3 Ways to Prevent "Customer from Hell" Experiences
Why Do Customers Get Cranky?
There has been a lot of research over the years on the things that make customers cranky. One very relevant, and somewhat surprising, piece of work was conducted by researcher M.J. Bitner in the early 1990’s. This study confirmed that the most common culprit in conflict with customers is actually us. It turns out that, while customers may present the issues and challenges, it is most often the way we respond to these issues and challenges that causes customers to become ‘difficult.’
The Good News and Bad News
This is good news and bad news. The bad news is that, as much as we would like to point our fingers at our customers, the fingers often end up pointing back at us. The good news is that it means a lot, if not most, customer conflict is avoidable. Here are three things you can do to prevent tough situations from escalating into conflict:
1. Set expectations
Researchers Gerard King and Gus Geursen studied how important it is to manage the expectations of your customers. They found that managing and meeting customers’ expectations is more important to customer satisfaction than the actual quantity and quality we deliver.
This means that, when customers complain about quality and other issues with your company, the real issue is often that they were expecting something different than you gave them. The better a job you do of communicating what they should expect, then living up to those expectations, the more pleasant your interactions will be.
Nowhere is listening more important than when trying to prevent conflict. A huge hot button for customers is when they perceive they aren’t being listened to.
One of the most important things you can do is hear people out. Try to genuinely understand why they are unhappy. Echo their words to let them know that you actually are listening.
3. Let them know they are important
Perhaps most common trigger for confrontation is when a customer begins to believe that you just don’t care about them. It’s important that you verbalize how important they are with statements such as, “I want to get this right for you,” “This is important to me,” “let’s figure out how to make this work,” etc.
(This is easier to do, of course, when you actually do care about your customers.)
There are many other strategies and techniques to deal with our customers from Hell, but if you can master just these threes, you’ll find that life starts to get a lot easier!