then, if they don't, "I'm afraid that I'm going to have to end this conversation if you continue to shout". People have the right to be upset about a particular situation, but it's impossible to resolve anything if you are being threatened or verbally abused and the customer is unwilling to take a step back and pause for breath.
Make it a positive experience ...
Customers can't always be happy all the time, but they can have a positive experience when they are dealing with you if you are calm, helpful and professional. This is true regardless of the situation, and even if the customer is in the wrong.
When to escalate ...
Of course, some customers are deliberately abusive or impossible to please - in these cases, it may be best to walk away from the situation and/or end the conversation. In some cases, you may need to escalate the issue (if you work in a setting with a manager or business owner who could deal with the issue on your behalf) or pass it on to a fellow member of your team if the issue seems to be driven by personal issues.