Category: Difficult Customers

3 Things to Know Before You Talk to Your Next Challenging Customer

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You already know it’s best to not say words like “Unfortunately,” or a hard “no,” and you probably even know that you need to let angry customers vent for at least a few seconds, but there are some other things you should know before trying to get customers to accept your word as final, especially when you have to give customers bad news. I’m sharing three tactics from my handling demanding customers workshops to help you assertively (and politely) control challenging interactions with customers.

1. Don’t undermine your authority by mentioning “your supervisor.”

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I had an employee who, when trying to assert her authority with challenging customers, would say things like, “Only a supervisor can make a decision for that amount,” “That’s over my head,” or “If I can’t help you, I’m happy to let you talk to my supervisor.”

What my employee was doing, certainly without realizing it, was priming customers to escalate up to a supervisor. The mere mention of supervisor and the suggestion that some decisions were “over her head,” psychologically nudged customers to do just that, go over her head to talk to a supervisor who was clearly the only person able to move the needle on the customer’s issue.

Here’s What’s In the Mind of Your Unreasonable Customer

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When a customer reaches out to you about a problem, they usually don’t think things will be easy. They expect to enter a fray.

To customers, it’s them against you.

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Visually, it’s like this. There’s a brick wall between you and your customer. You are on one side of the wall, and your customer is on the other.

6 More Ways to Get An Angry Customer to Back Down

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Eleven years ago I published my first YouTube video. I called it Top 6 Ways to Get An Angry Customer to Back Down. That little video has gotten more than 2.9 million views. (I have this old-school video at the bottom of the page if you’d like to take a look.)

The style, content, and quality of that video are as far as the east is from the west from my current videos and work. But people watch it, like it and learn from it. So, it serves its purpose.

For some time I’ve wanted to update my Top 6 Ways to Get An Angry Customer to Back Down tactics. In a few days I’m heading to Montreal to help a new client, a team of Customer Service Representatives, get their demanding and unreasonable customers to back down. I’ve spent the last few weeks coming up with solid tactics and strategies for this client.

The tactics and techniques I’ll use in my Montreal training, as it turns out, are an excellent update to my original Top 6 Ways to Get An Angry Customer to Back Down. So, I’m now issuing an update to these strategies and I’m calling this Six More Ways to Get An Angry Customer to Back Down.

Maybe I’ll do a video later when I’m not delivering back-to-back workshops on the road. For now, though, I’ll merely share my new tactics.

1. Create Calm

The first thing you need to do with demanding and unreasonable customers is create calm. Create calm by using anti-inflammatory words and using words that show the customer that getting to the bottom of the problem is as important to you, as it is to them. Statements like these work well:

“I’m sorry you’ve had such a frustrating experience.”

“This is no more acceptable to us than it is to you.”

“Thanks for taking the time to let us know.”

“We want to get to the bottom of this as much as you do.”

Responses like these show the customer that you’re on their side. Customers won’t refute these statements, and you’ll begin to create calm.

2. Limit Your Responses to Simple Reassurances

Always Link the Communication Chain In Customer Interactions

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Psychologists talk about what they call the Communication Chain. The Communication Chain says that when a person puts out a verbal message, they expect a response to that message. That first message is a link in the communication chain. If there’s no response to the link, the chain is left unlinked or broken.

Let’s say that instead of reading this article, you’re a participant in one of my workshops. And let’s say, I start the training off with, “Good morning!”

And let’s say, that when I say good morning, the room is silent. No one says a word to me. How do you think I’d feel, if I opened with a high energy greeting, and not one person said a word?

I’d feel awkward. Embarrassed. I’d probably be thinking, this is not going to go well.  Whatever I’m thinking, or feeling, it’s negative, right? And my next response would be dictated by the negative feelings in my head. I might not be my best as a trainer, because I’m a little embarrassed, and feeling rejected.

If most of the people in my live audience, in my example, said back to me, Good morning, the chain would have been linked; I wouldn’t have felt rejected, and all would’ve been well.

When the link is broken, people can feel rejected, slighted, or angry. – You don’t want your customer to feel any of these emotions. Avoid negative feelings by linking the communication chain. You link the chain by acknowledging whatever your customers put out there.

Here are some good examples of how to acknowledge concern:

Make Sure You Don’t Push Your Customers, Because They’ll Push Back

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When people feel pushed into a corner, they push back. If a customer senses you are defensive, rude, or unhelpful, it is natural for them to push back. They push back with their words, tone, or by asking to talk to a supervisor.

In a live De-escalation workshop recently, I had my audience divide up into pairs. And I had them identify as partner “A” or partner “B.”

Then I said,“Partner A, hold the palm of your hand up. And then I want you to place your palm next to Partner B’s palm.”

I then told Partner A to press against the palm of person B. After a couple of seconds, I asked, “How many of you who had the role of Partner B pushed against the palm of person A?”

About 75% of the hands when up. Which was interesting. I didn’t tell Partner B to press or push. I told Partner A, to press, but I gave no instructions of pressing or pushing to partner B.

So, I asked those with their hands up, “Why did you push against the palm of the other person?” They said things like, “They were pushing, so I pushed back.”

Pushing back, when someone pushes against you is what most of us do, including your customers.

When people feel pushed into a corner, they push back. If a customer senses you are defensive, rude, or unhelpful, it is natural for them to push back. They push back with their words, tone, or by asking to talk to a supervisor.

Minimize escalation in aggression or an escalation to a supervisor by not allowing yourself to push because pushing will almost always result in your customer pushing back.

I describe the Don’t Push idea in this short video. Use this video to teach your employees not to push.

We tend to push in these ways:

This Is What You Say When a Customer Cusses At You

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I cuss. A lot. But never have I dared to cuss at a person in a customer service role. And I get rather upset about lousy customer service and still manage to talk nicely to people about any issues I encounter. Some people cuss, and yell and make threats when they are angry about customer service. This is not okay.

You have to draw the line on unacceptable behavior with customers, just as I hope you do in your interpersonal relationships when people disrespect you. You get the behavior you tolerate. So, don’t tolerate profane language.

Diplomatic comebacks to cussing set you up as professional and assertive, and they help you get the respect you deserve.

Here are seven comebacks for the customer who cusses at you. These responses are professional and will get the job done.

7 Things You Can Say to Gain Control with Challenging Customers

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If you find it difficult to get your customer to stop telling you the story of just how inconvenienced they were, or are, and to stop rambling on about the problem, it’s likely because the customer is stuck in the past.

You’re going to have to reframe the issue in the customer’s mind. That is, you must strategically move your customer out of a past problem to a focus on the present so that you can offer a solution. Your job, in essence, is to get the customer to move on.

Reframing statements are fantastic in getting the customer to move forward. Reframing does two things for you. First, it acknowledges your customer’s biggest concern. You empathize. Secondly, it ushers in the solution phase of problem resolution.

Here are seven reframing statements that recognize customer concern and help customers move on.

6 Verbal Aikido Tactics Everyone Who Handles Difficult Customers Should be Using

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No matter what your product or service is or what business you’re in, your employees will have to deal with difficult customers.

I know that’s an easy question, but here’s the problem:

Very few people in customer service actually get the training they need to get an angry customer to back down, regain control and gracefully respond to the customer who demands to speak to a supervisor.

So that’s why I’m sharing these tactics… to show you a fast and easy new way your employees can create calm and regain control with difficult customers.