Each and every one of us serves customers, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you’re on the front lines of a company, serving the people who buy your products. Perhaps you’re an accountant, serving the employees by producing their pay checks and keeping the company running. Or maybe you’re a company owner, serving your staff and your customers.
Customer Service must consider all types of customers and how we can serve them better and improve ourselves in the process. You need to have a strong skill set that includes in-person and over the phone techniques, such as dealing with difficult customers, and generating return business..
It’s important to understand what customer service means in relation to all of your customers, both internal and external. Critically you need to take into account how your attitude affects your customer service delivery.
The better that you are able to Identify your customers’ needs and deliver on those needs the more likely it is that your customers will return. A business with no return customers is not a business at all.
Every interaction with the customer is a golden opportunity to build Goodwill. Being versed in over the phone customer service is just as important as one-on-one face-to-face customer service.
in today’s day and age there are also many online tools that assist you with delivery exceptional customer service.
Customers are not always easy to deal with. Therefore, you must develop the skill set of dealing with difficult customers.
This is a chapter from our course on dealing with difficult customers.
The Customer Service Workshop contains 12 modules with extensive content.
Recovering Difficult Customers
|Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
One of the hardest challenges customer service staff face is dealing with difficult customers. Sometimes customers have a legitimate reason to be upset and sometimes they don’t. In either case, customer service staff needs to be prepared for dealing with difficult customers and finding ways to win them back
No matter which method you are using to provide customer service, it is almost inevitable that at times you will have to deal with an angry customer. This is the case in even the best-run businesses, and for the best customer service individuals. Sometimes, whether justifiably or otherwise, customers will get annoyed with the company and will wish to vent that anger at the first available representative. It will frequently be quite powerful anger which may boil over into verbal abuse, but the job of a customer service provider is to accept that it will happen and get on with solving the problem. The first step in doing this is to try and calm the customer down; because it will be difficult to solve a problem if they are boiling with fury, whether their anger is justified or not.
The first thing you must do is speak to the customer in a calm manner and get straight the nature of the problem. It may be the case that they want to scream and shout a bit to vent their fury, and it is up to you how long you give them to do this. Your opening gambit should be something along the lines of “I can tell this is obviously a matter of some importance to you – I’d like to do what I can to help you”. Saying “please, calm down” or refusing to help until they have stopped shouting will simply escalate their anger.
Very often, anger arises as the result of a misunderstanding. In these cases it is essential to get to the source of the misunderstanding as quickly as possible. You should speak to the customer and allow them to see that you realize the matter is important. Do not say “I understand” or “I sympathize” – they do not want your sympathy and they will doubt that you understand. Getting the problem laid out, so that you can move forward, depends on getting the customer to see that you are willing to help. From that point, they will be a lot more ready to calm down and proceed.
Establishing Common Ground
When your job entails dealing with customers, it is inevitable that from time to time some of those with whom you deal will be dissatisfied, and perhaps in a bad mood. Your job in this case – as in all cases of customer service – is to ensure that the issues are dealt with promptly and efficiently. If this should mean that you have to listen to some ranting first of all, then it is worth accepting that this will be the case, and allowing a customer to say what they feel they have to say before getting to the heart of the problem. When all is said and done, you will be seeking to get the point across to the customer that you both have a common goal – the resolution to their problem.
It stands to reason, as a result of the circumstances, that the customer will display signs of anger towards you initially. You, to them, are a symbol of the company for whom you work, which is also the company with which they have an issue. In the customer’s eyes, you will be an opponent, and someone to be overcome. Your task is seeing to it that they realize that this is not the case. You are both on the same side here, as people who want to find a solution to their problem. Of course they will not see it that way at the beginning and this is where you will need to employ good customer service. Ask questions about the problem, to demonstrate that you take their issue seriously. Begin to formulate a solution and explain what that will be. Allow the customer to be part of this process, and you will gain their confidence.
In the long run, what you are looking for is a solution that the customer will be happy with. They may have begun the interaction by making known their dissatisfaction and being somewhat hostile towards you, but the fact of the matter is that as long as you maintain a calm demeanor and address their problem seriously, they will recognize you as an ally rather than an adversary, and will be ready to work with you on the issue. Once the issue is solved, they will remember you as a person who helped them, and will see you and the company in a more positive light.
Setting Your Limits
Sometimes a customer will come to you with a problem that you cannot solve. As a customer service representative it is often expected that you will have the solutions to all problems with your company’s products or services at your fingertips. Of course this simply is not possible. Sometimes a customer will come to you with a problem that simply is insoluble, and you will have to tell them so. In these cases it can be difficult to get your point across in a way that leaves the customer satisfied and seeing your point of view – but it is important to at least try.
There are many possible reasons why you may be unable to help a customer with their problem. It may be that they are simply being unreasonable – a defect may have occurred with a product that they bought because they used it for an application it wasn’t meant to perform. It may be that the product for which they are seeking help is now obsolete and that the problem is impossible to repair. In either case, the fact remains that you will not be able to grant their request, and you will need to communicate this in a way that allows them to leave on good terms.
So much of human interaction is in how you say things, and customer service is much the same. If you cannot solve a problem, then it is essential to explain why this is the case, and to give the customer all the help possible to find an alternative solution. The more you can do for them, the more they will understand that, although you could not solve the problem then and there, you gave it your best and you provided them with some help. Demonstrating that you are willing to do what is possible will win you points in almost every case.
Managing Your Own Emotions
When dealing with a customer who is angry, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain your own composure in the face of their protests. Your job as a customer service provider is to try and solve their problem and to avoid getting agitated yourself. However, the fact is that we are all human and we all have our limits. Sometimes you may feel that you want to respond to a customer’s goading by getting angry at them. This should be avoided as it escalates the situation. Instead you should try to remain calm and bring the customer toward your level of calm.
In many cases, the extent of the customer’s anger will be that they have had a problem with one of your products and they want to see it repaired. They will be angry because they spent money on something which, in their view, was not worth it. Your job in this case is to try and calm them down by allowing them to see that you will do whatever you can to help them. Rather than being a faceless, nameless representative of a company which has given them a problem, you are a human being. As much as possible, you should present this human face when talking to a dissatisfied customer; manage your emotions, and although it may be difficult it is worth doing.
Sometimes customers will seek to provoke a reaction from you, as they enjoy arguing the point and feel that seeing you get angry will prove that they are right. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the customer and think about how you would respond to such a situation, and what you would want to hear. Reaching an understanding may take time and effort, but it is worth doing nonetheless – particularly as getting angry could lead to you getting fired.
Jordan thought he had seen it all, but boy, he was wrong. One morning a very unhappy customer came through the office shouting and demanding help. Jordan was the only customer service representative that wasn’t currently busy, so he had to deal with the man.
The angry customer was shouting, but Jordan remained calm and collected. Jordan explained that he would try to help him in any way possible. The man eventually calmed down enough to have a discussion, and the issue was resolved rather quickly.
It was a simple misunderstanding, and was dealt with accordingly. Jordan was proud of the way he handled the situation, but would rather not have to go through it again anytime soon.