Why Difficult Customers Are The Best Opportunities

Chances are, at some stage in your professional career, you’ll have to interact with customers. Customer service can come in many shapes and sizes—from store-front, checkout operator service, through to high-level, executive account management.

At each stage along the way, there are likely to be times when you’ll encounter customers who aren’t happy. That’s just the reality of business—things go wrong, expectations mis-align, and people get unhappy.

Often, we view these interactions as unpleasant, a necessary evil of doing business that must be endured, but I’m here to tell you, they’re fantastic opportunities. The way that you handle a negative situation with a customer can build trust and relationship, creating loyal customers and growing your business. From my experience working in customer-facing roles, through to running a service-delivery business, here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned:

ALWAYS ‘OVERREACT’

Failure happens, that’s a reality.

How we deal with failure, is entirely up to us—we can play it down, and attempt to sweep it under the rug, or pounce on it, and overcompensate in our attempts to rectify the situation.

When dealing with customers, I can guarantee that the latter option is a safer strategy. More often than not, your customers will step in and play the situation down, telling you that the issue isn’t as serious as you think, and such significant effort isn’t required.

It’s much better for your customer to be having this conversation with you, than for them to doubt whether or not you are taking their issue seriously enough.

In response to failure, always overreact to win back the confidence of your customers.

IF IN DOUBT, DON’T EMAIL

One of the principles of habit creation is focusing on ‘cues’ that trigger behaviour.

For me, an important cue when dealing with customers is the rewording of an email. As soon as I find myself sitting at my computer, searching for the best way to put something, I know that I shouldn’t be emailing.

I should be having that conversation faceto-face.

The thing about email is that it’s great for delivering information, and awful at navigating emotions. Any form of conflict— including difficult or unhappy customers— will always fare poorly if it’s addressed through email. There’s just too much room for your message to perceived in the wrong light, too much ambiguity around tone and intention.

When you find yourself trying to reword an email, let that serve as a cue to jump in the car and visit a customer, or at least pick up the phone and have a real conversation.

BAD NEWS IS ALWAYS BETTER SERVED FRESH

No one likes being the bearer of bad news. Naturally, we want to avoid the conversation, as our self-preservation instincts kick in.

Again, use this as a cue to have a conversation. The only thing that makes bad news worse, is when it comes late. Be proactive, deliver bad news as soon as it comes to you, rather than sitting on it and allowing it to fester, and your customers will thank you for it.

By being honest and vulnerable about your failures with customers, you’ll find trust actually increases, and your relationship becomes stronger. All it takes is a commitment to fast, open communication around unpleasant topics.

Upset and angry customers are an incredible opportunity to differentiate your company from others. Take this opportunity to communicate well, bring incredible focus and have human conversations, and you’ll find your customers becoming increasingly loyal and satisfied with your service.