Customer Service - Difficult Customers


A customer unwilling to listen to what you have to say is a difficult customer. The unwillingness to listen could be due to anger, frustration, impatience, indecisiveness or talkativeness.

Remember that you can never offer a solution to an angry or frustrated customer. You can never offer a solution to an angry or frustrated customer. So your first priority when dealing with difficult customers is to calm them down.

Difficult Customers

Here is a list of some of the ways you can take to calm the angry customers down −

  • Listen to the complaint patiently

  • Never interrupt the customer

  • Allow the customer to vent her anger or frustration completely

  • Remain calm and control your own feelings

  • Be polite and at your best behavior

Setting Your Limits

As a customer service professional you will have to frequently deal with customers who are difficult to handle in some way or the other. To maintain your professionalism at all times, know your limits to dealing with difficult customers. These limits could be set according to level of complexity of the problem, degree of hostility from the customer or time duration for which you have been dealing with the same customer.

Once you know your limits, it is important to convey this to your colleagues as well as supervisor. This will enable them to judge the right time to intervene.

Understand When to Escalate

When dealing with difficult customers, do not get carried away. Be aware of your conversation and actions dispassionately, without emotions. This will help you recognize when you need to escalate the problem to your supervisor or someone higher up. Here are some reasons when you should escalate −

  • You have crossed your personal limit of handling a difficult customer

  • Someone else has more experience in dealing with such scenario

  • The customer insists on talking with someone else or more senior

Remember that as long as you have done all you could do, escalation does not mean that you have failed in doing your job. Customer service is a team effort and the team as a whole should be able to satisfy each customer.

Dealing with Vulgarity

As a customer service professional you can expect to come across vulgar customers too. If the vulgarity is on mail, you can choose to ignore it. However, if you are forced to give a response, keep these points in mind −

  • Problem lies with the customer, not you

  • Politely but firmly request the customer to stop his behavior immediately

  • If you feel unable to handle and there is no one else to step in, you can terminate the conversation after informing the customer

  • Flag the customer in the database so that if he calls again, the person handling him will be prepared

Coping with Insults

Never take any insult personally. Remember that you are a representative of the company and the customer also treats you as such. In case of e-mail, you can simply choose to ignore the mail. But in telephonic, chat or face-to-face scenario you have to respond. Here are some tips to guide you through such situation −

  • Be polite but firm in requesting the customer to stop verbal abuse

  • Never retaliate with insult or get angry

  • If you feel unable to handle and there is no one else to step in, you can terminate the conversation after informing the customer

Dealing with Legal and Physical Threats

Legal and physicals threats are a reality for customer service professionals. These are some guidelines for dealing with them professionally −

  • Don’t take threats personally

  • Understand that you have no control over what the customer does

  • Give a patient hearing to the customer even after he has threatened

  • Try to solve the problem and satisfy

  • Report the threat to the right people

  • You must do your job irrespective of indecent behavior shown by the customer

  • If the customer follows up with the threats, be ready to assist the legal team in every way you can

Managing Your Emotions (De-escalating Your Anger)

Dealing with a difficult customer can be emotionally draining. It can cause you to get angry yourself. However, you cannot remain angry for long because you have the next customer to deal with, who is entitled to your best behavior.

Managing Your Emotions

Here are some tips to de-escalate your anger after you have finished with the customer −

  • Take deep breaths to calm yourself

  • If possible, talk to someone and vent your anger

  • Do not dwell on the issue and move on

Take a small break and have a tea, coffee, snack, or something else to take your mind off your last customer.

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