9 Tips to Keep Difficult Customers Happy

9 Tips to Keep Difficult Customers Happy

Every entrepreneur will inevitably encounter challenging customers. Dealing with them can be difficult, but winning them over is critical for so many reasons – from their continued patronage to ensuring they don’t spread negative stories about your business. These days, word can spread online at lightning speed or even go viral.

Here are nine tips from Jacqui Jeffrey, who has spent more than 11 successful years as a retail manager for a business with numerous locations across the country. Her advice will help bring even the most difficult customers back from the brink.

  1. Listen and let them vent.

    Don’t interrupt or argue as they make their points. Try to build rapport by looking them in the eye and nodding as they speak. Wait until your customer is finished, then apologize for the inconvenience they have experienced, saying you understand and want to help. At the right moment, ask what you can do to make things right or help fix the situation.

  2. Put yourself in their shoes.

    Repeat your customer’s concerns back to them so they know you understand and that you were listening. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, ask what you can do to solve the problem, then try to resolve the matter so you can move on to more productive customer service issues. People who are extremely unhappy and rude are usually an exception rather than a rule.

    “If it is something that is our fault, I apologize and immediately offer some sort of compensation that is equal to the issue in question,” says Jacqui. “Then we go from there.”

  3. Be honest with what you can offer and never let a customer leave unhappy.

    If someone is demanding something and you know you can’t provide it immediately, let them know and explain why. Perhaps an item they want replaced has been discontinued and will need to be replaced with a comparable but newer model. Or perhaps your customer needs a part that will take time to order. Work to resolve the situation even if the outcome or compensation you can provide takes a day or more.

  4. Speak calmly and don’t raise your voice.

    By remaining relaxed, you can help prevent the situation from escalating because it keeps your customer calm too. Do not react, even if they yell, swear or speak to you in a way that is rude and disrespectful. Getting angry or upset, even if a customer is being verbally abusive, will not solve the situation. Remind the customer you are there to help and ask again what you can do to resolve their issue.

  5. Assume you always have an audience.

    These days, whether you are speaking to a customer in person, on the phone or in an email, expect that others will hear about it. They may watch as you address the customer in your store or read about it online.

    “As I’ve said, it is extremely important to make sure that you never let a customer leave your store angry. Social media and word of mouth travel fast,” says Jacqui. “When I’m not in, my staff are trained to follow guidelines so they can provide satisfaction without my express consent. As a result, they never have to tell a customer to come back when I’m in or that I will call them to resolve something. When I don’t deal with an issue personally, I always call the customer to follow up and ensure they are happy.”

  6. Don’t make it personal.

    The customer is venting at you as a company representative, not as an individual. Continue to remind the customer that you are there to help and try to steer the conversation back to the matter at hand. Jacqui always tells her staff to deal with the issue, not the customer. “They don’t hate you – it’s that you are a representative of the company they are having a problem with at that moment,” she says.

  7. Remember that angry customers are people too.

    We never know what another person is experiencing in their own life – from disagreements at home or an ill family member to job loss or a speeding ticket. We all have bad days but unfortunately some people take it out on others.

    “Most angry customers are dealing with something other than what they are complaining about,” explains Jacqui. “There are definitely chronic complainers out there, but in general I like to turn a person’s day around by working to resolve their issue in our store.”

  8. Follow-up is key.

    If you’ve promised to call or send an email, be sure to do it when you said you would, even if you don’t have an update yet. This shows that you take your customer’s concerns seriously.

    “Even if you don’t have an answer or an offer of compensation by the time you thought you would, call the customer to let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them and that you are still waiting or working on the issue,” recommends Jacqui. “Then, let them know when they can expect to hear from you again and follow up until the issue has been resolved.”

  9. Say thank you.

    Regardless of how the situation is resolved, a customer is still a customer. Your business is thriving because of them and others like them. A sincere thank you goes a long way.

    “Even when someone has yelled, cursed or thrown something at you – and yes, this happens – once the matter is resolved, be sure to thank the customer for their business and sincerely wish them a good day,” says Jacqui.

Regardless of the situation, by following these nine tips, your business can help keep customers happy in any situation.