Difficult customers. I've had a million of 'em. I can remember my first difficult customer. I was working for GTE and taking billing question phone calls. The customer called because he was being charged a monthly rental fee for a "rental phone" (Something that has gone away, like saying: Bling-Bling) and wanted to know why. I explained, in my best customer service voice, that he had always been charged for the use of the phone set. You see, GTE used to hardwire the phones into homes and then charge for the use of the unit. There was a long pause while the customer mulled this over. I figured that the explanation was good and that he would accept it. Wrong. He then proceeds to tell me that he had his “hard wired” phone removed several years ago, had a plug installed, and had bought a cordless phone at K-Mart. Uh-oh. My mind raced as I tried to think of a way to smooth this over. Nothing was coming to me at the moment, and my mind went blank. He then asked me if I could find out how long he had been charged for the use of the phone he no longer had. I told him that I had access to his last twelve months of bills. I offered to check the bills for the charge. Just as I had thought, he had been charged at least the last twelve months for a phone he hadn’t had for years. Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled. He then demanded of me, “What are you going to do to get my money back?” I told him (and was quite proud of the fact) that I had the authority (great word, isn’t it?) to credit his account for the last twelve months of charges. He began to get very irate and said, “You’ve charged me for the use of a phone I haven’t had for seven years and you’re only going to give me twelve months? ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I began to stutter and said to him that this was all I could do. He said, “NOT ACCEPTABLE. NO WAY!” He then put me on the spot and asked me if I would accept that offer. I stammered my way through our policy for just such a question. My answer was less than sincere. “I’m not in a position to answer that question”, I whined. That made him even more upset. He said, “I want to talk to a supervisor, and I mean RIGHT NOW!!” This was followed by a few “choice” expletives. I asked him, as politely as I could, if I could put him on hold. He then said to me, “If you hang up on me I’m just going to keep on talking!”. I said to him that I definitely would not hang-up on him and I would get a supervisor, right away! I was totally demoralized after that incident. I had absolutely no idea how to handle that call. After a few months, I started to get the hang of it. But man, does that remain one of my most uncomfortable memories. I started to go to optional training workshops and seminars, and before I knew it, other coworkers started handing off their difficult customers to me. It’s not to say that I made every customer completely satisfied, but I sure did it more often! Here are a few key things to remember when dealing with difficult customers or coworkers:
1. Let them say what they need to say. Don't interrupt!
2. Don’t, under any circumstances, tell them “It’s not my job”.
3. Don’t yell and/or cuss back at them, for obvious reasons.
4. Try to re-assure them that you will help fix their problem.
5. Then, do everything within your power to help them yourself.
Call another department for them, or better yet, take some responsibility and make a decision. Nobody wants to deal with someone who can’t or won’t make a decision.
6. Follow up with the customer to see if the problem has been taken care of. Nothing worse then someone promising you the moon and then NOT delivering.
7. Talk with your supervisor/manager and see if they’d be willing to have some outside source come and train the service employees on how to deal with difficult customers and decision making.
Now a side word, if a customer or coworker threatens you with physical harm over the phone, it is a felony
and should be reported to the authorities right away.
The main thing is to try to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated?” This can go a long way toward helping you understand the meaning of customer service.
”There are no traffic jams along the extra mile
- Roger Staubach