5 Key Tactics You Can Use When Dealing With Difficult Clients

Chances are high you’ve faced a difficult customer or will experience one soon — someone who’s quick to complain or slow to make payments. It just goes along with the territory of owning and operating a business. 

That’s why it’s essential to learn to effectively deal with a dissatisfied client or one with a challenging personality.

“Even though you may want to kick them to the curb some days, you know that it’s better to keep them if you can,” says a Trends and Insights blog by Mike Michalowicz, founder of Profit First, a membership organization for accountants, bookkeepers & business experts.

Consider these tips to learn more about managing situations with customers who require more of your attention, particularly those whose business you’d rather not lose.

Find patience. Being patient can be particularly tricky when you have an impatient customer. They may be waiting in line longer than expected or asking why their concern or project is not ready or immediately resolved.

In these scenarios, it’s critical not to hear the customer out and avoid dismissing their behavior.

In a Business News Daily article, Skye Schooley recommends explaining to the customer clearly the reasons behind the wait or delay without getting too specific. Schooley writes that it's vital to ensure the impatient customer knows efforts are being made to resolve the issue.

Frame answers in a positive light. Often the best way to do this is to include the proposed solution in your response. 

For example, if your customer questions why a particular item is not on your shelves or delivered as promised, find an anticipated date of when that product will be restocked or expected to be delivered, and share that in the initial conversation if possible.

Don’t get defensiveIf an unhappy customer — whether it involves an experience, product, or even employee, is taking the time to share their concerns with you, try to avoid getting defensive.

Instead, thank them for giving feedback, advises Kim Angeli, CEO of Grateful Box, in the Business News Daily story.  

“Our natural response is to get defensive and get into a negative mindset with a disgruntled client,” Angeli told the staff writer. “Once you flip the switch and start with ‘thank you,’ the response is out of the ordinary for them.”

Go ahead, ask for more. The reality is, you probably aren’t in the mood to digest more criticism.

But a blog by Indeed explains it’s the right thing to do, to ask if there are addional comments or issues. 

According to the article, the customer may have been so focused on the initial problem that they had forgotten other problems. 

“This also lets the customer know that you still respect and appreciate having them as a customer,” the post adds.

Show you care. As a business owner, you have opportunities to express empathy with the customer. Consider how you would feel under similar situations. Chances are, you would want someone to acknowledge the inconvenience or concern, and listen.

“Sometimes that’s all a customer needs to hear to feel better about the situation. It’s an affirmation that you’re listening and that you care,” says a post by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN).

Your empathy shows that your customer’s experience is important to you and can make the process of getting resolved easier, the article adds.

Remember your goal. Of course, your primary intention is to resolve the issue, but your initial response and subsequent actions are vital to what happens next.

You don’t want a customer who is dissatisfied with how you handled the situation, as you risk losing their business to a competitor.

“Even worse, they may leave a negative review online or badmouth your company. Don’t let your ego cost you a customer or harm your business’s brand or reputation,” says the ASBN post.

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