5 types of difficult customers and how to help them

December 5, 2018

No matter how much time you spend delivering good customer service, it’s important to remember you can’t please everyone every time. Whether it’s a customer with heightened expectations, or an otherwise lovely person who happens to be having a rough day, you will inevitably encounter customers who are difficult to satisfy. The key is to learn how to make the best of a difficult customer interaction and resolve the situation in a manner that satisfies everyone.

Here are five difficult customers you may encounter in the future and recommendations on how to effectively help them and solve their issues:

Aggressive Alice

Who she is: Alice is on vacation with her family. She was enraged when she saw that the deluxe room she booked had one large bed inside instead of two smaller-sized beds. She thought that the room she booked was enough for her and her two kids—her daughter who wants to sleep next to her and her son who prefers to sleep in a separate bed.

Instead of asking what happened with her reservation politely, she raised her voice to the staff and called them incompetent. Tired from a long day of traveling, Alice isn’t interested in hearing the manager’s explanation. Right now she just wants to express her anger to anyone who will listen.

How to deal: Whether it’s your fault or hers, Alice isn’t ready to listen. Do not respond to her aggressiveness with high emotions, because it will only exacerbate the situation. Try to understand why she is frustrated and wait for her to regain composure. When her anger has subsided, take the opportunity to apologize and offer a solution. Do not let hurtful words affect your decisions, or your overall customer service.

Very impatient Patrick (V.I.P)

Who he is: Patrick, like all customers, doesn’t like to wait. The pair of sneakers he was trying on are too small for him so he ordered a bigger size. It was a weekend so naturally, there are many customers seeking assistance from the staff. But Patrick doesn’t care about the size of your queue. Why would he? He just wants to get his shoes and move on with his life.

How to deal: All customers deserve a prompt response and quick action, regardless of how difficult they are. But you can’t necessarily bump a customer to the top of the queue just because he’s lost his patience. Do your best to explain why things aren’t moving as quickly as he’d like, assure him that you appreciate his patience, and do your best to serve him as quickly as possible. If possible, refer him to less-busy colleagues who can give him more timely assistance.

Silent Sophie

Who she is: Sophie plans on having a makeover at a salon. The stylist asks Sophie what hairstyle she wants. Sophie answers “a little trim and blonde hair color,” which is too vague for the stylist.

How to deal: Customers like Sophie don’t always realize when they’re too vague. They have a clear understanding of what they want but don’t always do a great job asking for it. If Sophie is unable or unwilling to supply you with more information on what she wants, handle it by getting more specific.

What particular shade of blonde is she referring to? How short does she want her hair? Show her magazines or catalogues to arrive at a more specific hair color. Point out how small of a difference “a little trim” can make to her hair. She might be expecting a drastic change in her look so it’s best to manage expectations early (and avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation).

Complaining Carl

Who he is: Carl ordered Fresh Mushroom Soup, but in the middle of the meal, he noticed that it tasted like ready-made mushroom soup straight from the can.

Disappointed, he called the attention of the waiter and asked him to explain why the soup is not “fresh” contrary to what was stated in the menu. Carl also started noticing little things, such as the stain on his glass and the too dim lights. His needs aren’t being met and he wants to speak to a manager.

How to deal: Perhaps you ran out of mushrooms and resorted to serving canned soup. Maybe Carl just has an odd palate. Either way, the best way to alleviate the situation is to apologize for what happened and avoid excuses.

Try to resolve his complaints in a single transaction. That way, you can meet his needs without ignoring other customers. If he is still dissatisfied, seek help from your manager but be sure to offer a solution first. For example, recommend a different soup or offer to subtract the price of the order from his bill.

Know-it-all Nikki

Who she is: Nikki tries on different shades of foundation in a cosmetic store when a beauty consultant approaches her. The woman tries to help Nikki pick the perfect shade for her skin tone when she notices that Nikki was applying foundation that’s too light for her. Nikki insists that it’s her skin and she knows what she is doing.

How to deal: Give Nikki a little ego-boost by dishing out compliments such as “I hear uses this color.” Just make sure you tell the truth and you’re not complimenting blindly. If that does not work, suggest that there are other options that might work for her. If she insists that you’re wrong and she’s right with her choice, let her be. You have done your part to provide her with good beauty advice and it is up to her to decide whether to take it or not.

Difficult customers are part of life, but so is great customer service. Always try to empathize with them, even if they’re having a bad day. Have you encountered any of the five types of problematic customers yet? Share with us your experience and how you handled them.

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