Every person in a customer-facing role understands that there are some customers who are more difficult than others. Here are some ways to turn these customer interactions into more positive experiences.
Today, more than ever before, customer experience is paramount for any organization. When you have positive customer interactions, these people become your company’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters. In fact, 94% of customers recognize the impact of customer experience on their impression of a company, so it’s not something to take lightly.
That being said, every single person in a customer-facing role understands that there are some customers who are more difficult to satisfy than others. When we have to deal with these people, it can sometimes feel like everything we do is heavily scrutinized and like, no matter what, we won’t get it right. As someone who takes pride in your work, this can be incredibly frustrating and can lead to additional challenges — like increased stress, and eventually, even burnout. Instead of getting caught up in the negative, we can find ways to turn these customer interactions into more positive experiences. Here’s how:
1. Listen to your customers, always
When working with a customer who’s a little more difficult, empathy is key. First and foremost, you have to remind yourself that their complaint likely has very little to do with you and that there are probably a lot of things going on in that person’s work and life that you’re not clued into.
Once you’ve reminded yourself of this, the only way you’ll truly be able to reach an agreement with them and find a solution that works for both of you is to listen to their challenges openly and with compassion. This is where some technology can hinder a positive response. If up until this point you’ve been communicating primarily through email or instant messaging, a lot of contexts can get lost, which can add to the frustrations on both sides.
If challenges persist, and you’re not able to reach a solution quickly, this is when you should try to give this customer a call (or, if it’s possible, meet them in person) to listen to their problems in real-time. This will not only give them the opportunity to see that you’re putting in a lot of effort to help resolve the issue, but it will also provide you with the context you need to understand the root of the problem, and ultimately, work toward a solution.
2. It’s time to get creative
After you understand your customer’s concerns, the next step is to ask yourself: Is this problem solvable?
Nine out of ten times, your answer is likely going to be “yes,” even if it’s a challenge you’ve never encountered before. When this is the case, you should pull in your team members across departments to brainstorm a creative solution. The more guidance you can gain from across your organization, especially when handling a new challenge, the more likely you’ll be to find an answer that satisfies your customer.
Maybe the answer is that the team needs to rethink some aspect of the product, or maybe there was a misunderstanding in the early stages of communication with the customer, accounting for their current frustrations. Whatever the answer may be, the only way you’ll be able to find it is if you get to the root of the problem and work your way up from there. This is where members from different departments and backgrounds can help provide context and ideas about aspects of the work that you’re not directly working on.
If you approach a problem as a creative challenge that requires solving, instead of as a negative experience from the get-go, it will improve the entire situation. In the end, you’ll likely not only solve this one customer’s problem but provide a solution for other customers before challenges even arise.
3. Work smartly, but work efficiently
When a customer reaches the point of reaching out directly to you about a complaint, they’re likely looking for an immediate solution. While we’re not always able to solve problems right away, it’s important that you show the customer that you understand the urgency of their request. This will not only help you cross this item off your to-do list quicker but will also demonstrate to the customer that you’re taking their request seriously and that you value them as a customer.
As you’re working through their problem, especially if it’s a more time-consuming request, it’s also important to over-communicate with them on your status. Customers want to see the momentum and know that they’re being heard, so this will help them better understand what you’re doing to help them.
4. See everything as a learning experience
The ultimate goal with any difficult customer is to solve their problems and strengthen the relationship as a result. But sometimes, this isn’t going to be the case. You’ll always run into customers who you’ll never fully win over, no matter how hard you try. And that’s okay.
For these types of particularly difficult interactions, there’s always something to learn. Following each negative customer interaction, it’s important to debrief and ask yourself these questions:
- Is there any way I could have improved that interaction?
- Are there any other resources I could have turned to that would’ve resolved their issues?
- Did the customer raise any legitimate concerns that we should find solutions for in the future?
- What can I take away from this interaction to help me communicate better in the future?
By taking a beat to reflect and internalize how you can improve, you’ll be able to become a more effective customer communicator in the future. No matter how negative an interaction may seem in the moment, there’s always an opportunity to turn it around and find the silver lining.
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