How To Effectively Handle Difficult Customers

How To Effectively Handle Difficult Customers

Dealing with upset customers is part of every business owner’s life. In fact, even if it doesn’t happen quite often, business owners should have a system in place, one that allows team members to act accordingly in case of an incident.


A 2014 survey from global market research company Ipsos Singapore found that 60 percent of Singaporeans who suffer from bad company service almost never complain. Difficult customers who choose not to complain directly find the hassle isn’t worth it.


These people are mostly aware that complaints often go through many channels before reaching the decisions makers’ ears. Some are also cynical, they think that complaining doesn’t accomplish anything.


But that doesn’t mean they are not irritated by a bad service or product. It just means that they don’t tell the company about it directly but they do tell their family and friends.


There is also the possibility that these customers will resort to social media to rant about a bad service or a bad product which, in turn, may damage your reputation even before you know it.


Ironically, the 40 percent of people who did complain said they did not receive any response from the company. About 75 percent of these people said they expected the company to respond within 36 hours, which they think is a reasonable timeframe for a representative to get back to them. However, only 30 percent of them got one.


“Every organisation needs to equip itself with the capability to respond almost instantaneously, ensuring customers’ voices are heard and acted upon in the most genuine and prompt manner,” said Ipsos Loyalty Singapore director Melanie Ng.


The statistics are very alarming and should be a driving force for business owners in Singapore to have a system in place that will automatically tackle customer complaints. The longer companies wait to deal with complaints, these customers are talking to their friends and family about the kind of service or product you provide. If they decide to take the ire online, the damage just expands exponentially with every view, like and share.


And then there are also complaints that happen inside the stores. Customer Service Experts’ CEO and president Lise D’Andrea suggests the Three P’s in diffusing a tense moment that could blow up any moment: Be patient, pleasant and professional. Business owners should train their employees on how to act and react during a tense situation.


There are moments when the old adage “The customer is always right” is so wrong. When this happens, employees should learn how to maneuver using the Three P’s. Being pleasant means being aware and in control of one’s tone of voice, word choice and body language.


Being patient means giving the customer the time to vent out without losing one’s cool and composed demeanor. There are people who just need to vent and when cooler heads prevail, they become more aware of their own actions and will more likely accept the recommended solution.


Lastly, professionalism means treating the customer with respect and assisting them as much as you can. D’Andrea advised offering more than one solution to a difficult customer. Having more than one option allows them to decide for themselves the best way to deal with the problem.



Here are some tips to improve your system in effectively handling difficult customers whether you are still planning to register a company in Singapore or are already managing one:


Give the customer the benefit of the doubt.

When faced with a livid customer or a written complaint, always give the customer the benefit of the doubt first and assume he or she has the right to be angry even before you know the real story.


This is when patience and pleasantness come into play. Give the customer the time to vent and then pleasantly inquire about all the details concerning the complaint in order to come up with the best solution.


Be cool.

One trick in handling difficult customers is to “listen without emotions.” Sometimes, even the most innocent body language is enough to make an already livid customer angrier.


When dealing with complaints, leave your emotions outside the door and then listen to their emotions and words. This is a difficult skill that requires much practice but soon, you’ll be able to learn and teach your staff the fine art of being somewhat detached when handling complaints.


Identifying the triggering emotions can help you identify the aspects of the problem that need the most attention. It’ll help you first prioritize and later empathize as to the emotional nature of the complaint.


For instance, if a customer marches into your store and complains about a technical malfunction, the customer could be another professional who is under pressure from another client. He or she could be a professional photographer whose own client is demanding for the photos right away. Deal with the problem with a cool façade but do not forget to acknowledge the emotional catalyst driving the rage.

Be accountable.

How To Effectively Handle Difficult Customers

The problem could have stemmed from the customer’s own recklessness or limited knowledge. When dealing with customer complaints, business owners and their employees should never point fingers as to whom to blame.


Being accountable to the problem will help you retain customers and will speak clearly about your dedication to customer satisfaction. Employees should be trained how to take responsibility when dealing with difficult customers.


When customers are faced with an employee who distances themselves from the problem, it will make the customer feel helpless and think of the employee as ineffective. These new emotions will just fuel their ire and lead to a bigger problem.


If the problem requires a manager’s approval, employees should say they will personally take care of the matter and see to it that the problem is solved, even if they are not the ones who will do the fixing.


Employees should keep in mind that the customer doesn’t know how many channels a complaint goes through before it actually gets fixed. It is the job of the employee and the business owner to diffuse any tense situation before the fixing can be done.


It is important to remember at all times that customers need assurance that every possible scenario is being analyzed to come up with the best solution. Change the statistics by being one of the companies who handle complaints seriously and effectively.