Interacting with Customers
Customers come with all kinds of personalities. There are customers who:
- Are easy to get along with.
- Have unreasonable expectations.
- Seem to be always angry or upset.
No matter what kind of customer you are dealing with, the key is to treat him or her professionally and with respect.
The relationship with the customer needs to remain positive whenever possible. Following is a description of three kinds of customers and a discussion of how to handle each of them.
Characteristics of amiable customers include:
- They like to work with you.
- They ask many questions and are interested in you as a person.
- They like lots of attention.
- They like to hear suggestions from others.
- They avoid disagreement.
- They are generally easy to work with, but will not tell you if they are having a problem because they do not like confrontation.
- They may spend a lot of time visiting if you let them.
Strategies for working with amiable customers include:
- Listen carefully to what an amiable customer is saying. You may have to read between the lines to determine if there is a problem. If there is, then fix the problem without a lot of discussion.
- Keep your conversations with amiable customers focused. If they start to talk about unrelated things, you can say something like: "That is very interesting, and I would like to talk about that with you some other time. Right now, let's get back to the reason you called."
- When you do discover the problem an amiable customer has, be sure to reassure him or her that the problem is going to be resolved. Amiable customers depend on you to fix things without a lot of fuss and bother and need to be reassured that it will happen.
Characteristics of aggressive customers include:
- They often speak loudly.
- They can be very demanding.
- They might even resort to slamming doors or pounding on a desk.
Strategies for working with aggressive customers include:
- Focus on getting aggressive customers to calm down before they escalate into anger.
- Don't focus on the things you cannot do, but rather on the things you can control. For example, if you cannot resolve the issue the aggressive customer brings to you, do NOT tell that customer you can't help them and that he or she needs to talk to someone else. Instead, calmly tell the customer that you will connect him or her to someone who can help them. Then do it. Don't expect the customer to make the call to the other person.
Assertive customers are often mistaken for aggressive customers. Assertive customers are direct, but generally much calmer when asking for something. They like quick resolution and direct answers and will not spend a lot of time chatting, but they are not apt to be rude or obnoxious.
When an aggressive customer does not achieve what he or she wants through simple aggressive behavior like using a raised voice or making unreasonable demands, his or her behavior might escalate into anger. Angry customers are very difficult to deal with because they are so involved with their angry emotions that it is hard to get through to them.
Strategies for working with angry customers include:
- Remain calm and respond politely.
- Echo their concerns to show you understand them.
- Show empathy by apologizing politely for their situation and what they are feeling.
- If they do not calm down, consider telling them you are not able to continue working with them because of the way they are acting, and asking them to come back another time.
People respond to stress in different ways. While some people have a higher threshold for stress than others, all people deal with stress. Some guidelines to keep in mind for handling stress when working with customers are:
Ask yourself what it is that you can control or change about the situation. If the situation is one you have no power to change, there is no point in continuing to work on it. Both you and the customer will become even more frustrated. When this happens, it is time to involve someone who does have the power to control or change the situation.
Ask yourself what it is you want to achieve by continuing. Once you have determined your goals or desired outcomes, you will have something to focus on, which will decrease the level of stress.
Discover what actions must be taken to achieve the desired outcomes. If you focus on specific actions that will help you achieve the desired outcome, you will spend less time focusing on the behavior that caused the stressful reaction.