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How to Deal With Difficult Customers by Neil Debenham

Neil Debenham

Dealing with difficult customers can seem like a nightmare. From an angry tone to the threat of an equally angry review, customers that aren’t satisfied with your product or service can take a significant toll on your business as a whole.

However, with the right approach, an unsatisfied, difficult customer can often be converted into one of your business’s biggest supporters.

Below, business finance adviser, Neil Debenham shares five strategies that you can use to deal with difficult, demanding or unhappy customers.

Focus on listening

One of the most common concerns of unhappy customers is that their concerns aren’t listened to. When customers feel ignored, a small complaint can often evolve into a major dispute with your business.

To prevent small conflicts from escalating into large ones, it’s important to focus on listening to disgruntled or unhappy customers.

If you deal with customers personally, take their feedback seriously and try to listen as much as possible to their concerns. Often, there’s a solution hiding in plain sight that can resolve conflict and win over the customer as a supporter of your business.

Break down a big problem into smaller, fixable issues

Customers often become difficult and frustrated when a problem is seemingly too large to easily fix. For example, a customer might feel upset that your product or service is too costly, or that a competing product might be available at a lower price.

Often, breaking down this seemingly big problem into smaller pieces can help you to overcome issues and reach an agreement.

For example, if your business offers a service, breaking it down into smaller pieces and getting rid of services the client doesn’t require can make your offering more affordable, allowing you to close the deal with a satisfied customer.

Create specific, action-oriented resources for your staff

As a company director or business owner, interacting with difficult customers can be a stressful, challenging experience. However; you have immense power to change the situation and solve common issues — something that your employees likely don’t have.

To make things easier for your staff, create specific, action-oriented resources that explain your processes for dealing with difficult or unhappy customers.

These resources should explain what to do in a high-stress situation with a customer, what your team is allowed to offer to resolve conflicts, as well as processes for de-escalating conflicts with customers who remain unhappy after a chat, call or other interaction.

Stay calm, even if the customer isn’t

Sometimes, customers can be unreasonable, explains Neil Debenham. They may feel ignored and respond by acting in an aggressive, unpleasant manner towards you or your staff. In other situations, they may feel that being noisy and persistent is the best way to be noticed and taken seriously.

Although it can be tempting to respond to aggression with more aggression, it’s important that you stay calm when dealing with customers.

Even if a customer is being aggressive, difficult and unpleasant, maintain a calm tone and talk to them with respect. Let them know that their worries are being taken seriously and that your goal is their satisfaction, not simply an end to the conversation.

Above all, treat customers with immense respect. By providing a solution in a calm, respectful way, it’s often possible not just to resolve conflict, but to use it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a customer and build long-term loyalty.

Thank your customers for providing valuable information

Sometimes, a difficult or unhappy customer can be a valuable source of information about your business’s weak points.

For example, a disgruntled customer might point out that it’s difficult to get ahold of your support team, or that your product is priced too high compared to the competition. These are all insights that your satisfied customers are unlikely to provide on their own.

In other cases, an interaction with an unhappy customer may provide a template for your staff to use in future cases involving demanding, difficult customers or clients.

Even if a customer’s feedback isn’t particularly valuable for your business, make sure to thank them for the interaction. Doing so not only de-escalates the conflict — it also makes customers feel that they’re a valuable, important part of your business.

Neil Debenham

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