If you have worked in the Service Drive for, let’s say, 15 minutes or longer you probably understand that there is a fair share of difficult customers you will encounter.

As I come up on 40 years in retail service department experience, I can share some doozies! But let’s remember being a Service Advisor, Service Manager or other customer facing person in Service requires that we treat every interaction as a chance to connect with that customer on a personal level. Service Advising is INTERACTIONAL not just transactional. People have to LIKE you to be really effective. In fact, and I know many of you can vouch for me here, some of my most difficult customers turned into raving fans and ended up being my BEST customers. I look back on fondly on these interactions because I was able to overcome the challenge and serve the customer better.difficult customers

So what are some effective ways to address difficult customers and is there a time to terminate a customer (GASP!)

Step 1: Listen!

Let them vent in a private office if possible. Do not try to interrupt the customer or be confrontational. Let the customer have their say their peace, and even if they don’t have all the information or may just be plain wrong. As you listen, take the opportunity to build rapport with the customer.

Step 2: Don’t get MAD!

If the customer is cussing or being vocally offensive, take a mental deep breath and continue as if you didn’t hear them. Responding in kind will not solve anything, and it will usually intensify the situation in a negative direction. Instead, remind the customer that you are there to help them and their best immediate chance of resolving the situation – often this simple statement will help defuse the problem.

Step 3: Use Non-Threatening Body language and vocal tones.

Uncross your arms and lower your voice. If the customer gets louder, start speaking more slowly and in a lower, friendlier tone. Your calm behavior will mirror on them and will assist in getting them calm. As you address the situation with a calm, clear mind, unrattled by the customer’s tone or volume, anger will usually dissolve.

Step 4: Put Yourself in THEIR Shoes

Establish a bond through empathy. Put yourself in the same situation….What would YOU do? Repeat back the source of their frustration and show that you understand their situation. If you can identify with a customer’s issue, it will help alleviate their stress.

Step 5: Know When to Give In

Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease! Keep in mind that you’re dealing with an exception not the rule. Is this time you could be using more productively instead of bickering with a customer over the being right or a small expenditure? Note to self: Don’t manage by exception. Recognize this is for the most part an anomaly.

Step 6: Follow Through

If you promise a callback – call back! Even if you promised an update that you don’t have yet, call the customer at the scheduled time anyway. The customer will be reassured to know that you were not trying to dodge them and will appreciate the follow-up. Summarize the next steps. At the end of the call, let the customer know exactly what to expect and then be sure to follow through on your promises. Document the call to ensure you’re well prepared for the next interaction.

Remember to never take these exchanges personally. Always speak to the issue at hand and do not get personal, especially when the customer does. Guide the conversation back to the issue and how you intend to resolve it and try to ignore personal comments. After all, you’re interacting with a human. We never know what the other person is going through. We’ve all been there, to some degree. Try to help make their day better by being a pleasant, soothing voice – it’ll make you feel better as well!

Finally, just a few words on when and if we should “Fire” a client ever. This is, of course, a drastic step. However, I would caution you to consider with your upper management customers that cause a lot of headaches. Contemplate The 80/20 rule that states that 20 percent of your customers are accounting for 80 percent of your headaches. Of course, it’s probably not as high as 20%, but you get the idea. Fire those customers who are destroying your time and energy and spend more quality time with the customers who create most of your revenue and excellent CSI ratings.

Hope this help. Call me anytime 770-561-4644

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