Customer Experience News & Trends

3 ways to handle a customer who’s looking for a fight

Some customers by nature or circumstance want to pick a fight. Are you ready?

Contentious customers have different reasons for their ways. For some, it’s part of their personality to argue. Some are so upset that they can’t control their emotions. Others think the only way they can get what they want is to put up a fight. And some are just having a bad day.

You might not be able to identify the reason behind the fight in them (immediately, at least), but you can use these proven tactics to handle the situation:

1. Avoid their strong suits

This advice comes from someone in a profession where he often has to deal with combative customers. Bartender Bill Anderson says difficult customers tend to have “an area of expertise.”

They may good at interrupting, condescending or using foul language. His approach is to avoid their strong suit, by:

  • giving short, yes/no answers to interrupters
  • making extra eye contact with people who are condescending to show fearless service, or
  • cutting off communication with people who curse.

2. Seize the opportunity

Thank customers who are ready to fight for the opportunity to make things right. Then go the extra mile for them by letting them take (some) control of the solution.

For instance, say, “Thank you for contacting me so I have the opportunity to fix this situation. I want to do everything I can to take care of this now. I have a few suggestions on how we can do that. Of these three, what do you prefer …”

3. Stick to the facts relentlessly

Angry customers have pent-up with emotions. Counteract that by sticking to the facts with resolve. The more you focus on facts, the more likely you’ll get the contentious customer to focus on them, too. Plus, you’ll be less likely to allow the customer to strike a nerve with you.

These kind of statements — often repeated — can help:

  • “I want to make sure I’m the best person to help you. Please tell me when …”
  • “I can handle this for you quickly if you tell me how …”
  • “I need to know more about this situation. Tell me who …”

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