If your business has been open for more than a few minutes, you’ve most likely dealt with a difficult customer. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, or whether the problem was actually something you could control.
Some customers are just plain difficult to deal with.
Though challenging, it’s not impossible to make difficult customers happy and send them on their way with a positive perception of your business.
In fact, it’s easier than you think.
The first step is to identify exactly which type of difficult customer you’re dealing with. Just like how every check engine light can’t be solved by changing your oil, different difficult customers require different solutions to turn their frowns upside down.
Once you know who you’re dealing with, the second step is to understand their pain points and decide what approach will work best. Every situation needs its own game plan and you need to cater your responses to the customer type you’re working with.
We’ve gathered together the difficult customers we see most often, and provided you with a quick profile on each so you know how to deal with them whenever they give you a call and how you can effectively respond.
Who is Know-It-All-Noah?
The defining characteristic of a Know-It-All-Noah is that he believes that he knows everything about your business. He knows what’s wrong, why it’s wrong and why it’s your job to fix things in exactly the way that he believes it needs to be fixed.
A Noah has already decided what he needs and views any other recommendations as annoying and unnecessary..
How to deal with Know-It-All-Noah:
When working with a Noah, your best strategy is to just grin and bear it.
Arguing with a Noah isn’t worth your time and it’s not going to be very productive to convince someone who thinks they know more than you that they really don’t.
Make sure that you present correct and accurate information in a firm and definative tone. If he tries to correct you, just repeat what you believe to be true. If he asks you to do things that are outside the scope of the request, make sure you let him know where you draw your line. Do your best to not let his condescending tone get to you, and make sure that you speak politely and matter-of-factly.
Who is Penny-Pinching Petunia?
A Penny-Pinching Petunia is obsessed with getting as much as possible for as little as possible. She’ll negotiate everything and with every little issue, she’ll ask for a massive discount. She’ll ask for the moon and provide negative feedback and horrible online reviews if she doesn’t get it.
Be careful with a Petunia, she’s got a lot of tools in her multiple-times-reused Target plastic bag. Be especially careful of her favorite one, which is threatening to cancel her service unless she receives a discount. Many fall for her tactics, but we can teach you how to avoid the mistakes your colleagues probably make.
How to deal with Penny-Pinching Petunia:
While a Petunia is cheap, she often appreciates the value received for the payment required. So focus on the benefits she receives from your business and shift the conversation away from talking about money.
In addition, it’s helpful to emphasize the solution as well. Make sure that she realizes that without your service, she’ll have a host of unanswerable problems. Emphasize the solutions you’re giving her and the positive feelings that come packaged with those solutions: the security of making a decision, the accomplishment of solving problems, the relief of making her day-to-day easier, etc.
Getting her excited about the value that you provide will help her move past the price tag that comes with it.
Who is Constantly Complaining Carter?
As his title describes, all a Constantly Complaining Carter does is complain. As opposed to the other difficult customers, a Carter complains about EVERYTHING even if it’s inconsequential.
He is quick to point out anything he doesn’t like and expects even the tiniest issues to be fixed immediately. To make matters worse, a Carter will usually use one complaint as a jumping off point for others. If you aren’t careful, you’ll get snowballed into hearing him complain about everything during a classic 20 minute rant.
How to deal with Constantly Complaining Carter:
No matter how trivial, petty, or eye roll-inducing Carter’s complaints may seem, always start by providing him with a sincere apology.
Validating his concerns shows you take him seriously and will therefore make him much more willing to accept your solutions. Even if there doesn’t seem to be much you can fix, avoid giving excuses and try your best to make things right.
When you can make a Carter feel like he won, it’s a win for everyone.
Who is Aggressive Annie?
An Aggressive Annie has a quick temper and demands to be your top priority. She raises her voice often and is likely to ask for a manager any time she feels she’s not getting her way. Oh and if she feels like you are wasting her time or things are taking too long - watch out!
How to deal with Aggressive Annie:
The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with Annie is to stay calm. Don’t try to argue or disprove her points. Express empathy for her situation and show you really do understand her point of view. Once the initial wave of aggression is over, offer tangible alternatives or solutions to further move the conversation away from her emotions.
Who is Indecisive Isabelle?
An Indecisive Isabelle is allergic to making decisions. She’ll weigh the pros and cons of any decisions over and over again no matter how much time she’s wasting.
She will always show up to appointments, but always wants to rehash what was decided last time. It’s tough to pin her down and even tougher to get her to sign an agreement.
How to deal with Indecisive Isabelle:
The most difficult part of dealing with Isabelle is that pushing her to make a decision will often drive her further from that goal. Or, even worse, it will make her feel like you only care about her money and she will take her business elsewhere.
Instead, the best way to help an Isabelle is to empathize with her. Get into the trenches with her decision-making process and help her make the right choice. Acknowledge that the decision that she’s struggling with is an important one and go through it as painstakingly as she needs. Help her weigh the pros and cons and become a decision-making partner. Work together and gently offer reasons why your business is the right solution to her needs.
Who is Demanding Duncan?
A Demanding Duncan wants the whole world and he wants it right now. He is highly impatient and believes he’s entitled to whatever he wants because he is the President or Director of wherever he works. What he wants is usually not within the power of whoever he’s speaking with to give, but he doesn’t care. He wants what he wants and he wants you to give it to him now!
How to deal with Demanding Duncan:
Dealing with a Duncan is all about the art of compromise. Be extra affirmative when he’s talking and reassure him that you understand both why he’s frustrated and what he expects you to do about it.
If, unfortunately, what he wants you to do is outside what you can provide, be nice and firm and explain why that’s not possible. A Duncan can be demanding, but he is often reasonable.
Be sure to talk to his rational side and you should be ok. If you need to, you can also give him a chance to vent and then offer a reasonable solution. By talking reasonably and rationally, it will pave the way for you to meet in the middle.
Who is Nitpicking Natalie ?
A Nitpicking Natalie combines two VERY annoying characteristics, she is both opinionated AND negative about the solutions you propose.
A Nitpicking Natalie regularly gets bogged down in the details of why a problem happened and seems to care more about that than moving forward.
How to deal with Nitpicking Natalie:
Negativity can be infectious, so make sure you slip into your thickest skin and brightest smile before you get on the phone with Natalie.
Try not to take anything she says personally. Even if you don’t see a problem, even the perception of one could be vitally important to her. Focus on understanding her knitpicks so you can find solutions and show her that you value her business and take her concerns seriously.
Yes, indulging a Nitpicking Natalie’s need to nitpick may take up more of your time than you usually like to spend on one customer, but being willing to go the extra mile is often the difference between continued business and a negative review.
Who is Talkaholic Thomas?
A Talkaholic Thomas is a nice guy, but he forgets that your job isn’t to talk to him all day long. If he’s allowed to lead the conversation, he’ll take up a massive chunk of your day with idle chit chat and unproductive questions.
How to deal with Talkaholic Thomas:
The trick here is to focus on the problems that he’s having and how you can help. Try to ask closed yes or no questions that don’t give Thomas an opportunity to monologue or share an “amusing” anecdote. If he keeps talking more, listen for his pauses and jump in with another yes or no question.
Make sure that you constantly narrow your interactions down to what needs to get done and do your best to avoid getting drawn into other conversations. If it’s important, you can schedule another call and talk about it then.