You know your business offers a quality service. You know you work hard to keep clients happy. But despite your best efforts, you’re bound to cross paths with the occasional customer who feels they’ve been wronged by your company. The best way to deal with difficult clients is to remain professional, take steps to defuse any conflict, and strive for a resolution that satisfies both you and your customer.
Reasoning with an Unreasonable Client
We’ve all been there: desperately trying to reason with someone who’s beyond being rational. Logical arguments won’t help. And because our brains have trouble distinguishing between physical threats and emotional danger, difficult people are not only frustrating, they can occasionally prove frightening to deal with.
So how do you stay composed enough to neutralize the situation at hand while hanging on to your personal dignity, your professional reputation, and your customer’s business? Consider these 4 proven ways to deal with difficult clients the next time you’re forced to sort out a complaint.
1. Encourage Them to Vent While You Listen
If you think back to the last time you took part in an angry discussion, you’ll probably remember how important it was to feel heard. Disgruntled clients feel much the same, which is why it’s critical to let them vent while you listen.
Engaging in careful, active listening is all about concentrating on what your customer is saying, so you can:
- fully comprehend the points that they’re making,
- remember what they said once they’ve finished, and
- validate their feelings by summarizing their concerns
Creating a supportive space for your customer to share their frustration will help set the stage for turning difficult conversations into simple, empathetic solutions.
2. Stay Calm and Objective
Listening to someone beat up on you or your business isn’t easy. But remaining objective while they have their say is the only way to determine which response will get them back to their happy place, faster. When a customer is emotionally charged, defending your actions won’t help – so try this instead:
- Do your best to stay calm by breathing deeply and slowly.
- Recognize that angry customers sometimes go off on a tangent. It’s your job to sift through their outburst for the specific grievance that applies to your business.
- Stay outside the dispute as much as possible by focusing on delivering a solution – even if the problem doesn’t involve you directly.
Successful business owners care about their clients. But the truth is that you’ll be in a better position to help them if you remember that most criticisms aren’t personal. Instead, try looking at customer complaints as an opportunity to learn more about the areas where your business can do better.
3. Find Out What Your Customer Wants
To temper conflict quickly and effectively, you should make every effort to view complaints from your customer’s perspective - and use language that communicates clearly your desire and intention to help. After listening to your client’s concerns, the best course of action includes:
- apologizing sincerely for not meeting their needs,
- confirming your understanding of the issue by repeating it back to them, and
- finding out exactly what they expect you to do to resolve their dilemma
Does your customer want a refund, a replacement, an upgrade - or some other acknowledgement of the inconvenience your company has caused them?
If a client’s expectations are blatantly stubborn, unreasonable, and completely out of sync with the size of their problem, you may need to review their history and carefully weigh the value of continuing to do business with them. Only then will you be able to decide whether it’s worth meeting their demands, or whether you should perhaps try negotiating more moderate terms.
4. Propose a Solution That Works
Once a customer hears that you’re prepared to fix their problem quickly, and in a way that works well for them, they’ll usually be inclined to forgive, forget, and move on. You should outline exactly how you plan to make things right, and when your client can expect to benefit from your solution.
In most cases, demonstrating your leaderships skills by taking responsibility for your customer’s dilemma will serve as a powerful antidote to their anger. Just remember that once you’ve promised a certain course of action, it’s vital that you follow up and deliver in full, and on time.
Dealing with difficult clients frequently comes down to being flexible in your approach to problem solving. And since no two customers are exactly alike, listening carefully to their issues and proposing fitting solutions is essential for restoring their faith in your business. Once you’ve successfully worked through an awkward dispute, don’t forget to document what happened and discuss it with your team before taking some well-deserved time out to de-stress, relax, and recover.