How to Deal With Difficult Customers in Kenya

Difficult customers are one of the most challenging aspects of customer service.

You may have been a difficult customer at one point in your life without knowing.

Difficult customers are a pain to any business and you will often see employees and managers running around trying to cool things down in case of a complaint from a difficult customer.

Knowing how to deal with difficult customers is a skill every business owner must possess.

Customers are the lifeblood of the business and without them, your business will not exist.

In this article, I will talk about the different types of difficult customers, why you should deal with them and how to do so effectively. 

Why are Some Customers Difficult?

You may ask yourself why some customers can not just be polite or receptive to the services they receive from your business.

Do customers always have to be so rude, angry, demanding, indecisive and difficult?

Well, we can say that not all customers have these kinds of traits.

A business can develop an amicable relationship with its customers without having to face these challenges.

Here are reasons why customers may be difficult.

Personality

Some people are just inherently rude or arrogant and there’s really nothing you can do to fix them.

We understand that we all come from different upbringings and that carries a large part of who we are. Someone may adopt or transfer their trauma to you and it may not be their fault.

That’s why you should deal with these customers with empathy.

Bad experience before

If a customer had a prior experience with your product and you didn’t meet their expectations the last time, they will go a little hard on you now so that you can fulfil your promise to them.

Attached value to a product or service

If a person is interacting with your business, then it means they really hold your products or services very valuable and wouldn’t do anything short of that.

It is your duty to make sure that you meet their expectations. 

They are not difficult, you are just not of standard

Admit it. Your business sucks.

You may even know that you cannot live up to your customer’s expectations and instead of facing these problems, you claim your customers are being difficult.

I’d say you do a business assessment and deal with the problems you are facing in the business so that you do not lose customers.

Who is a Difficult Customer?

A difficult customer is any person who challenges a customer service provider’s ability to deliver expected quality products for services. 

When customers seek your business, they already have an idea of what they want in mind and if you see that they are being difficult, then it means that they are in doubt or you may not have reached their standard of acceptance.

Difficult customers wreak havoc and bring on mayhem in a business.

They need to hone handles with extra patience and skill because they take annoying habits to an extreme level.

What are the Types of Difficult Customers?

Here are the types of difficult customers.

Dissatisfied or angry customers

These customers are the usual complainers. Sounds familiar?

They will complain about not being treated fairly, being taken advantage of or being lied to by someone in the organisation.

Dissatisfied customers perceive they didn’t receive promised or quality products and services.

Demanding or domineering customers

These customers will have a definitive idea about what they want and are unwilling to waver.

Nothing you tell them can convince them otherwise.

The common reason why customers may be demanding may be due to bad customer service experiences in the past.

They will try to avoid this situation from recurring by staying in control at all times.

Indecisive customers

These customers have a difficult time making a decision when given choices of a range of products and services.

You can spend a whole day waiting for them to make up their mind on something and they still won’t know what to choose.

If you are like me and you have a difficult time picking what to wear or what to eat, then you are indecisive and that could possibly make you a difficult customer.

Rude or inconsiderate customers

These are customers who are stubborn or contrary when dealing with customer service providers.

They always seem to have their own agenda without concern for the feelings of others.

They will go out of their way and be offensive in order to get attention.

They will raise their voice, use profanity, demand to speak to the supervisor and be verbally abrupt like snapping at you.

They will want to cut in front of someone else in line and be in control.

They are a very frustrating bunch of difficult customers and it is going to be hard to deal with them.

Talkative customers

These customers exhibit extroverted behaviour that is very people-oriented.

They have a happy demeanour but might be annoying when they spend an excessive amount of time talking about irrelevant things nonstop.

Being engaged with a customer is fine, but if you have other things to do and people to serve, you will need to deal with this situation.

We will talk about how you are going to deal with these types of difficult customers later in the article.

Who Is the Most Difficult Customer to Deal With?

We have to agree that these difficult customers have varying degrees of annoyance.

There are those who can be pulled together fast, while for others it will be difficult to get them back on board.

If you have encountered all of these customers before, you will say those rude and angry customers are the most difficult to deal with.

If you do not handle them carefully, they will tarnish your reputation and drag your business through the mud.

You have to be extremely cautious and be adept when you are dealing with these customers. 

How Do I Deal With a Difficult Customer?

One thing you must understand is that you will not be dealing with difficult customers the same way.

I want you to first identify the type of difficult customer you are dealing with so that you can have the right approach to handle the situation.

I will take you through how you will deal with each type of difficult customer so that you can be as effective as possible.

  • Dissatisfied or angry customers. 

This is how you will deal with them: Be professional and remain calm.

That’s the first step in dealing with a bully.

Be assertive and control the situation.

Do not retaliate.

When you talk back to them, the situation will blow up and be something it shouldn’t have.

If they cut in line, smile and say you will be with them once you are finished with this other person.

  • Demanding or domineering customers.

Stay professional. Do not raise your voice.

Speak softly.

Listen more.

Show respect even if you do not like them.

Maintain good eye contact and positive body language.

Be polite and use the customer’s name when you are addressing them.

You also have to be firm and fair but careful not to let your assertive behaviour cross over into aggression.

Let the customer know what you can do for them and what is within your power.

  • Indecisive customers.

When you are dealing with indecisive customers, you have to first be patient.

Ask them open-ended questions and get as much background information so that you can determine their needs and assist with solutions for ideas.

Provide them with information about the products and services and tell them the pros and cons of each.

Be assertive, but do not make the decision for them. 

  • Rude or inconsiderate customers.

With rude customers, you have to be professional and remain calm because if you approach them in the wrong way, the situation can escalate very fast.

You don’t want that.

Do not retaliate when they snap at you.

You also have to be assertive and control the situation. For example, if they cut in line, smile and say you’ll be with them once you are finished with this other person. 

  • Talkative customers 

Dealing with talkative customers can be a walk in the park. You first want to remain warm and cordial, but also focused.

Ask specific open-ended questions as this will determine your customer’s main concern.

You must also close-ended questions so that you can manage and control the conversations.

Close-ended questions implied that the conversation is ending and that you still intend to assist the customer in the future.

You can say ” If you have no further questions, I know you said you have a lot of shopping to do so I won’t keep you any longer.

Thank you so much for shopping with us and let me know if I can assist you in future.” When you do it this way, you are not only being kind but also giving your customers time for a “brief” conversation. 

Dealing with difficult customers can be a task so it is very important to know who and what you are facing before you dive in headfirst with an unsuitable way of handling the situation at hand.

What Should I Avoid When Handling a Difficult Customer?

When you are dealing with a difficult customer, avoid doing the following things because it will only make the situation worse.

  • Talking back to the customer 
  • Retaliation 
  • Raising your voice
  • Negative body language 
  • Being professional 

Skills You Need to Deal With Difficult Customers

There are some certain skills and qualities that you need to have if you are going to deal with difficult customers successfully.

  1. Self control. When a customer annoys you, you may want to retaliate so that they can know what it feels like to be humiliated. You have to hold yourself back. Give yourself some self talk. Control your speech and your body language. You do not want things together worse.
  1. Empathy. Be ready to put yourself in your customer’s shoes on how they feel about your products and services. Don’t brush them off. What if it were you? Treat them how you would like yourself to be treated in such a situation.
  1. Communication skills. Understand what your customer wants and listen intently when they talk about the problems they have faced from your enterprise. Good communication will help you come up with better solutions and your customers will be on your side in no time.
  1. Business acumen. Have proper knowledge and understanding of your products and services so that when you are faced with a difficult customer who is demanding or indecisive, you can easily take them through your business without making any mistakes. You will all be happy this way.
  1. Patience. If your customer is angry, give them time to cool off a bit and while they are doing so, apologise for the inconvenience. Do not expect them to get back on board immediately. It will piss them off more if you come off as too pushy.
  1. Decisiveness. You need to be assertive and take control of situations and come up with the best solutions for a problem that has occurred in the business.
  1. Adaptability. Do not be too hell bent on following company rules and policy, especially in an instance where it may seem unfair to the customers. You can refer your customers to the supervisors in case of this.
  1. Resilience. You have to develop thick skin because some difficult customers can really hurt your self esteem and reduce it to a zero. Keep yourself motivated and remind yourself that it’s not about you, but it could be that they are dealing with their own problems. 
  1. Persuasive. Talk to your customers in a way that is going to change their minds and make them see things from your perspective. You will reach common ground and work things out this way.
  1. Humility. Always remind yourself that the customer is always right and that you are meant to serve them. Keep this up and it will be easier to deal with difficult customers.

Some of these skills help you to deal with customers before they even cause problems, so you will always be at an advantage when you develop them.

What Do I Do to a Difficult Customer?

When you come across a customer who is difficult, this is what you can do:

  • Take the complaint
  • Admit your mistakes
  • Assess their needs
  • Seek a solution to their problem 
  • Follow up on them
  • Do not repeat the mistake again

What Do I Say to a Difficult Customer?

When speaking with a difficult customer, there is a language that you must strive to observe. Professional communicators say that using these words show that you are being courteous, respectful and there you are concerned and actually care about your customers.

  1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. This indicates that you acknowledge their complaint and you are ready to take action.
  1. I apologise/sorry for the inconvenience. Shows that you care and you acknowledge the troubles they went through.
  1. Please tell me more about what you went through. 
  1. I understand why you are not pleased. You sound empathetic this way and your customers are even more ready to confide in you
  1. Let me see if I’ve understood you correctly.
  1. Here is what I will do for you.  This is to see if the customer is happy with the solutions you have offered them  or they will still be dissatisfied. 
  1. This is what I’d recommend for you. 
  1. Thank you for being patient with us as we handled XYZ. We would like you to leave a review or feedback about our services. 

Why Should I Deal With Difficult Customers?

You may wonder if it is a must to deal with difficult customers.

Should you continue doing business with them or should you just tell them to kick rocks?

Well, apart from a business being about customers, there are other reasons why you should deal with difficult customers. 

  1. Brand trust. Your customers should be able to trust your business, products and services. If you can leave up to their expectations, they will  build trust with your business and always seek you out when they need something. 
  1. Good reputation. Successfully dealing with difficult customers will build a good reputation for your business and you will gain more customers this way.
  1. Retaining customers. Your customers will be loyal to you if they know that you are able to effectively address their problems and prevent any future mistakes from happening. 
  1. Avoid being fired. Some supervisors can be harsh and may be quick to fire you in case of a customer complaint instead of first checking with you to hear your side of the story.

Advantages of Dealing With Difficult Customers

Here are some of the benefits of dealing with difficult customers.

  1. Improving customer service skills. When you are approached with difficult customers, you get to know what problems your business has that prevents you from offering the best customer service and you find new ways of avoiding this.
  1. Straightforward feedback helps you improve your business. Difficult customers can be brutally honest when giving their reviews. Take this as constructive advice to improve your business.
  1. Building a better business. If you give new and better solutions to a problem present by a customer, your business grows bigger and better.
  1. Helps you understand your products or business. A difficult customer may bring information about a product or service that may have escaped your mind.
  1. Helps you know your target market better. You will know which customers actually care about your business and you will be focused on how to serve them better.
  1. Building a good reputation. Successful dealing with difficult customers indicates that you have good customer service.
  1. Customer connections. I’ve seen once difficult customers, being good friends to a business and bringing in more customers for the business every day. 

Disadvantages of Dealing With Difficult Customers

Some of the problems that you will face when dealing with difficult customers include:

  1. Emotional scar. Some of the comments and remarks that a difficult customer may say about you will dampen your spirit, crush your self esteem and spoil your whole day. When you are dealing with a difficult customer, you have to remind yourself who you are and that they are very mean and inconsiderate. 
  1. Blacklisted by the supervisor. If your supervisor gets wind of a complaint made against you by a customer, they will start to watch you more closely or even fire you. You want to be on the good side of management every time. 
  1. Some customers are too difficult. No matter what you do, they will never get on board. Their main agenda is to ruin you. So it will just be an endless back and forth talk between a bully and his victim.
  1. Low morale. Dealing with difficult customers will make you unhappy or insecure at work. You will always feel unmotivated and that your efforts are not being valued in the business. 

How to Be Successful in Dealing With Difficult Customers

When you are dealing with difficult customers, you have to have a strategy so that you can be successful in your attempts.

You also have to know how to handle different customers in different areas of business, for example, if you are working in sales, retail or you are handling phone calls through a call centre.

Here are some tips and advice on how you can achieve all that.

When you want to be successful in dealing with difficult customers, you have to:

  1. Show them that you understand their pain points. Thus will make them open up.more and you will find better solutions to their problems.
  1. Apologise first. Do not delay the apologies because it may show that you do not care that you inconvenienced them.
  1. Train yourself. Teach yourself how to better respond to difficult customers. Go through employee training, read books and listen to audiobooks.
  1. Don’t blame anyone. Take full responsibility over hwnt happened if you want things to move smoothly.
  1. Change agents. If you feel that you are not in a position to help, have someone else do it for you.
  1. Address the issue head on. Do not go around corners because your customer will notice that you are being evasive.

How to Deal With Difficult Customers in Different Business Situations

You should know how to deal with difficult customers in difficult areas of business. For example, you may be dealing with customers on phone or in sales.

If you are handling difficult customers on phone, I’d say you do this:

  • Listen to them carefully.
  • Stay calm
  • Repeat information back to them
  • Do not put them on hold.

If you are handling customers in sales, I’d say you do this:

  • Slow things down
  • Be unemotional 
  • Use a calm, but a firm voice
  • Mirror their language
  • Don’t argue
  • Get them talking so that they will express themselves and you will know what they really want. 

FAQs on How to Deal With Difficult Customers

  1. How do you handle a difficult customer?

Listen carefully

Repeat after your customer

Sympathise and empathise with your customer

Take responsibility

Remain calm

2. What are the types of difficult customers?

The demanding/bully

Aggressive

Complainer

Indecisive

Impatient

Know-it-all

3. How do you end a difficult customer call?

Be clear with your customers about what you’re doing about their situation/problem.

4. What’s the first thing you should say to an upset customer?

Tell them politely to go over the issue.

5. How do you handle customers?

Listen to customers

Apologise

Take customers seriously

Stay calm

Identify and anticipate needs

Suggest solutions

Act on the decision

As a business owner, you will come across customers who are difficult on a daily basis.

How you handle these interactions can either lead to successful resolution of the issue or you lose your customer forever.

You have to know how to deal with difficult customers effectively.

Don’t shout at them or shake your head as if you understand but never act them on your customers’ complaints.

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Online Businesses / Work in Kenya