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Challenging Customers: How to Fly Through Sticky Situations

By December 5, 2021May 11th, 2023All, Delivery4 min read


Published on December 5, 2021 | Reading Time: 4 mins

All customer-facing staff encounter a wide variety of situations in their everyday roles. What about the most challenging ones?

Delivering services means interacting with customers who may, at times, be unhappy. Responding to the customer in a way that saves the situation is very important. The way in which staff navigate these interpersonal situations can help uphold great customer service and lead to a better relationship with the customer. Let us look into the various strategies that can help you interact positively with dissatisfied customers.

1. Listen more than you speak

Listen to the customer, let them vent, don’t interrupt or contradict them – even if you believe they are wrong. It is a vital way to show the customer you understand. In case of a direct interaction, keep in mind the importance of body language; maintain eye contact, smile, and show them you’re paying attention to their problem.

2. Use positive language to show them you understand

When the customer is done talking, respond with empathy and let the customer know you are on their side. It is very important to maintain a calm tone of voice. Also, avoid using aggressive or negative language, and instead appreciate the power of positive language in deescalating situations. For example, if the solution isn’t among your job duties or you can’t solve the issue, never say this to the customer. Instead of saying “You have to talk to our sales department for…”, try saying “Our sales department may be able to help you with …”.

3. Asking cordial questions to get to the bottom of the issue

You can’t offer a solution without first identifying the root cause. You need to dig a little deeper to understand the issue. Ask questions to find out what the customers’ needs are and to ascertain details about the problem at hand. Try to summarise the case and, if necessary, ask further question for clarification – this will enable you to come out with successful resolutions.

4. Create a positive experience for the customer through alternative positioning

Alternative positioning is a strategy used to explore further options with your customer. Once you have understood the issue at hand, employ this strategy to learn more about your customer and their needs, while attempting to solve their problems. First, take extra time to focus on the customer’s interests to determine what alternatives will be satisfactory to them. Next, don’t try to explain your way out of a situation as it may seem defensive to the customer, which is counterproductive when trying to calm them. Finally, don’t take the customer’s request quite literally, as their actual issue may be different – understanding the full context will help cater to their actual needs when suggesting an alternative. Rather, suggests solutions using your own experience and creativity. After coming out with a solution, it is important to ask the customers if they are pleased with it to uphold a positive experience for them.

5. Be sincere to maintain a good relationship

Empathy strengthens human bonds. Placing yourself in your customer’s shoes and showing empathy can help support customer loyalty. When in a challenging situation, be sure to explain everything and deliver information with sincerity. To repair the relationship with the customers, it is very important to, for example, contact the customer a few days after resolving the problem to ask if they are satisfied with the action that had been taken.

6. Train yourself

When managing challenging customers, a lot of skills are important and require training. This includes stress management, anger management and negotiation. Staying calm also helps to focus on the goal of helping the customer, instead of taking the irritation personally or to heart. Training your agents in staying calm gives your customer service teams a better chance at succeeding. If you think of it, even dealing with a challenging customer is, in and of itself, excellent training for your agents, as it broadens their knowledge of how to deal with angry customers in the future.

Remember that it is always possible for a once angry customer to leave the situation a satisfied and committed long-term friend – if you created a positive experience for them.


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