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Dealing With Difficult Customers

Written by Erika Cappa

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Posted on January 14 2022

One of the hardest parts of being a business owner is dealing with difficult customers.  Here are a few tactics I use to help with those hard conversations:

  1. Make sure the customer feels heard.  Often when customers reach out for help they are already very frustrated and emotions are already very high.  Simply saying something like, "I understand you're upset", or "I hear you" will help to descelate the situation so you can work on a solution together.
  2. Tell the customer you want to help them but that you need time to look into the issue.  Addressing the customer quickly (within your business hours) is very important.... but let them know you have to investigate the issue so you can provide answers/solutions.  This also gives you time to digest the situation so you don't respond out of emotion instead of professionalism. 
  3. Refrain from using statements such as "you need to", "you will have to", etc. when offering suggestions on how to resolve the issue.  These are likely going to be received as staunch directives instead of suggestions by your customer, which gives the illusion that you feel it's "not my problem".  
  4. Don't be afraid to ask questions to make sure you understand the entire situation.  
  5. Do what you say you are going to do.  If you say you will follow up with the customer by xyz amount of time, make sure you follow up with them.  

I personally don't run my business by "the customer is always right" philosophy.  I run my business by what I feel is right and how I want to be treated as a customer.   If a situation doesn't feel right after I've asked questions and taken a moment to digest all of the information, then my solutions/recommendations will reflect that.  If I feel a customer is being unreasonable or is untrusthworthy, I will offer a solution and will tell them we are no longer a fit to do business together. 

However, I don't think most customers who reach out with questions, concerns, or complaints are untrustworthy.  I honestly believe most who reach out and initially come across as rude are just upset and uncertain.  Your response to their first communication can change the tone of the conversation and show the heart of your business.