Handling Difficult Customers


Managing the Customer Service Experience


Lesson Info

Handling Difficult Customers

Now, handling different people is a similar situation. Right? Situations and people, but people are very colorful, right? Have you guys seen those ads where someone has turned into Joe Pesci 'cause he's really, really angry, and it turns out he's just hangry, right? He's hungry so he's angry, right? But this is what happens sometimes. I remember when it dawned on me, God, 20 years into working in the business, when I was a maître d', that people come to the restaurant 'cause, and they're coming in all sorts of different states, but they're coming in and they're hungry, and that makes them irritable, and it makes them twitchy, and it makes them a little on edge. I'm that girl, right? Who shows up, and I have no more patience left. I want to sit down and I wanna eat, you know? That's me, yeah, that's me. So, when you realize sometimes, when you get a little empathetic, it helps you help people, right? But if you just think people are difficult, and mean, and nasty, they're surely gonna b...

e that. So we gotta think sometimes, a little, what could be going on there? What's happening with that person? 'Cause the fact is, they're coming in with all sorts of stuff, that has nothing to do with you. They're coming with a whole life of experiences that has nothing to do with you, and if you read the situation, you may get it right, you may get it wrong, alright? We talked a little bit offline about reading the guests. So reading the guest is really like assessing what's going on, right? Using your humanity to sort of feel-out and gauge what's happening with that person in this moment, right? Some of it's related to you, some of it's not related to you. We're really just seeing, okay, at the very least this person's upset. This person seems to have other things going on, but they're here with me right now. So what can I do? And that's back to the power that you have. You have a power to impact that moment, there with you. And that's the thing to remember. Okay, so it's unrelated, but yes, you can do something about it. Now, self-control, we talked about self control, a little earlier on. And it's incredibly important when handling difficult customers. So what sort of self control might we have to demonstrate, when we're with customers? What kind of self control? What are things we have to control within ourselves, when we have difficult guests? Keeping from getting too upset, and managing what you say. Okay, so managing what you say. Maybe somebody doesn't like your product, and you're like, that's my baby, right? Don't call my baby ugly, right? So you're gonna get upset, and then you have to control what you're gonna say. Very good. What's another one? What are some of the things we have to control? So, what we say. How we say it. How we say it, that's right. So our body language and our vocal language, right. So if somebody starts complaining to you, you might roll your eyes and be like, here we go, right? That's body language, or you might be like, okay, okay, right? So the language is a little frustrated. So we have to control that. Those are exactly the sort of things that I'm talking about. So, we need to control our emotions. So taking a deep breath or counting to is a great thing. People have all sorts of little tips and tricks for this. I don't know if you all have them. Saying different words, spelling out different words in your mind, you know. I-n-n-e-r p-e-a-c-e. Inner peace, right? It doesn't matter what it is, but it buys you a little bit of time. The idea is to control your emotions, 'cause at first you might be like why are you yelling at me? Why are you upset with me? No, they're just upset. It has nothing to do with you. Demonstrate empathy even when things feel unfair. We wanna demonstrate that we're on their side, and when we feel empathetic it actually helps us want to get closer as opposed to get further away. When upset people are here, you generally wanna get away from them. But in fact what we need to do is sort of get a little closer. And when you get closer, it actually helps diffuse what's going on, 'cause they think in that moment, I'm loud and I'm crazy, and yes I'm loud and crazy. But in that moment if you get closer, you're like, but really what I need is a hug. That's sort of what they're saying sometimes. So you get closer, and I'm not suggesting touching them, right, but if you (audience laughing) get a little closer, meaning like emotionally closer, be empathetic, lean in, I wanna hear what you have to say. Tell me about that. It allows them a moment to actually clear their mind, and potentially move on from the pain, and go into a mode where you can help them recover. Don't make it personal. This is business, and it's also not about you. You're just a representative of the business. What can our business do? What can my products do? What can I offer you as a service, to make this transaction better? Make this product better, make this moment better? There's tons of things you can do, but it's not personal. It's really not about you. And remember, it's about your clients, their satisfaction, and their experience. So, things went wrong, and now I have control. I have control 'cause I want to make an intentional action, a positive recovery, and I can do that. I need to find out what will help them out. Now, I talked a moment ago, about empathy. So there's empathy and there's sympathy. What is the difference? Empathy is actually putting yourself in the position of the person you're looking at. <v Ms. Edwards>Okay, and what were you gonna say? Sympathy is just feeling sorry for them, feeling sorry for how they feel, instead of feeling like they feel. Well I think that's the distinction. Feeling like they feel, so that's a little bit different. So sympathy we wanna stay away with. Sympathy is somebody said, oh my God, I'm so late today, and I had such a bad day. And then you, instead of saying, oh man, I'm really sorry, then saying, oh my God, I was late today too because my car wouldn't start, and then my husband's car wouldn't start. That's sympathizing, right? I've been there. I have been there, right? You can use I've been there internally, and empathize. We're not gonna share that, because we don't wanna sympathize with them. That's too much, it's about them and their moment. We wanna empathize. We wanna use our humanity, our decency, to say wow, that's a shame. I am so sorry. It's the pits when that happens, right? And it's really no problem, we're okay, right? This is not a problem that you're late. We're happy to have you, right? So changing it, by not sympathizing. And that's something too, that you're gonna have to train your teams on, because that's something that I see a lot with younger service professionals, is that they try to connect with people by sympathizing, or by saying oh you have no idea. You have no idea how my day was. Or somebody, you know, the polite, hi, how are you? I'm doing fine. How are you? You have no idea. My boss, would you believe? You know, it gets to be too much. So we need for them to feel empowered to help people, but without inserting themselves. And that's something we have to work with people on, 'cause it takes a little seasoning to learn how to use self control, and how to truly be empathetic with a client, to take a moment, take a beat before jumping right in with them. Similarly, we have the five steps, which is a couple of things, because it's people that we really need to find out. So one is: diagnose the situation, similarly. This is where we're going to read the guest, we're gonna read the situation. We might ask people outside of the situation, what happened? And then the next one is: we're gonna apologize. Okay, this is now a person who is upset, so we need to apologize. Before even going any further, we just want them to feel better. You know, I am so sorry. And, there's something that people do sometimes, which we're gonna try to stay away from. I'm sorry you're so upset. What does that do when I say I'm sorry you're so upset? Puts the burden on the person you're talking to. That's right. That's right. I'm sorry by itself is about me. I'm sorry, I feel really badly. That shouldn't have happened. But I'm so sorry you're upset, it's almost like well you're the one with the problem. So sorry you're in this situation. No, I'm sorry, right? So we need to take that, we need to own the apology. And then we need to ask questions using active listening, to make sure we understand why they're upset. What are they feeling? What's going on, what caused this? And again, try to understand what will be the best solution for them. Then be empathetic and creative with your response, and be swift and communicate the timeline. And this is really important: communicating the timeline. So in the example I gave a moment ago, about correcting the steak that was not cooked right. So it could be, I can, hey, let me get you a new steak. Right? But that isn't really solving the problem, because let's say they're going to the show and they need to leave in half an hour. Me getting them a steak adds 15 more minutes to their time. That actually isn't the best solution. So if I say hey, I could get you a steak in 15 minutes or I could get you a chicken probably about five minutes, or I could get you a salad like right now. Which would you prefer? You've empowered them to make a choice on their own behalf, and you've given them options for the timeline. So when they know the timeline, back to waiting, right? We don't want people to wait, that's in our previous course. By communicating that, then we're gonna get buy-in, right? They've made a choice on their own recovery. So, communicate that timeline. And then follow-up and say thank you for their patience. So we don't wanna just say I'll get you a new steak, and then how was it? You always wanna put the bow of thank you. Thank you for their patience. Okay? I saw a bunch of nods, right? Thank you's an important one, definitely. Something else about the apology, is, and this is what I see a lot. Then, the bad situation has been completed, right? So, bad thing happened, active recovery, we're now feeling good, but then we go back and say and again, I'm so sorry. Gosh, and I'm so sorry that happened. Oh, I'm so sorry. Don't apologize anymore. You've apologized, they've accepted your apology, they've accepted your correction, and we've actually created a new memory, right? Wow, they messed up the steak, but I got the chicken, the chicken was really good, they sent me another glass of wine. I'm happy now, and then when you come over and you're like, and again, I'm so sorry, then it mmmmm, right? The meter just totally switches gears. So we don't wanna keep apologizing. Instead, we wanna end on a positive note, so we wanna say thank you for any number of things. Thank you for being so flexible. Thank you for trusting us, and allowing us to make this better for you. We appreciate that. Thank you for your patience. Such a simple thing, but thank you so much for that. Thank you for being a good customer, you know? This was so inadvertent, I didn't want this to happen to you of all people. So thank you, thank you for trusting us, and believing in us. Thanking them for their part of this equation I think is really important. So instead of saying, 'cause then the apology becomes about you, right? I'm so sorry, this shouldn't have happened. Oh, my God. It keeps it in that zone of you're mea culpa, right? As opposed to putting the onus on them. Wow, you're amazing. Thank you for being flexible, trusting, patient, and being a good customer. That's a wonderful thing. So we wanna give acknowledgement for that, acknowledgement that they've done all those things, which is a cool thing.

Class Description

Why is good customer service such a challenge for so many businesses? Because customers (i.e., humans) can be unpredictable, demanding and sometimes argumentative. Even if you have an exhaustive plan in place, your customers are guaranteed to throw you a curve ball. That means you’ll have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

When faced with an unhappy—even angry—customer, business people can get flustered. Even the best of us sometimes lose our cool and respond with frustration or rudeness. This course aims to prepare you for the most difficult situations, so you can uphold your commitment to customer satisfaction and turn even the most troublesome customer into a fan.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the common pitfalls of customer service.
  • Address the most common situations you’re likely to confront.
  • Present your brand and your business as courteous, classy and caring at all times.
  • Turn an unhappy customer into a happy camper.
  • Find solutions to problems that work for your customers and your business.
  • Keep your calm even in the most heated circumstances.
  • Know the difference between satisfaction and perfection.
  • Come up with thoughtful language to use for different types of customers and circumstances.
  • Gain confidence in addressing uncomfortable situations.