How to Deal with Difficult Customers: 15 Ways to Defuse a Situation

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This has nothing to do with closing a sale, and everything to do with making sure the conversation with a customer is complete. Your willingness to ensure that a customer is leaving perfectly happy shows them three important things:. In some cases, this gesture is what prompts the customer to leave a positive review for your business. Support champions are often required to act like lightning rods: to take the brunt of an emotional, angry customer despite the fact that it is not their fault.

2. Remain Even-Keeled and Try a Different Direction

Sometimes this anger from customers is unjustified, and other times they have a cause for their actions. Create a better experience for your customers with Help Scout. Struggling to keep your conversations with customers productive and positive? Get the guide on How to Talk to Your Customers.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers Using These 7 Psychological Strategies

Join , customer-obsessed readers on our mailing list. Greg is a writer, marketing strategist and alum of Help Scout. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Gregory Ciotti. Great question, let me find that out for you right now! Without positive language: I can't get you that product until next month; it is back-ordered and unavailable at this time.

I can place the order for you right now and make sure that it is sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!

5 intelligent ways to handle irate customers

Imagine using this language instead: "Hello Mr. Get Started. Gregory Ciotti Greg is a writer, marketing strategist and alum of Help Scout. Angry customers can be converted to loyal customers if they experience a positive customer service experience. So loyal, in fact, that they become more likely to buy from you again after a customer service interaction than they were before.

Interestingly, there are three research papers that back up the service recovery paradox—at least to a point. First is a report by Mangini that showed:. In some situations, customers give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you some grace to try and fix their issue. Even enraged customers can be won over sometimes—if you can successfully de-escalate the situation. An innovative study looking at customer service interactions on Twitter also found evidence of a lift in customer loyalty after a customer service interaction. Research demonstrated that those who received a customer service response after Tweeting at a brand on Twitter were more likely to purchase from that company in the future.

The study included both angry customers and also customers who were reaching out with questions but who did not seem upset—not yet anyway. While most companies do earnestly try to solve customer problems, inevitably there are some problems that cannot ever be fixed….

How to Deal with Difficult People - Jay Johnson - TEDxLivoniaCCLibrary

They want a response. And if given the chance, some can be converted from angry customers into a loyal ones.

Bonus: recognize that it’s best to prevent issues from arising in the first place

When handled correctly, many of them can be converted into happy customers—or even raving fans of your brand. Your first response to the customer should happen within 24 hours, and even that might be too long. The quickest way to take control and begin to turn around a negative customer experience is to actively listen. This may seem like an unnecessary step.

But so many situations escalate because of a misunderstanding between you and the customer. Repeat back to the customer what you hear them saying.

This step all by itself is often enough to calm an angry customer. Did you and your company screw up? Is it a product bug? Is it a perceived injustice or misunderstanding with the customer?

1. When you don’t know the answer

Then, get it to your product team. A couple of days after the customer issue has been closed, reach out to the customer just to check in and ensure their problem is truly resolved. Even the most difficult customers will appreciate this gesture, and it can go a long way toward rebuilding trust between with upset customers.

As you get more product feedback, set up a system where you can send requests to your product team on a regular basis. At Groove, we count requests in an internal Trello board. If we commit to building a feature, we add it to our public roadmap. We also share a link to the board so they can track its progress for themselves.

3 Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers

They never seem to be satisfied no matter how many times you address their concerns. For customers who never seem satisfied, try to find the root issue behind all their support requests. A simple framework you can use with them is the 5 WHYS approach, a problem-solving approach made famous by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System.

See if you can find the root cause behind the constant problems your regular support customers are having. These are customers you usually see on social media channels rather than in your actual support inbox. They thrive off controversy and they love the response they get from picking a fight in a public forum. The best thing to do in these situations is to gracefully part ways with the customer. Sometimes your company might be involved with a lawsuit or a legal threat, and you might receive a message related to it in the support inbox. Train your support reps not to engage with these types of messages.


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Have them alert their manager, who can make a decision on what to do next. I want to share a story from a friend and Groove customer, Kyle Racki of Proposify , about how he handled a situation with an angry customer on Twitter. As we all know, in the early days of a startup, product issues do happen, and they happen often. The single best way to compensate for that shortcoming is to offer undeniably excellent customer service. Proposify, a SaaS company whose product helps people put together super-polished proposals, got a Tweet from a less-than-pleased customer.

The customer certainly had a legitimate complaint, and their frustration caused them to package the complaint in a sarcastic Tweet.


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Here, Kyle does something really important: instead of making assumptions about what the customer meant, he asked for clarification.