Every retail business wishes for one thing when doing sales: a rational, open-minded, and polite customer. This, however, doesn’t always happen. What do you do when it doesn’t? How do you communicate with difficult customers? Consistently failing to communicate well with difficult customers can be a tough situation for many retail industry staff. The success of the staff depends not only on how well he or she deals with ‘easy’ customers but also on how they handle difficult customers. If your business is suffering because you are struggling to deal with difficult customers, here are a few tips on how to deal with difficult customers:
Keep Cool with Difficult Customers
This is the most important thing to remember when dealing with angry customers. It will only make the situation worse if you turn it into a screaming match. Keep your voice low. Lowering your voice will help the angry customer calm down. It will make him/her realize that you don’t want to pick a fight, that business is business and you’re only doing your job.
Listen to the Customer
Far too many people just don’t listen to the other person. They are too focused on what they are going to say next on ‘their turn’ than what the other person is saying. Focus on managing the ‘3 don’ts’ of listening that will help you:
– Don’t formulate your answer before the other speaker has finished their sentences (listen to each and every word of his or hers),
– Don’t let yourself become distracted (keep your attention on the speaker all the time).
– Don’t maintain a defensive body posture (like arms crossed tightly in front of the chest, or bent over if you are on the phone).
Even when the customer is practically throwing his/her shoes at you, remain professional. Continue to address him/her as “Madam” or “Sir.” Don’t roll your eyes or make rude facial expressions. Tell the customer that you’re doing everything you can to solve whatever problem they have. If you feel that you can’t handle the case properly yourself, call your supervisor or a colleague who can help you deal with the situation better. Let the customer see that you’re doing everything you can to attend to whatever it is that they’re requesting.
Accept What the Customer Has to Say
When angry most customers don’t communicate the real reason for their irritation. They first voice peripheral issues, which often are exaggerated or completely untrue. Accept what he or she is saying at face value and get them to keep speaking until their energy runs out and their anger dissipates. Finding you & the situation non-confronting, the customer will relax. This allows you to uncover their real bone of contention, which has often nothing to do with you or your business.
Empathise with the Customer
You must learn to empathize if you want to be successful with difficult customers. Everyone likes to ‘get things off their chests’ so let them speak. When they have drained themselves they will feel better and happy that someone has listened to them. Use words like “I understand; how did you feel; what happened then; how would you like this resolved?”
The Customer is Always Right
Yes, whether you like it or not, this is a fundamental truth in the business world. Your customer is paying you to do your job, so you better do it right. Never tell your customer that whatever problem they’re having is their fault (even if it really is). The point is that you are there to help them. If you think what the client is requesting is a little over-the-top, simply say “Yes, madam/sir, I will see if we can accommodate your request. I will do whatever I can in my power to help you.”
If Your Retail Business has Employees, Train Them on How to Handle Delicate Situations
You can’t always be around 24/7 to solve situations involving difficult customers. However, one mistake from your employee can damage your reputation or make you lose an important customer. Therefore training your employees how to handle difficult situations is a must. Hold sessions for employees at least once every one month to answer their questions and teach them how to deal with different kinds of people in difficult situations. Have older employees “supervise” new ones. Come up with a manual that’ll describe different kinds of possible situations and how an employee must react to them. Let them know that politeness is a rule in your business.
Respect the Customer
If you respect your customer, you are likely to receive respect back. An attacking statement can put off your customer completely, so much so that he may refuse to give you a chance to apologize or explain your intentions. Be respectful and cordial in your communication, irrespective of the situation.
Have the Best Negotiating Skills
This is your window of opportunity to set the records straight and, by now, your customer is likely to be more willing to hear you and accept your side of the story. Negotiation is only possible with a person who is ready to listen to an opinion different than his or hers. A difficult customer is not that person. However, if you employ the above skills correctly, your difficult customer will start feeling at ease and start trusting you. This, in turn, will allow you to get his consent on a solution that is favourable to both of you, and not just him or her.
In the event that a customer becomes really aggressive and abusive, it would be best to call for security back-up. Do this quietly and professionally. Telling the customer “I’m calling for security,” will only further aggravate the case. Simply excuse yourself for a while and call for help. Safety is always first.
Dealing with difficult customers is a grey area for many retail businesses but it is also a huge opportunity. The above tips will guide you on how to deal with difficult customers. However, remember that it is sometimes good to let a customer go. You cannot please everyone, but if you have given it your best effort and if you can honestly say that you have given the best service that you think you can, you are going to be in a much better place to move forward and to succeed at your work.