How to Handle a Customer Who “Always Knows Best”

By Emily Burgess

August 10, 2016 - We all know that customer. The one who believes he or she is absolutely infallible, and it is your responsibility as a business to cater to outrageous whims. It’s days when you encounter these customers that you’re sending hostile vibes to whoever coined the expression “the customer always knows best.” Though it’s a thoroughly unpleasant task, you’ll still have to assist these customers. Having a strategy in place will help difficult service situations lead to a much more favorable outcome.

Use a Combination of Listening and Echoing. When a customer has made up his or her mind that they’re going to verbally lash out about their unpleasant experience, there’s no magic word you can speak to make them change course. Attempting to interrupt this customer may only result in more anger.

Instead, let the customer rant until they’ve reached fatigue. If the customer looks to a service agent for validation or answers, the service agent should mimic back exactly what they heard, regardless as to whether or not it’s correct. In doing this, you’re allowing customers to calm themselves down without feeling totally dismissed.

Don’t Take A Customer’s Anger to Heart. Even if the customer is directly insulting a customer service professional or holding them responsible for something they objectively had no part in, the service professional needs to understand that at the end of the day, the customer’s anger means nothing. If the staff member is truly not at fault, this customer is merely a passing nuisance looking to cause a ruckus. Taking these comments to heart can ignite personal emotions, and that’s the opposite of what a professional should be doing during a difficult service scenario.

Speak in the Right Tone. It’s natural to mimic the mannerisms of people around you, especially when you’re attempting to find common ground. It’s definitely inadvisable to mimic an unruly customer. Instead, speak slowly in a low voice. This is likely to opposite of the way the customer has chosen to interact. They may feel more inclined to mimic you, coming down to a dull roar. Just make sure your tone isn’t condescending. You need to avoid speaking in a way that could be perceived as sarcastic.

Don’t Allow a Staff Member to Be Abused. Even the best customer service staff have a breaking point. No one deserves to be abused by hostile customers in their workplace, and leaving them in that stressful situation for longer than necessary can lead them to their breaking point. If the heat is getting too high, send someone else in to take over. Allow the rattled employee a few minutes to calm down and let someone else handle the situation. Everyone involved is human, and it’s unfair to expect an employee to tolerate extended periods of verbal abuse without a way to escape.

Know When to Compromise. Your main goal is to resolve the situation with this difficult customer as quickly and fairly as possible. If you give this customer exactly what they want, particularly if they aren’t entitled to it, this suggests that you are rewarding their behavior. Think about what your customer may actually be entitled to and attempt to come to a compromise. If this is a customer that routinely creates problems in your workplace, it may not be worth coming to a compromise. In extreme circumstances (especially if the customer causes more trouble than he or she is worth), you may want to consider refusing future service.

You’ll never deal with your last difficult customer. Even if they’re few and far apart, they’ll keep coming. Make sure you take note of the effective strategies you’ve been able to use to handle difficult customer service situations so that you can implement them when similar problems arise in the future.  

About the Guest Author

Emily Burgess

Emily Burgess is an avid blogger who enjoys writing about all aspects of improving a business, be it marketing, customer service or training. Emily is currently sharing some of her ideas at Course Guru – experts in the field of online education. Personally, she's a great fan of foreign languages.