How to handle difficult customers in 5 easy steps

customer complaints

Whether you’ve just started trading as a start-up or you’ve just become a franchise owner, the question of how you would treat a rude customer is one that you should have a ready answer to.

Most franchise opportunities come with their own brand guidelines for what you should do as a franchisee faced with an upset customer. If you haven’t written guidelines for your own company – or even if you have your own guide close to hand thanks to buying a franchise – it can still be useful to reinforce the basics from time to time.

Not least because when handling difficult customers, training and good intentions can be hard to hold onto in the heat of the moment…

1) Listen

“Listen” is right at the top of the MBE playbook. It’s the only way to make sure you’re giving your customers what they actually want. It’s also your first step when dealing with difficult customers.

It’s important to listen:

1. Even if you know exactly what they’re going to say

2. Even if you think they’re way off the mark

3. Even if you know they don’t have all of the details

2) Try to connect

Once you’ve heard them out, try to put yourself in their shoes.

You need to say a little more than “yep, okay” once they’re done. Try:

1. Repeating the important bits of what they’ve said to show that you understand.

2. Nodding along with what they are saying.

3. Trying to appear as positive about helping them as possible.

3) Remain calm at all times

Handling difficult customers is a little like trying to calm an angry animal.

The angrier they get, the calmer you need to be. Even if they’re swearing in your face and going red with rage, staying calm is the only way out of it.

Clearly stating that you’re on their side and you’re going to help them can go a long way to de-escalating the situation.

Trying not to take it personally can be tough. If it helps, try to imagine that all of your customers are watching…

4) If you need to, surrender with dignity

In the digital age, a negative review can travel far. Sadly, some people are aware of this and will threaten you with negative reviews right from the start.

But for most troublesome clients, this is an unusual situation for them and for you. Is it worth “winning” the argument if it all it gets you is a bad review?

Mostly, there’ll come a time when you need to surrender – at least a little – to make them happy.

When you do so, do it calmly and with dignity.

Remember – you’re “winning” (so to speak) your interactions with all of your happy customers. Plus, one “loss” can actually be turned into a “win” – and even a positive review – if you handle the situation right.

5) Tell them what you’re going to do about it – then do it

The final step is to explain precisely what you’re going to do about the problem. Whether that’s to call them back with an update or provide another service.

Whatever it happens to be, make it clear what you’ll do – and doubly make sure you actually do it.

How would you deal with a difficult customer?

Handling difficult customers can be at least straightforward if you bear these simple steps in mind.

If you can manage to stay calm and listen, you’re already well on the right lines.