Even if your business has a spotless reputation for excellent service, you’re bound to have an occasional run-in with a dissatisfied customer. Their frustrations may not be directed at you, but it is up to you to defuse the situation and avoid losing their business or prevent the loss of business.
One report shows that 91% of customers who have a bad service experience won’t willingly do business with your company again. On the other hand, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with a company with excellent customer service, even if a mistake has been made.
If you know what to say and, more importantly, how to say it, you have a greater chance of not only correcting the issue, but also improving the relationship with the customer. This increases the likelihood that they will do business with you again. In this article, we dive deeper into the following tactics for staying professional when communicating with difficult customers:
- Lead with empathy.
- Ask questions to understand the customer’s needs.
- Pay attention to the tone of your language and use a consistent tone.
- Make written communication clear.
- Leave customers with a memorable last impression.
We’ll also look at the tools available for teams to facilitate communication with customers. But first, let’s examine the most common reasons a customer can be difficult. Being able to easily identify these situations will allow you to follow the five tactics successfully.
Reasons why customers may be difficult or upset
Effectively communicating with difficult customers starts with familiarizing yourself with some of the most common reasons they may be upset. By doing so, you can categorize customer interactions, which will make it easier for you to respond to these situations. These include the following scenarios:
- Promises aren’t being kept: Falling short of customer expectations can break any trust you have built. If you can’t control the promise of professional service now, why would they continue to do business with you?
- Example: A customer calls asking why the service you just helped install is not working. If you don’t provide a reasonable explanation followed by a prompt solution, customers will feel like you only care about getting the initial deal and not about keeping your promises.
- Poor customer service: A common example of poor customer service is when customer service representatives (and other employees) keep customers waiting for a long time and don’t resolve issues. It’s irritating for customers to see or perceive insufficient efforts to resolve their cases, have simple questions unanswered, or have no solution provided.
- Example: A customer calls asking for information about new product or services deals. If you are not updated with this information and need to constantly put the customer on hold to find it, the customer will feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Miscommunication: Being unable to adjust and maintain the appropriate tone with customers can be easily misinterpreted. Despite your good intentions, customers may think your business doesn’t have their best interest in mind if they feel there’s no effort in communication.
- Example: A customer calls concerned about an increasing amount of fees from your services. You proceed only to tell them, “That’s how our system works,” without providing a reasonable explanation or taking the time to look for possible mistakes in their bill. If there are billing errors, it can lead to massive miscommunications causing the customers to lose trust in you.
- Customers feel they aren’t being listened to: Unresolved issues and complaints are detrimental to any business. If you turn away from your customers without listening to their needs or responding, the situation will only escalate.
- Example: A customer calls complaining about the product not working. Since they are challenging to handle, you want to end the call as soon as possible and rush to fix the problem without properly explaining what happened. This can worsen the problem because you didn’t sympathize with the customer’s situation, and the proper questions were not asked.
- External factors: How customers approach you doesn’t necessarily reflect your service. Sometimes they are dealing with external factors that compound the issue at hand. In situations like this, it’s always most helpful to sympathize with the customer and make them feel heard.
- Example: A customer tries to get a refund to pay a bill—but you realize that this bill is for another company. They may be having money trouble at home and are under a lot of stress.
By understanding common sources of complaints, you have an excellent foundation for finding the best possible solutions for better communication with customers. Now that we understand why customers may be difficult or upset, let’s jump right into five tactics that can help you communicate professionally and effectively—in any circumstance.
5 tactics for staying professional when communicating with difficult customers
Consider the following guidelines when you’re handling a difficult customer:
1 Lead with empathy
Showing empathy is the key to turning a negative customer situation into a positive one. If a customer experiences an issue or problem with your product, the team should acknowledge the negative experience and find a solution that satisfies the customer. Take a moment to understand where frustrations stem from. By doing so, you’re showing empathy that will help you develop a responsive solution to the underlying cause of the issue.
2 Ask questions
An unhappy customer always has a story to tell, and they deserve to be heard in full. Listen to their explanation and follow up with questions regarding what you can do to accommodate them better and how they think you should handle the situation. Help get to the root of the problem and show that you’re genuinely working toward the best solution.
3 Use a consistent tone
Maintaining a professional and appropriate tone consistently is essential, no matter what tone the customer is using. Even if a customer is using aggressive or negative language, neither you nor your team should reciprocate. Keeping a sincere tone while giving customers meaningful resolutions is necessary. For written communications, Grammarly Business offers a brand tones feature that helps you and your team send messages that are on-brand and consistent.
4 Make all communication clear
Once the customer has finished explaining the issue, reiterate it by summarizing the situation. Ask for clarification where necessary and for any additional information they’d like to share. Once you’ve reached a solution, convey it with equal clarity and detail. Strive to know precisely what the customer expects for a resolution.
5 Leave customers with a memorable last impression
When you pay attention to a customer’s needs, empathize with them, actively communicate, and express genuine interest in providing excellent service from the start, you’re leaving them with a great memorable impression of how well your business cares for its customers. The experience they have with you always outweighs any products or services you provide.
Valuable tools to defuse tense situations
A customer’s behavior can be complex. You might not always understand all the factors influencing their emotions, but you can arm your business with the tools needed to resolve a situation positively. Here are essential tools to have:
- Well-trained customer support or customer success team
When you have strong customer support, your business retains customers and extracts more value from them. Consistent training—and ongoing training opportunities—are key to this: By staffing a top-notch, highly trained customer support team, any situation that arises with a customer will be handled professionally and effectively. Happy customers tend to stay loyal, building a positive reputation for your brand.
- Communication tools
Numerous software business tools can manage customer service and provide the most straightforward and accurate resolutions. Grammarly goes beyond detecting and fixing grammar and spelling mistakes and has features like company style guides, word suggestions, reusable content snippets, and more.
- Omni-channel customer service
Having multiple channels for customers to contact the support team provides them options to choose the most convenient method. However, it’s critical to keep the quality of each channel as a priority. Remember that it’s not only about the number of channels you have but also how well they perform.
Live chat vs. calls or emails: Calls and emails are the most common channels for customer support, but live chats have become a preferred method among many customers. It provides the real-time support of a phone call with the efficiency of an email.
A proactive solution: Grammarly Business helps you mitigate problems before they arise
Communicating with difficult customers isn’t easy, but it comes with the territory and is mandatory for an effective business strategy. You can turn these people into some of your strongest advocates by learning how to handle angry, frustrated, or dissatisfied customers successfully. Being proactive with effective communication can help prevent issues well before they arise.
Grammarly Business is an AI-powered digital communications assistant that can help improve customer experiences with on-brand messaging, company style guides, and more. By reducing written missteps up to 74%, Grammarly Business provides teams with the means to put their best foot forward and deliver a polished and professional customer experience that is sure to create brand-loyal customers.