Every entrepreneur has to face customers. How they handle the customers depends upon their communication and leadership skills. They might be good at handling all customers, but there are always customers who are just plain right rude and painful to interact or deal with. These customers believe that they are experts in a field, and a sense of superiority leads them to misbehave.
So, in simpler terms, dealing with painful customers is pretty difficult. However, it does not always have to be difficult, and you are not always supposed to deal with such customers. All you need is the right attitude and the action plan to execute at the right moment to effectively get out of a painful customer situation.
Here some tips, advice, and tricks for handling painful customers.
Keep your cool
The first and foremost thing that should come to your mind while dealing with a painful customer is to keep your cool. The thing to remember here is that you are in professionalism, and the image of your business or company should be your first priority. You are representing the whole company, and the customer is only representing himself. It is not as easy as it said, but you have to be the bigger person in such situations. Try to keep your calm by taking long breaths and tell yourself what’s at stake. The moment you lose your calm, you will lose your reputation.
State the facts
When the painful customer is making their claims or anything, you need to keep the facts in mind. Try to explain to them where you are coming from by sticking to the facts and keeping your emotions in check. The trick here is never to insult the client. If the customer is on the wrong side of the argument, then it is important for you to know the facts and stating them out in order to explain them. All this should be done in a very respectful manner, though.
Reassure your client
Anyone can make mistakes as nobody is perfect. Your customer’s reasons for becoming painful might actually be due to any of your mistakes or even their own. In such situations, try to reiterate the purpose you and your company fill for the customer. Reassure the customer by reminding them why they chose you in the first place. Ensure that they realize that you are the expert in what you do, and you have the potential to make things right.
End the conversation
In situations where the customers simply become plain right rude and aggressive, the best thing to do is to end the conversation. You won’t lose much by losing the argument, but you will lose a lot if you don’t end it at the right time. When the customer is in an aggressive mode, trying to take the argument further will just add to their anger. Being angry will disable them to think with a clear mind, and nothing you say would really make sense to them. So, end the conversation right there and find a better opportunity to talk about the issue at hand.
Discuss rules on proceeding
Once you have waited for the client to find their cool, try to talk to them about what went wrong and what made you uncomfortable. It is a two-way relationship between the client and you. It can’t stay good if only one person is making an effort and trying to understand. Make your client realize how to handle disagreements. However, remember that in doing so, you need to keep your calm. If you get angry or take things personally, it could go in the wrong direction. Reiterate the guidelines that are supposed to be followed and mention how you are only providing the service/product for them to benefit from it. if a client is regularly aggressive, then conducting business with them can never really be successful.
Put your client on probation
If the customer continues on with their behaviour, and the previous trick does not work, then it is time to put the client on probation. Make it clear to the client that is not working out, and it is just better to take a break from each other. Mention how you are trying to provide the best for them and don’t want to see the relationship end. Remember, client support is really important, but if it’s the client at fault, then the next priority is your business. ensure that the client is well aware of you and the staff’s requirement to be treated. If you are giving respect, then you must get it back too. If the behaviour continues, then put your client on a probationary period for a few days or weeks.
No business ever wants to lose a customer or break their relationship with them. However, one thing to realize is that not every client is meant to be yours. You don’t want to be working with someone if they are financially or emotionally draining you. If the rude and aggressive behaviour of the client continues, then it is time to part ways. There is the right way to do this too. Part your ways respectfully and thank them for the time spent together doing business. The customer might even take an aggressive approach to this too, but you still need to keep your calm because it will help in the long run. It’s your business, and it’s you who decides the people to work with.
Don’t stoop to their level; pause before hitting send
Keeping your calm is one thing but trying to not stoop to their level is a difficult thing to do on its own. The customer in order to rile you up will do anything in their power. They will throw their tantrums at you through mails, on-call or maybe in person. Whatever intention they might have, their words and actions will have the potential to trigger you.
Now the thing to do here is to keep your calm. But we have discussed this before, right? Keeping you calm does not mean you don’t have to deal with them anymore. You still have to give them an answer or answers in some cases. Don’t rush into any response to defend yourself or the company. Draft an email or think about stuff in your head. Then give it some time. After 10 minutes or so, go back to it and see if it makes sense and whether it is hostile. See if what you are about to send or say has the potential for the client to use it against you on any public forum.
Giving it time will even give you the chance to kill them with kindness. You will get enough sense of the situation to come up with something that can’t be used against you as well as defend you pretty good. All you need to do is to keep your emotions in check and give them some time before responding. Come up with a solid stance and stick to it then. However, don’t forget professionalism in all this as it is your responsibility to maintain it.
You heard it right. Be grateful. It pretty much does not make sense but let’s try to understand it. Whenever you are in a situation where you get a pit in the stomach feeling, think about all the times you have interacted with your other customers and how they make you feel. As soon as you do, you will realize how grateful it all makes you feel. Now let’s put this in the situation of a painful customer.
Not all customers are going to make you feel grateful. Always remember that. So, when someone is disrespectful, be grateful for all the ones who actually respect you. The disrespect from the absolute minority won’t matter as much then. And always know that the bad ones are the ones who teach us lessons. From these lessons, we can learn to treat the good ones even better.
Walk away if you can
Walking away here does not mean parting ways as we discussed before. If you have the opportunity in a situation where the client’s contract with you is ending, always consider walking away. If there is bad behaviour trend with the customer, then walking away is the best possible option.
However, there are often situations where you can’t just walk right away. For instance, if the customer’s contract still has a year before it expires. In such situations, always make yourself remember that it is a temporary situation, and the door to relief will soon be open. Until the day comes when you get the chance to walk away, just try to avoid the negativity the customer brings in and focus on other important tasks. Remind yourself of all the achievements and things you have learned by working with the client in the past, and the date of walking away will come sooner than you expect.
Steps To Deal With Less Painful Customers
These were some of the extreme steps for extremely painful customers. Now let’s have a look at some milder steps for slightly less painful customers because you don’t want to lose them all.
Don’t try to prove someone is wrong
Proving someone wrong when they don’t know they are wrong is always the wrong thing to do. Instead, try to understand where they are coming from and grasp the important information from the feedback, be it in an aggressive way. Remember, whenever the customer is factually wrong, telling them they are wrong will never help even if you prove it to them. The important thing to do here is to completely listen to what they are trying to say and put in some time and effort to analyze.
Instead of reacting to the rude customer, ask them questions. Asking questions and providing reasonable answers will clear 50% of the misunderstandings between the two. It does not make the customer feel that you are only trying to defend yourself. They feel like you are trying to understand. Also, make sure your tone while asking questions is polite and not defensive. Try to put yourself in their shoes and help them understand how you wouldn’t like it too if you were in their position. Once you understand the problem and its impact, you can always respond better.
Putting yourself in the shoes of a customer
Delivering solutions is not always an easy thing to do. However, delivering empathy is pretty simple. If you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, you will be able to understand the gist of the issue. Consequently, you won’t just be able to solve the problem easily, but also make them understand your stance in a better way too.
Ask for time
If the situation is getting out of hand, it is a good step to ask for time. When you have time, you can collect your thoughts together. Consequently, you will be able to come up with a clear cut and effective response. Quick response is essential, but sometimes it is equally vital to not react in a hurry as the situation can get worse. Don’t ask for days but at least buy a few hours to make a better sense of the whole situation. Figure out the fairness of the criticism and respond accordingly, helping the customer as well as defending your business.
If a customer is being rude or giving you a hard time but has been loyal to you for a long time, consider apologizing even if they are wrong. Make them feel that you are genuinely apologetic. If this in any way makes them feel better about the situation, you will retain your customer, and things will get better at both ends. However, never over apologize. Only do it once if you feel it’s necessary and can better the situation. Do it with sincerity and maturity.
Situations and how to deal with them
Now let’s have a look at some of the situations you might find yourself in and how to deal with them:
If you ever find yourself in a situation where your customer is playing annoying politics, let it go. If their perspective on a subject doesn’t align with yours or they purposely disagree with you but are polite in other situations, just simply don’t pay attention to their politics.
Some customers have a habit of being chronically disrespectful. They do this more often with the lower team than the boss himself. Always remember that if someone does not respect your team, doing business with them is not a good idea. You are supposed to keep everyone happy in the business, be it your customers, employees, or yourself. If any customer is simply adding to your stress or your employees, it will become difficult for you to interact with them.
In case you are an employee and getting mistreated by a bad customer, inform your supervisor immediately. The client has no right to disrespect you or anyone for that matter. Yes, people make mistakes, and you might be wrong, but that is still no reason to disrespect anyone. If it is a one-time thing, then you can let it go. However, if a client Is chronically rude, it can’t be avoided.
The racist or sexist “joke.”
If a customer is ever involved in the racist or sexist joke, always stop it. This might not be a painful situation for you, but their behaviour can impact anyone else. So, make sure you play your part in stopping it. If you are not in a position of authority, then make sure you report them to your supervisor.
If you’re the boss
If you are the boss and have the authority to take action, whatever it may be, take responsibility for your employees and look after them. Make sure no customer is misbehaving with them. If any customer is and you don’t take action, then it will just ruin your relationship with the employee and produce a bad image among other employees. Be the competent, sensitive leader and make the voices of your employees heard by not letting customers disrespect them.
The Bottom Line
Handling a painful customer is never an easy situation to be in. However, knowing when and how to react can take things north from the south quite easily and save you a lot of trouble. The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your cool. It was the first tip in this blog for a reason. If you can keep your cool, you can deal with the situation in a better manner. If you lose your cool, you automatically lose the client as well as some of the repute for the business. All the tips mentioned above are essential to keep in mind whenever you face a difficult and painful cline. All the rude and aggressive customers should also try to be a bit considerate towards the other person and put the relationship and business first and then consider their situation calmly.
Shoaib Aslam is the co-founder of Pearl Chartered Accountants, a UK-based chartered accountancy firm that has multiple locations across London. They are experts in helping startups and established businesses with all aspects of growth, strategy, scaling up, accounting and tax planning.