Customer Experience News & Trends

6 difficult customers – and the best ways to handle them

What’s the worst part of working with difficult customers? They usually don’t want to listen. Here are six of the most difficult customers you’ll encounter — and tactics to get through to each. 

These customers aren’t necessarily mean or rude. But they can be stubborn and cause problems for employees who deal with them directly.

This guide will help put their issues to an end.

1. Experts

Experts — aka “know-it-alls” — manage to add their expertise to every conversation. You need to manage how you take their information and how you communicate information back to them.

It matters because some know-it-alls are truly experts — and they need expert information. But some know-it-alls are wanna-bes, says Dianna Booher, a communication expert.

How to communicate with them: First, listen. If they speak with certainties and facts that you know are right, they’re real experts. If they’re full of “I think” statements and questionable facts, they’re wanna-bes, and you need to respond with your facts, data and proven solutions.

For real experts, acknowledge their know-how and use it as a primer for yours. Example: “Mr. Jones, I know you’ve been a loyal customer for many years, and have used nearly every one of our lines. And I hear what you’re saying about the newest line’s quality. I’m wondering if you remember the change in industry standards that calls for a lighter material that uses a stronger bonding than the old standard. Could that have an effect, and be the cause for your concern?”

2. Chronic complainers

You’d think that nothing will ever satisfy them. They complain about everything — and once changes are made to address one complaint, they’ll likely find something at fault with that.

How to communicate with them: Ask complainers to offer ways to address their concerns. Involving them in solutions will encourage them to look on the brighter side and buy in to the changes made in response to their protests. For instance, “I can think of two possible solutions, but I’d like to get your thoughts first. What would you like to see happen?”

3. Drifters

They might ask you questions or bring issues to you, but their short attention spans don’t allow them to listen effectively to your responses. So they lose interest and end up contacting you again to ask the same of you.

How to communicate with them: Follow up in writing. Send email or text messages to reiterate what you shared already. Keep notes short and orderly with bullet points.

4. Shouters

They think the best way to get things done is to be the loudest, most squeaky wheel. So they might raise their voices at the smallest issues or demand they deal with a higher-up.

How to communicate with them: Lower your voice to encourage them to bring theirs down too, and address the issue head-on. Tell them, “Would you want to discuss this later when you can talk without raising your voice?”

5. Pleasers

They tell you what you want to hear: “Sure, I’ll send the payment tomorrow.” “Yes, I followed the instructions exactly.” “Thanks for the advice. I’ll definitely use it.” Then they’ll do exactly what they want to do — or do nothing at all.

How to communicate with them: You may never know if you’ve gotten your message across or they’ll do what they’ve said, but you can try by asking follow-up questions and requesting they confirm you’re on the same page. For example, “Now, we’ve covered a lot of information. I just want to confirm that you will do … And once that’s done, I will process the final order.”

6. Tyrants

They want it all right now. They might demand far more than they know is reasonable and then make threats to get their way.

How to communicate with them: Tell them the possibilities. You don’t have to tell them they can’t have what they demand. Just lay out a few solutions that are in your capabilities and invite them to pick what works best. For instance, “I can issue you a refund right now. I can walk a replacement order to production and have it started tomorrow afternoon. I can credit your account. To take care of your situation immediately, please tell me what you prefer.”

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