Learning How to Deal
Whether it’s the client who is upset at the cost of a repair, or the customer who needs their car in an unreasonable amount of time, if you’re in the service industry long enough, you’re going to run into difficult customers.
Dealing with difficult customers can be challenging but knowing the right steps to take can defuse a tense situation. Remember, you can’t control how other people are going to act, but you do control how you react to the situation.
Recognizing Difficult Customers
Difficult customers come in different varieties with each posing their special challenges. You may encounter customers that are:
Now that you can spot a difficult customer, read on for strategies for handling these challenging clients.
Keep it Professional
No matter how heated your customer may get, it is imperative that you maintain a professional tone at all times. Resist the urge to stoop to their level; it may momentarily feel good but it will likely make things worse. Your actions should smooth over a stressful situation; you don’t want to feed the customer’s anger and escalate the tension.
Listen to the Customer
Many times, customers just want to be heard. Let them vent and share their frustrations. The simple act of you listening and taking an interest in their concerns can make them feel validated and turn the situation around.
If a customer is angry, remain calm and slow down your speech pattern. Speaking slowly can help reduce the tension. If you’re calm and relaxed, the customer might follow suit and change their demeanor.
Mind Your Nonverbal Cues
Your body language can say as much as your words. Be mindful of your nonverbal cues; keep an interested look on your face (no rolling your eyes or making faces), make eye contact and keep your arms at your side (no crossing your arms).
Being without a vehicle and paying for repairs can be trying. Showing empathy can reduce the stress of the situation. Demonstrate empathy by being engaged and responding with phrases like, “I can certainly see why that would be a problem,” or “I understand why you’re frustrated.”
Don't be Afraid to Admit You Don't Have all the Answers
There is nothing wrong with saying that you need to ask someone else to answer a customer’s question. The customer may be momentarily frustrated, but in time will appreciate that you’re getting the correct answer and not just making up an answer to placate them.
Offer a Resolution
When offering a resolution, be clear on what you can and can’t do. Tell the customer what you’re proposing and ask if it is acceptable. If it isn’t, ask the customer what they would like to see happen. If you can’t fulfill their wishes, be upfront and honest.
Make it Quick
Try to solve a customer’s problem as quickly as possible; this gives you the best chance to turn a negative experience into a positive one. This is especially important if there are other customers present; you don’t want a customer creating a scene in front of others.
Avoid making promises that you can’t keep. While it can be an easy way to solve a problem in the short term, imagine how hard it will be to have to later explain to the customer that you have to go back on your word.
After the issue has been resolved, take some time to reflect on what your shop could have done differently to avoid the conflict. Implement any new steps or processes that are a result of this assessment. This will help you in the future to be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with challenging customers.
The fact is that when you serve the public, you’re going to run into people that are difficult. Don’t let these types of customers get to you. As hard as it may be, shake it off before greeting the next customer. Remember, without customers your shop wouldn’t be open for long. Keep calm and carry on!