Before You Shoot That Client
The Friendly Way To Handle Difficult Customers
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” –Benjamin Franklin.
Have you ever felt like digging into your pocket hole and reaching out for a .45 magnum semi-automatic handgun you intend to use on that customer standing right in front of you. Some clients can be terrible! However, just before you shoot that client, maybe you can learn from the client’s perspective.
Let’s say you were early to rise on a beautiful Monday morning with the hope of getting to the bank in a jiffy. Unfortunately, 8a.m on a Monday morning isn’t a great time to visit the bank in a jiffy. Countless people also charge to the banks with nearly the same outlook of hoping to avoid the painfully long queue characteristic of new generation banks.
As you make your way past the electronic door, you are greeted to a grumbling congregation of folks just like you who woke early to dodge an anticipated delay. Suddenly, you now have to deal with what you once feared. Worse still, you begin to drown in a flood of palpable disappointment gushing from people’s faces—people who have to accept being late for work despite their efforts to prevent it.
I was in a similar situation some weeks ago with one minor exception; I wasn’t late for work. I had worked the night shift the previous day and being tired, I couldn’t imagine spending half a day waiting in line. To begin with, the banking hall was lamentably full of people. Like me, many were visibly impatient; gusting through the crowd to make their way past others to the desks of the available staff. Soon, the line grew long, the people became increasingly intolerant and staffers became overwhelmed.
One lady with a baby strapped to her back couldn’t take the wait any longer. She confidently sauntered forward, past her peers who came hours before her and offensively challenged a staff to attend to her. The already irritated staff flew off the handle, threw caution to the winds and screamed her down with swear words. It soon became a bitter exchange between the two and of course; an amusement for me at how starkly unprofessional the scenario became.
There are fine moral arguments that can be drawn from the quarrel I witnessed, but one that is crystal clear is whether it is right to lose one’s temper at a difficult client. The precise answer to that is found in the question about who you represent.
First off, you do not represent yourself or your emotions (especially negative ones) at the desk you are employed to. You represent the company and her best interest! It is definitely never in the best interest of the company to insult your clients, regardless of the reason.
Your allegiance to customers must be stripped of bias. You do not display sentiments with the people you are paid to serve. And one of the mistakes you could unforgivably make as an employee is to treat professional disagreements as personal hatred. When a customer says something provocative, don’t respond too quickly. By increasing the space between a customer’s comment and your reply, you decrease the likelihood of uttering a word you will regret.
To handle professional disputes, you first must detach yourself emotionally from being overwhelmed by it. This gives you the control or logic you require to defuse the situation.
Next, listen raptly at the complaints of your clients. Let your client empty his/her tank of emotions fully through the tap of the lips. keep your facial expression alert and concerned, even if he or she is acting ridiculously. Repeat the concerns of your clients so he/she agrees you have understood them.
Then, make your opinion abundantly clear in a tone that is firm and apparently polite. Many aggrieved clients don’t come across as nice and respectful and the scenario isn’t always neat, but it is your duty to anticipate any method they may prefer to render their grudge and hold sway over your possible irritation at them.
In corporate circles, your emotions are not assets you wear on your sleeves. They are the secrets you keep in a bag even when you are verbally attacked. In reality, no situation requires you losing your nerve. Every client whether happy or angry deserves to be treated with the utmost respect.
Since you don’t work for “how you feel”, don’t allow your emotions to control the impulses that cause you to lose the customer permanently over a temporary situation.
It is, truly, an arduous task to handle difficult clients, but not impossible. However, when the situation gets out of hand, “call security”.(Disclaimer: You didn’t hear that from here.)
“A man without a smiling face must not open a shop.” Chinese Proverb
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