How To Deal With Difficult Customers?

by Mahnoor Mansur

Heavy sighs, crossed arms, curt replies – these are a few signs that indicate that your customer is getting frustrated. Worse, they start crying or screaming because a repair went wrong or they feel betrayed. Your technician gets annoyed at the reaction too. And it turns into an ugly confrontation.

If this has happened to you, you’re in the right place. Because we talked to a few successful repair shop owners who gave us tips on handling difficult customers.

But before we dive into those tips, Robert Miranda, growth consultant at CPR, says that you have to remember there isn’t a single sure shot way to deal with aggressive customers. And you get no script to strictly follow when you find yourself in a situation like this. But you have to think on your toes and keep on reminding your salespeople and technicians how to communicate in such matters. 

“There is no one right way to deal with customers. And the thing is, it requires someone to think on their toes. It’s all like in your communication, you can always  keep on reminding your staff of tricks to deal with customers to avoid escalations”.

Difficult Customer Experience Scenarios

There are different degrees of difficulty a customer can get to. Here are a few scenarios that you should be able to relate to:

1. Impatient Customer

The situation: A customer might be waiting in a queue longer than usual. They may be late for their next appointment, or simply restless while your employees repair their device.

How to deal with it: Train your employees to be precise and concise without appearing dismissive of their demeanor. Teach them to be transparent about the delay or wait without informing the exact reason behind the delay. Make sure that your employees show that they are doing everything in their power to resolve the impatient customer’s issue.

Teach your employees to frame their answers positively. For instance, they should not say that the product they asked for is unavailable. Instead, train them to say that they can expect the delivery by a specific date or that the product in question will be restocked soon. 

2. Indecisive Customer

The situation:  An indecisive customer can struggle to pick between different product options. And they might not show this concern to your employees.

How to deal with it: Make your employees ask to-the-point questions about common factors that have an impact on decision-making. Such factors include product tier, features, and price. Then, show them the products and allow them to explore them for a few minutes. In addition to this, the most important thing is to listen to their concerns attentively.

3. Angry Customer

The situation: No matter what the situation or solution is, an angry customer is not satisfied with the result. Therefore, your employee’s attempts to rectify the situation are not helping as well. Or they might make the situation worse.

How to deal with it: In this case, make your employees begin the interaction by apologizing even if it’s not warranted. Resolving the situation while addressing pointed grievances against your product or service is the right practice. Also, remember to keep it short. The longer the problem is dragged on, the worse the situation will get. And the time that should be spent on other customers will be wasted.

4. Demanding Customer

The situation: A customer that is demanding takes a lot of your time and energy. And this often happens at the expense of other incoming customers. They may be fixated on a solution or product they want and may not want alternatives, even if they are better.

How to deal with it: Be patient and speak slowly. Listen to your customer’s concerns and move quickly to address them. But be transparent too. Buying time or putting off their needs to address other customers will not go well. So, make sure your employees don’t do that.

5. Vague Customer

The situation: A customer comes into your repair shop without a clear idea of what is wrong with their device. They may have a problem articulating the issue in their device, or they might not have a good understanding of their options. And you question them to get to the core of the problem. The answers don’t help either or may even confuse your employees more.

How to deal with it: Just like any indecisive customer, ask the customer specific questions. If your employees can still find the answer, run a diagnostic on the device through your cellphone store POS. The pre-device checklist will help your employees get to the problem. In any case, make it a practice that all your employees do a pre and post repair device checklist.

6. Customer Asking For Refund

The situation: This kind of customer is so unhappy or disappointed with your product or service that they want their money back.

How to deal with it: Every repair shop has its refund policy and regulations that determine which items can be taken back. The best course of action is to refund either full or in part, depending on the situation. Offer a store credit for future purchases to show that you care for the customers. If you decide to process the refund, be clear about when they will get their money to avoid making the customer angry.

7. Lying Customer

The situation: A customer may come up to your repair store complaining about an issue with their device that didn’t exist when the device came in for repair. In reality, they broke it after the repair.

How to deal with it: Such scenarios require patience and clarity. If you have done a pre and post-repair device checklist, you can show the customer your records during the check-in and checkout process. Also, make sure the employees are still polite so that the situation doesn’t escalate and results in wasting time. Taking pre and post-repair images is also ideal. If you have CCTV cameras installed at your shop, you can even show them the video footage of the transaction.

The ideal way is to handle all customers according to the situation and issue at hand. Keep these solutions and scenarios in mind while being adaptable as well. Train your employees to be proactive and have empathy for all customers.

Set Escalation Stages

Many repair store experts have set escalation stages that help them identify the problem and deal with it accordingly. Let’s see how the escalation method works.

Stage 1

This is a stage that is usually handled by the sales reps themselves. So, train your employees so that they don’t hesitate to solve a customer’s problem in this stage.

For instance, a customer comes in and complains that they got their phone fixed from your repair store. However, the next day the screen cracked on its own. And the customer blames your repair services for that. If the crack is the customer’s fault, politely prove it  the pre and post repair checklist and then offer a small discount to them. This way, you will avoid dealing with an upset customer because a customer might get upset even if it’s not your repair store’s fault.

Stage 2

The second stage is when the management has to get involved in solving the issue. The other case can be that your employees come to you for approval.

For instance, an employee is really angry because they had to wait in line to get their device repaired. So they threaten to give your repair store a bad review on Yelp. Now, to diffuse the situation, your employee wants to provide a discount to the customer. And if that discount is over the allowed limit, let’s say 15%, they will have to get approval from the management first.

Stage 3

In the third stage, the higher management has to get involved because it may be that your employee cannot solve the customer’s problem. Before the situation gets out of hand, the management can step in and do whatever it takes to help the customer.

For instance, if a customer blames your employee for a wrong repair, you can give a free repair so that the customer leaves your repair store happy rather than angry.

Stage 4

This is the most dangerous stage and usually happens if the employee is negligent towards the customer. Firstly, the situation should not reach the fourth stage in any case. If it does, that means the employee did not bother to involve the management, and now the water is over your head.

For instance, a customer comes in and complains about their device not being repaired properly. The employee fixes the device and sends the customer away. However, the customer comes back again and starts yelling because the issue did not get resolved. It shows the negligence at your employee’s end, and you need to take strict action against them.

9 Strategies To Deal With Difficult Customers

Training your employees to deal with difficult customers is critical to maintaining decorum and professionalism in intense situations. Here are some strategies that can help you.

1.    First, Listen

Train your employees not to argue with the customer or talk over them. Instead, let the customer tell their entire problem or need, even if your employee knows what the issue is. Your employees need to take this opportunity to build a rapport with the customer.

2.    Build A Connection Through Empathy

The trick of the trade is to consider the problem your own.

Show your employees what it feels like to be in the customer’s shoes. Find the source of the customer’s frustration. Your employees have to show that they understand the situation the customer is in. Empathizing with the customer always calms them down.

Robert shares his strategy behind having empathy for the customers.

“So what we trained our staff and what we understood is that there has to be empathy behind everything. Even if we disagree with the customer, there needs to be empathy. Because at the end of the day, they came to us for a solution. They trusted us for a solution. They had enough trust to give us something that they’re addicted to.”

3.    Lower Your Voice

Train your employees to keep their voices low even if the customer gets loud. Your employee’s calm demeanor will help settle the customer down. Make your employees approach the situation with a clean and calm mind. If they are not affected by the customer’s loud tone, the customer’s anger will dissipate.

4.    Respond Like All The Other Customers Are Watching 

Your employees have to talk to the customer so that everyone else in the repair shop is also aware of everything that is being said. Such a shift in perspective will provide an emotional buffer if the buyer is verbally abusive and will allow your employees to think carefully before responding.

An unruly buyer can become a negative referral. Your employees have to assume that this conversation can be repeated in front of other potential customers. This mindset will enable your staff to do their best to fix the concerns in a calming way.

5.   Know When To Give In

Sometimes satisfying a rude customer can take more than 2 hours and aspirin. And still end up in negative referrals. So, take the high road and compromise in the customer’s favor. It will give you more time to take care of other customers. Inform your employees that this is a rare case and such cases require this solution. 

6.    Stay Calm

If the customer is verbally abusive, your employees have to take a deep breath and continue as if they didn’t hear it. Replying in the same aggressive way will not solve anything. It will only escalate the situation.

Your employees need to inform the customer that they are there to solve their issues immediately. A simple statement like this will defuse the situation.

7.    Don’t Take It Personally

Your employee training should be so on point that they don’t take it personally, no matter what the customer says. The customer doesn’t know your employees. They are just venting frustration at the employees because they are representatives of your repair store. Here your employees have to guide the conversation to the problem and how they will help to solve it.

8.    If You Promise A Callback, Do It!

Even if your employee promised an update that they don’t have yet, make it a practice to call at the scheduled time anyway. Then, the customer will know that your employees are not trying to dodge them and will like the follow-up.

9.    Summarize The Next Steps

Your employees have to inform the customers what they can expect and make sure your team keeps all their promises. Then, record the call to make sure your team is well prepared for the next interaction.

So, we hope that this article has given you the insights that will come in handy while dealing with difficult customers. Don’t let difficult customers throw your team off. Instead, train them to instill conflict management and customer management skills that will defuse such situations.

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