We spend majority of our lives serving other people, it’s that simple. So, understanding “people service” isn’t even a special skill, it’s a basic necessary performance in human survival. Unfortunately people do not always respond as you wish because they do not always see things in the same way as you. In my many years of service to others in business and leadershipenvironments, I find it difficult to accept the argument of difficult customers. Instead, there are numerous mismatched and broken conversations by either one or all parties involved. These kinds of conversations can escalate to serious disagreements and loss of customers. The customers themselves end up forfeiting important service necessary in their lives. Great customer service begins with making serious effort to understand one’s self. Like a fingerprint, we see things distinctively different. We, however, have natural tendencies of wanting others to see things through our own lenses in order to validate our own perspectives. All great service begins by being ready to let go your own position and find a reasonable position for both parties within the required framework of operation. Those who lead in these attitudes win their customers a majority of the times. It is at this point that the idea of a difficult customer becomes virtually nonexistent.
For practical purposes, proven attitudes include listening and understanding what the other party wants while deliberately making an effort to see things through their lenses. Let them complain and vent. There are two sides to every coin and similarly our attitudes. Avoid being carried away by the negative side of the conversation to appease the customer because it does not solve the actual problem. There is a difference between empathizing and agreeing with the customer. Acknowledge the customer’s problem and show command of the skill needed to solve the problem. Customers tend to calm down when they know and trust that someone understands and is capable of solving their problem. Give the customers some quick wins and show that you are truly interested in solving their problem(s). Clearly explain to the customer the next steps and agree on them. Following up is the most important final step. Whether the solution has been carried out or delayed, let the customer know. After the problem has been solved, periodically, make a contact with the customer and ask them how things are working out. Ask them if they have any other needs because this will alleviate future escalations at your location of work. By the time you are done with this customer they will be looking and can buy any new products you may have.
Remember, different customers need different approaches to the same problem. Your job is to be proactive and learn who and what they need, then act accordingly.
Jeff Kaluyu, Ph.D.