Handling difficult people and situations is one of the most stressful aspects of the modern working environment. This handling difficult people and situations training course provides a practical guide on how to handle difficult people and situations effectively and ensure successful outcomes. Delegates will examine aspects of human behaviour and review their options when faced with difficult, aggressive or un-co-operative people. This course provides delegates with an opportunity to discuss their own experiences as well as those of others in a safe and supportive environment.

Dealing with customers frustration quickly and professionally are all part of providing a high quality customer service level. Everyone has his or her own personal customer service nightmare story. So it’s easy to understand how a customer may perceive things from their side of the counter when they confront you looking for satisfaction. The next time you encounter a difficult customer relation situation either on the phone or in person consider the following steps:

Step 1: Remain Calm Yourself
When a customer begins to vent their frustration it is important to remain calm yourself. Staff may take things personally and assume that the customer’s anger is directed at them and so then it is natural to become defensive. *Realize that in most situations the customer is likely angry at the situation and not you.

Step 2: Allow the Customer to Vent Their Frustration:
Do this without interrupting. If you would like to defuse the customer’s anger, try apologizing.
You could use such phrases as,
• “I’m sorry you had to go through this.“
• “I can understand why that would be so upsetting.”
Usually when you apologize, the customer’s anger is immediately dissipated. You may feel uncomfortable for apologizing for something that you are not responsible for. However, keep in mind that you are apologizing on behalf of the facility not yourself.

Step 3: Paraphrase The Problem
In your own words, paraphrase what the customer is saying and feeling. Show you are truly sympathetic with the customer’s problem.

Step 4: Resolve The Problem
Once you have gained the customers confidence, you are in a position to resolve the problem. It’s a common mistake to try to solve the problem while the customer is still angry. The customer is often looking for an apology first, then a resolution to the problem. Record and report the incident to your supervisor. This can assist them in determining if the problem is a common issue for customers that needs possible changes to the operation to avoid future situation and /or if follow up is required with the customer. In some circumstance you may not be able to resolve the customers concern. Record the details and forward them to your supervisor for follow-up. This will assure that all that can be done will be done

Here are some further techniques for dealing with an upset customer:
Technique 1: Keep It Impersonal and Professional
It is important not to antagonize the customer by the way you speak to them.
For example, if you have to inform them that they did not interpret the swim schedule correctly. Never say, “You didn’t read it correctly.” Instead say, “There are a few areas on the schedule that could be improved upon.”
Can you see the difference in the way the message could be sent and received?
It’s as if the customer was not at fault.

Technique 2: “I Versus You”
Imagine an upset customer trying to explain something to an employee that does not understand. The employee says, “You are confusing me.” This statement makes the customer feel more frustrated. Instead of saying, “Excuse me but I am confused” or “Let me see if I have this straight.”
Using “ I” instead of “you” avoids angering the customer further, and will help, as opposed to hinder, the communications process.

Technique 3: Avoid Saying, “But It’s _______Policy”
Nothing frustrates a customer more than to hear the phrase “It’s our policy” To the customer this suggests that the organization comes first and the customer comes second. Think how some banks treat customers these days and you will visualize the frustration that your
customers will experience with a statement like that.
Instead take the time to explain why such a decision has been made.

Technique 4: Take Responsibility
How many times have you experienced an employee say, “It’s not my job”, When you ask them a question, or you ask the clerk where a certain item is located in a store, and you are told where you can find it, instead of being escorted to it.
Always take the steps to ensure the customer’s needs.

Technique 5: Keep The Customer Informed
Sometimes when a problem arises that cannot be resolved immediately, you can tell them that you or your supervisor will get back to them by a certain time. Even if you don’t have that problem solved by that time, call the customer back to advise them that you are working on it. The customer will respect you and the facility for keeping in touch.

Technique 6: “You Have To…”
A customer doesn’t have to do anything. The customer is doing us a favor, not the other way around. Instead of saying, “You have to do this“ say, “Would you mind doing this so we may resolve the problem quickly”.
The customer will see that you recognize the importance of resolving the issue quickly and will likely support your request of them.In the height of busy times, it is sometimes difficult to follow these steps and techniques, but if you have had a bad experience, review these suggestions and see how you may have handled things differently.

A few words to consider…
Our Customers
Customers are the most important people …in person on the phone or by mail.
Customers are not dependent on us … we are dependent on them.
Customers are not an interruption of our work… they are the purpose of it.
We are not doing them a favor by serving them… they are doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
Customers are not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.
Customers are people who bring us their wants. It is our job to handle them profitably, to them and to ourselves.
Dealing with Difficult Customers If you’re in a public contact position, chances are you’ll encounter angry customers. If customers are not handled effectively, they may remain angry, refusing to do further business with your organization. They will also make you angry and upset as well!

Resolving a customer’s anger helps you feel better about yourself, increases your job satisfaction, makes you look good to your supervisor, and enables your organization to keep customers satisfied and coming back.

Here are the suggested steps to deal effectively with an angry or difficult customer:
1. Identify the angry customer. Learn to read verbal and non-verbal language.
There are two types of anger:

  • Aggressive – person expresses feelings immediately. Anger and hostility are obvious. There is often use of sarcasm describing the merchandise or situation, rapid or abrupt speech, or raised voice.
  • Passive – person keeps his/her anger inside, but their body language gives them away. They plan never to return or do business with your organization again.

2. Diffuse the customer’s anger. Deal with the customer’s feelings. Do it in the following way:

  • Empathize – enter into the feeling and spirit of the person. Put yourself in their “shoes.” You need to try to understand what they’re saying, from their point of view. To do this you must be a good listener who blocks out distractions. Show them that you’re really listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding and saying, “I see”, or “I understand how you must feel.” As they talk, the anger will dissipate and you’ll get more information about the problem or situation. If the customer is aggressively angry, let their tirade flow uninterrupted until it’s exhausted. If the customer is passively angry, it’s better to confront their anger and bring it out into the open by saying something like “I’m sorry you’re upset about this. Let’s see what we can do about solving the problem.”
  • Ask questions – learn as much as you can about the situation before you attempt a solution.
  • Give feedback – restate, in your own words, the feelings you detect behind what the person is saying. For example, you might say, “It sounds like you are in a hurry. Let’s take care of this right away.” Feedback should be neither judgmental nor critical but should be positive and supportive. Sound sincere because you don’t want your customers to feel that you’re patronizing
  • Summarize the problem – describe in your own words, what you understand the problem to be. Restating the problem lets the customer know you’ve listened and lets you know that you understood the situation correctly.

3. Deal with the person’s problem in the following way:

  • Find out what the person wants
  • Suggest alternatives
  • Share information
  • Agree on a solution
  • Follow up as necessary.

4. Dealing with angry customers on the telephone- Recognizing angry customers on the phone is more difficult than in person because there are no non-verbal clues to catch. The only ones you might be aware of are the aggressively angry ones. The anger of passive angry
customer is revealed through verbal clues – changes in the tone, speed or pitch of their voices. Once you have identified the caller as being upset, follow the steps listed above.
5. Dealing with provoked customers- Sometimes YOU mishandle a situation. You create an angry customer, or make an already angry customer even angrier. You have been extremely busy, under a lot of pressure, or do or say the wrong thing. When that happens, you have two choices:

  • first, you can admit your mistake and apologize
  • if you think the situation is serious enough, you can refer it upward to your supervisor.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore it!

You are there to serve, not be abused! There are some things you are never obligated to take from your customers, the most obvious being profanity or physical abuse! There is only one way to deal with these situations — directly:

1. Don’t react. The customer who resorts to these behaviours is usually looking to provoke a reaction from you. They will use your reaction to justify their behaviour. Maintaining your cool is your best defense. It’s hard for the customer to play this game if you refuse to play.
2. Draw the line. Don’t bother quoting the rules — they don’t care about the rules. Simply make a clear and direct statement of the consequence should they choose to continue their behaviour. For example, “I can’t help you as long as you continue to use that kind of language. If you continue, I will hang up!”
3. Follow through. If the response is positive, continue the interaction. If they do not respond, follow through with the consequence. Then seek out support, perhaps from your supervisor. Be prepared to explain what happened. Be sure your business has a contingency plan for any serious customer problems such as pulling a gun or physical violence. It happens! Ensure all supervisors and staff know what to do.

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