Dealing with difficult customers can be a challenge.

7 tips for dealing with difficult customers

We’ve all heard the old cliché “the customer is always right.” However, as anyone who has ever worked in a customer service capacity will tell you, that’s definitely not true. Some patrons will be unnecessarily rude or find fault with impeccable service. Some may even get angry or aggressive. While it can be easy to lose your cool in such situations, it’s imperative to remember that the company’s reputation is on the line if you overreact. It’s also vital to know how to stay safe, should a violent confrontation ensue.

That’s why it’s so important to find effective communication-based strategies for dealing with difficult customers in a cool, calm and collected way. This is especially necessary for a limousine or livery business as most of your staff will be out on the road, dealing with customers in a one-on-one capacity. So check out the list of seven tips below and draw up a difficult customer strategy that can be implemented at the company-wide level. It’s time to learn how to deal with with disgruntled customers!

1. Make sure you listen.
An effective way to diffuse a situation and prevent it from escalating it to calmly listen to what the customer is saying. Listening sounds simple enough, but it’s actually hard to do effectively. Most people listen half-heartedly, anticipating their next response. This technique can make you come across as argumentative and defensive. To truly listen, take in what the customer is saying and do not reply until he has finished what he has to say, Inc advised. While you may not agree, by simply listening, you are more open to honest and effective communication, which will more than likely help remedy the dispute.

2. Keep calm.
Again, this sounds like obvious and simple advice, but maintaining a calm facade can be incredibly challenging, especially in the face of overt aggression. And while you may think you are coming across as calm, the tone of your voice or body language may suggest otherwise. Keeping your cool then is in many ways tantamount to a performance. It’s important to monitor how loud your voice is, whether you sound friendly enough and whether you look neutral or annoyed.

“Keeping your cool is in many ways tantamount to a performance.”

The key to calming down an angry customer is to keep a level and even tone of voice, but also to speak firmly. Don’t equivocate or show uncertainty, as this will likely irritate the customer further, Entrepreneur observed. If you appear in control of the situation, he will likely settle down. It’s also necessary to look sympathetic, and not angry. Conversely, if you keep smiling or look too happy, the customer will likely think that you are not taking him seriously. It’s a fine line and a balancing act to get right.

3. Try to be empathetic.
This can again be difficult, especially if you believe the customer is wrong, but displays of empathy can go a long way in resolving a tense situation. Demonstrations of empathy include maintaining eye contact, expressing apologies and stating that you can relate to the customer’s struggle. With a display of empathy, the customer will more than likely calm down and be willing to listen.

4. Explain the situation.
If, for example, the patron is irate about a late pick up or canceled trip, it’s important to be honest and give a clear explanation as to why the situation arose, Chron.com explained. Customers will likely not appreciate unclear excuses. It’s important to be direct, clear and most importantly, apologetic.

Dealing with aggression can be challenging. It's important to remain calm and collected.Dealing with aggression can be challenging. It’s important to remain calm and collected.

5. Negotiate a solution.
If the above tactics are employed, more often than not the customer will be calm enough to begin negotiations for a solution, Inc explained. In such instances it’s important to remember the maxim mentioned earlier – “the customer is always right.” Essentially, do what you have to do to keep him happy, so that he will be more inclined to do business with you in the future and spread the good word about your operation. Whether it’s a free ride, or free monthly pass – whatever you lose in revenue you will make up for in protecting your reputation. After all, nothing can be more damaging to your bottom line than a bad review online or bad word of mouth.

6. Warn the customer.
In rare cases the above advice will fail to calm an aggressive customer. If he continues to get angry and uses aggressive language or behavior, it’s time to calmly issue a warning, Chron.com stated. Make it clear that angry behavior will not be tolerated and that security or the police will be involved if the aggression continues.

7. End the confrontation.
In exceptionally rare cases a customer may refuse to leave or become violent. Should this occur be sure to protect yourself by calling security and/or the police and walking away from the confrontation. No dispute is worth getting injured over.