Every staffing and recruiting firm has ’em.

You know whom I’m referring to – those impossible-to-please, impossibly rude customers with utterly impossible expectations…and still, it’s your job to provide them with shareworthy service, day in and day out.

When your clients or candidates are angry, upset or otherwise impossible to deal with, it takes some special skills to disarm them and effectively resolve their complaints.  The next time you encounter a tough customer, try using one or more of the following techniques to turn things around:

Don’t take it personally.  Sometimes, frustrated customers just need to vent – so try to let it roll off your back.  Keep a smile on your face (and in your voice) and let the customer speak.

Find out what happened.  If your customer is upset, try to calm him down by asking him to discuss the details of the situation.  Often, just knowing that someone is there to listen to a complaint can greatly defuse a tense situation.  By listening carefully, and conveying your interest and concern, you will begin to gain control of the situation.

Show empathy.  When a client explains his problem, try to put yourself in his shoes.  Use phrases like “I understand,” and “No wonder you’re feeling (insert emotion here),” to show the customer that you’re making an effort to understand his concerns.  While it’s certainly appropriate to apologize (even if you weren’t the cause of the problem), avoid saying “I’m sorry” too much – it loses its impact quickly.

Identify your options.  After you’ve calmed your customer and confirmed your understanding of his complaint, decide on next steps.  Use a phrase like “Let’s find a way to work this out,” so that you and your customer are cast on the same team – not opposite sides of the fence.  At each step of the resolution process, check with the customer to be sure that your proposed actions will be acceptable to him.

Thank the customer for sharing his problem.  I’m not kidding!  Remember, a complaint is a gift to your company.  It lets you know where your systems or processes may be breaking down, or it may identify opportunities for additional employee training.  And unless you know about the problem, you’ll likely never have the chance to make things right.

How do you handle your toughest customers?  We’d love to know – leave your comments below.

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