How to deal with difficult customers

Dealing with difficult customers? Help your employees maintain morale

Difficult, upset or angry clients create challenges for your workplace beyond the obvious need to turn dissatisfied customers into happy ambassadors for your business. When your employees routinely deal with difficult customers, the work environment can become highly stressful, and as a manager you have to take steps to guard against damage to employee morale. Failure to recognize and support workers who undergo this kind of pressure can harm your business and create a negative feedback loop: Stressed employees will provide poorer customer service and eventually seek a different job. You’re left with the repeated expense of hiring and training, while your (perhaps dwindling) customers are served by discouraged or inexperienced representatives. Here are three tips for supporting your workers and helping them learn how to deal with difficult customers.

  1. Provide specific training

Dealing with confrontations in a business setting requires a specific skill set, and no one is an automatic expert. Provide your workers with plenty of training in best-practice customer service responses, and include a chance to role play difficult interactions with specific scripts. This will help your staff avoid falling back on existing emotional patterns of dealing with family arguments.

  1. Empower your employees

In many cases, the best way to satisfy an unhappy customer is to offer them a special service or exception to the rule. Employees on the front lines of handling customer complaints need to have the power to make such decisions without being required to seek management approval. This provides a streamlined customer experience, while also building employee self-esteem by showing that you have faith in their decision-making.

  1. Brainstorm proactive measures

An excellent way to reduce your employees’ stress levels is taking measures to reduce future customer unhappiness. Meet with your staff on a regular basis and ask for their input about changes that may alleviate client frustrations. This team orientation will avoid isolating stressed employees, and will identify customer satisfaction as a mutual goal. You can also take this opportunity to praise individual employees for having handled a difficult interaction especially well. Expressing appreciation is especially critical for supporting employees on the front line of customer service.

When your employees are happy and engaged, they’ll have the emotional strength to put their training to work and handle difficult customers. As a result, your brand will benefit from reduced turnover and from the repeat business that comes from a highly professional customer approach.

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