Clients who are just nasty can kill anyone's day! If you sell a product or service, you’ll have your share of persnickety, critical clients. It goes with the territory. But what happens when a demanding customer morphs into an abusive one?
Prepare yourself ahead of time for the scenario with some or many of your clients. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, having a plan will take a lot of the sting out of the encounter and help you handle it.
If a customer is clearly rude and selfish, take that as a signal to expect outright abuse. This will defuse much of your emotional response before it happens.
When your customer makes offensive remarks, respond with a question. If he is angry due to life factors, like a fight with his wife, this can be enough to pull him back to the situation at hand.
A simple “Say that again,” or “Do you really mean that?” can work wonders. He may not apologize, but it might be enough to get him to address his specific problems in a less confrontational way.
Best of all, it gives you a routine response that stops you from losing your cool. Your goal with an abusive customer is to stay in control of the situation.
Make it clear you want to help him. Ask him to explain the specifics of what make him angry. If he stays angry, be direct.
Tell him his anger is making it more difficult to solve the problem. Make it clear he will get what he wants faster, a solution to his problem, if he is polite.
Don’t try to talk over the customer. Don’t interrupt his diatribe. Listen and pick up what facts you can. When he slows down, tell him what specifically you can do for him.
Consider giving a full refund even if the circumstances don’t merit it. You will get him off your premises and out of earshot of other potential customers.
He will leave somewhat happier than he came in. This could stop him from leaving a poor online review.
Be Honest and Sympathetic.
Tell him you sympathize, even if you have to stretch the truth a bit. But don’t promise what you can’t deliver. If you do, he will simply come back and repeat the entire abusive scenario again.
If you don’t know how to handle the problem, tell him so. Say you will get back to him. Get his contact information. Give him a specific time that you will email or call him. And then stick to your promises. Give him updates often.
When It Gets Weird.
If the client won’t quit shouting or starts threatening you, tell him directly you won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. Tell him if he continues, he will have to leave your property. If you are on the phone, tell him you will hang up if he continues.
If he won’t quiet down, call security or the police if necessary to escort him from the premises. If you are talking to him on the phone, simply hang up.
Some clients are impossible. It doesn’t’ matter what you do. If you are dealing with someone out of control, protect yourself and your premises.
For most people, listening and staying calm will work wonders. You don’t need to tolerate abuse. Develop skill to defuse it. If that isn’t possible, eject the client.
SOURCES: Harvard Business Review