Customer Experience News & Trends

What to do in 5 awkward customer situations

Here are five of those awkward moments in the life of customer relationships — and what to do in each of them.

When you have a hand in the customer experience, you never know what to expect. Many questions and issues are routine, but a zinger will likely come your way every day.

Some of the most awkward situations:

1. You have no idea how to fix it

No matter how well trained front-line staff is, there will be questions they don’t know how to answer. Many times, they might not even know where to go immediately for the answer.

When a question blind-sides you, take these steps:

  1. Be honest. You don’t have to say, “I don’t know.” But you want to acknowledge that you don’t have the information right now. Reassure customers that you know where to go. Try, “I’m not sure about that, and I wouldn’t want to give you wrong information. The best thing is for me to ask Carl, who’s an expert in that area. If anyone knows, it’s him.”
  2. Make your search. Talk to the person or people who know the answers or can help you find them. Let customers know how long you think it’ll take, and update them if it takes longer than that.
  3. Thank customers. When you’ve found the answer customers need, thank them for their patience and trust before you delve into the solution.
  4. Exit gracefully. You can’t assume that the answer you believe is right still satisfies their need. Once you’ve given it, ask, “Is that what you needed?” or “Is there anything else I can do to clarify this?” Then offer your number or email again to help in the future.

2. You can’t get a word in edgewise

Some customers are so caught up in their issues, their business or themselves, they dominate conversations — even when they’ve contacted you to get an answer or solution.

It can be unsettling to work with customers who won’t let you get a word in when they jump from need to need or, worse, complaint to complaint. Of course, you don’t want come across as aggressive when you need to be assertive.

So try this approach: “I want to hear everything you need to tell me. After that, I hope you’ll be able to take the time to do the same for me.”

3. A customer just wants to argue

Some customers have a legitimate complaint, and you’re willing to work with them on a solution. Still, they won’t back down or see any other side of a situation.

They want to push your buttons, and you might even start to feel defensive.

The best bet in this situation: Take their side — or, at least, part of if. Say, “You might be right.” They hear some agreement, and you open the door toward more positive communication without taking or placing blame.

4. A customer won’t stop

Some customers are great to talk to or exchange messages with … and then they take it too far. They want to talk well beyond rapport-building, question-asking or problem-solving.

While it’s good to build relationships through natural conversations, you need to free both of you from conversations that become unproductive. One of these sentences work well:

  • “Should we talk again at a later point?”
  • “I don’t want to keep you any longer.”
  • “I’ll let you go so you can get back to your work/day/business.”

5. A customer loses control of his emotions

When customers become so angry that they’re cursing, demeaning or belligerent, it’s more than awkward. It makes things difficult for customer experience professionals.

When an awkward situation escalates, try one of these approaches:

  • “What has you most frustrated?” This gets the customer to focus on the heart of the problem — and helps you move quickly toward the proper resolution.
  • “This is quite a situation. Tell me what has made you the angriest.” This will uncover the act or detail that needs to be addressed first. Then apologizing for the main issue will show you care about the same thing — the problem and it’s solution.
  • “What has you most concerned at this point?” This question leads to the future. The issue at hand usually has potential consequences down the road. You can quickly defuse anger if you uncover the potential issues and prevent them.

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