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Tough Love: Difficult Customers And How To Deal With Them

Why an overheated customer is more dangerous than an overheated computer?

By Hassan Elahi, Support Analyst, Marval Software

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourselves: how can you compare an overheated computer with a customer? It’s okay, I’ll explain. When customers reach out to the Service Desk, they can be upset. Very upset. Not because they are upset with you or anything, just because their normal operations were interrupted and something is still preventing them from doing their job, which means they are upset with the service being provided. Depending on the size, duration and impact of their problem (and their personality, too), customers can be anything from stressed to really difficult, or even rude. And most of us (including me) don’t appreciate impoliteness, particularly when we are ready to go above and beyond our ability to assist.

So again back to your question of why I compared an overheated computer with a customer. It’s pretty simple. If your computer gets heated, it is possible to destroy and shorten the lifespan of the hardware inside your computer, leading to irreparable damage and potential data loss. Just like if your customer gets heated about a situation and you’re unable to help them and deal with their issue as efficiently as possible, then it is possible to destroy and shorten the lifespan of the relationship with that customer, leading to irreparable damage of your company’s reputation and potential loss of the customer.

So what do you do in a situation where you come across an overheated customer? Follow these six steps to cool them down:

1.      Listen and engage. Show interest and care about their problem. Let the customers speak and express their anger, and try to understand why they are so frustrated. It could be that they are having a bad day, or perhaps the incident has real impact on them. If you appreciate the situation fully, you should be able to help them more efficiently. Even if the case is beyond your control, sometimes talk is all it takes to let off the steam.

2.      Record and document. Write everything down, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to the incident. It is important that your organisation has a detailed record of the interaction with the customer. Don’t avoid to include any nasty comments. Keep in mind it’s not you, but the business that let them down.

3.      Set the expectations right with prompt updates. It is important to keep the customer up to date at all times, particularly when issues have become protracted. If it’s likely to be a delay, say so. This allows the customer to plan around a delay, rather than wait “minute by minute” for it to be fixed.

4.      Be clear and consistent. The customer wants to make the problem disappear now. In reality, the case could be anything from fast to very long. Provide accurate and honest feedback. Don’t hold anything back and make sure that you are consistent with your approach.

5.      Follow the process. Your organisation has (or should have) a process for managing situations like this. The process is there for a reason, so stick to it with confidence.

6.      Escalate. If you feel that the situation becomes too complicated to handle, escalate. Escalation can affect the customer’s behaviour too, as it proves that your organisation cares enough to involve a senior manager.

Life isn’t perfect, it’s not meant to be. The difficult times and situations evolve you into a person who can adapt and tackle any situation that is thrown your way. The same logic applies to work, the difficult customers and situations evolve you into becoming an analyst that can adapt and tackle any situation at them. But all the bad stuff fades away when you get that one happy customer who sends an email to say “thanks”. Even difficult customers can turn around, if treated with professionalism, consistency and care and been offered great service. When a difficult customer becomes a happy one, then you know you’ve done your job right.






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