Keeping Your Cool with Difficult Customers

remain calm with difficult customers

How do you feel when confronted by a combative customer expressing displeasure with your products and services?

For most of us, it’s not a walk in the park.

We naturally feel tension and this makes it hard not to escalate the situation.

But escalation will only make it worse.

To handle difficult customers well, you need to be calm and steady so you can employ the right skills and find the right solution.

Here are some ways to stay calm when dealing with a difficult customer.

Watch Your Body Language

When you’re emotionally upset, you feel tension in your body.

This can result in involuntarily expressing that tension through body language.

On the other hand, if you can control your body language, this can work in reverse and help you feel calm.

Don’t cross your arms, sigh, or frown.

Avoid taking an aggressive posture.

Learn not to mirror the body language of the customer.

Keep your body in an open posture and maintain a friendly facial expression.

Practice Active Listening

Listen to what the customer is saying and repeat it back to them to check for understanding.

This shows that you’re paying attention and also helps you clarify your understanding.

Naturally interject listening words like “I see” and “okay.”

Be Empathetic

Focus on how the other person is feeling.

Try to feel their frustration.

This will take the heat off you and help to deescalate.

When they see that you’re empathising with them, they’ll clam down.

You can then work together to find a solution that makes them happy.

Offer a Genuine Apology

Acknowledge the issue and apologise for the trouble they’ve experienced.

This is not an admission of your wrongdoing, but simply an acknowledgement of their suffering.

Don’t just say, “I’m sorry,” but mention the specific things that are troubling them.

Let Go of Your Ego

Realise the issue is not about you.

It may seem personal when the customer is emotional or aggressive.

Keep in mind that they are reacting to their unmet expectations, which may or may not be your fault.

Practice Deep Breathing

Learn some breathing and relaxation techniques to help you stay calm when things get heated.

Try deep breathing, counting to ten, stopping to take a drink of water, or using visualisations.

Focus on something that reduces your tension.

Focus on the Solution

Once you’ve heard the customer out, keep the conversation focused on the solution.

Use phrases like, “I can” or “How about if we…”

If you steer the conversation to what you can do for them, it will get them to move beyond their anger and toward resolution.

The Right Mindset

The right mindset for dealing with difficult customers is to not think of them as an annoying disruption to your day.

Think of this interaction as a challenge to learn from and turn into a valuable opportunity to grow.

Along with a good plan and protocols, this mindset will help you handle even the worst customers with skill.

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Written by 

Co-Founder & CEO of Link Management Group. An Investor & Coach to Small Business Owners, for the past 30 years I have helped startup and early-stage businesses to enter new markets and achieve sustainable growth of both revenue and profits. I have experience across a diverse range of sectors including central government, information services, software, health insurance, pet products, couture fashion, entertainment and aviation.  How can I help your organisation accelerate growth and achieve its full potential? 

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