Handling Different Types of Customers.
Abacus International
Friday, 6th April 2007
We all have them – difficult customers or customers that we perceive to be difficult. How do we turn these difficult customers into potentially good customers instead of turning them away?

Borrowing techniques from Dr Patricia Patton, here are some tips to handle the different types of potentially challenging customers. This is part one in a two-part series.

The hostile and aggressive types
In handling hostile and aggressive customers, you will likely feel threatened, awkward, angry or fearful even.

Remain calm and professional
It is critical that you remain in control. Don't let them intimidate you, but don't return the aggression. Through your actions and words, let them know that you have every intention to provide them a high level of service, regardless of their behaviour.

Let them vent their emotions
If the customers are at their peak of emotions – crying or shouting – give them time to get it all out. You must however remain calm during this time. If they start delivering punches (or other physically assaults), then you must of course take defensive action and call for help.

Find the right moment to get your voice in
When you find the customer is losing momentum (and he will since it is impossible for them to continue the tirade for too long), jump in and say that you understand their concern (repeat or rephrase their complaint to let them know you were listening), and that you are here to help. If their emotional outbursts last too long, you can interrupt them. If you must do so, call them by name and repeat their complaints first before offering your help or solution.

Sit them down
Most people are less aggressive if they are sitting down, so invite them to sit. However, if they choose not to sit, you should also remain standing to remain in control.

Be friendly
Although this will probably be the toughest thing to do, you must remain calm and friendly. When they realise they cannot intimidate you or incur your wrath, they will calm down and adopt your posture as well.

Keep eye contact
Keeping eye contact with them is about remaining in control, being confident and calm, and thus professional. Do that without appearing defensive or aggressive. You have to maintain a posture of service throughout.

Do not argue
Do not engage in counter arguments. You can state your opinions assertively but not confrontationally. Do not try to cut the customer down. The idea here is not to make the customer feel bad, but quite the opposite.

These are probably the most common type of ‘challenging' customers.

Listen to the customers' complaints and avoid interrupting. Try not to look or sound impatient.

Do not pass judgment
Validate their complaints, but do not pass judgment. Keep your voice and facial expressions neutral all the time.

Maintain service attitude
Regardless of whether the complaint is founded or not, maintain an attitude of service.

Do not rush to agree or apologise
Do not rush to agree or apologise for the allegations. Try and find a resolution first to the problem. If need be, then do further investigations into the allegations and make amends where appropriate. Sometimes, complaining customers only want to be heard.

Solve the problem
Instead of taking a defensive stance, move into a problem-solving mode. Ask specific questions, request for a handwritten complaint to ensure all the facts are in black and white, and get the customer to agree to focus on solving the problem.

2007 Copyright @ Abacus International. All Rights Reserved 

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