Crossed arms, heavy sighs, short replies — you know when a customer’s getting frustrated. Worse, these physical signs show they’re losing interest in what you’re saying, and your shot at keeping their business might be fading fast.
Often, difficult or even angry customers aren’t expressing frustration with you. These emotions are tied to external situations and psychological stimuli. So, put your great communication skills to work, draw on your superpower of reading the situation, and use these seven psychological tips for managing difficult customers to save your customer from churning.
- Practice reflective listening.
- Consider their affect heuristic.
- Tap into the beginner’s mind.
- Let go of fear.
- “Chunk” the problem.
- Remember, anger is natural.
- Keep calm and carry on.
- Use your support resources.
1. Practice reflective listening.
When you’re upset, has someone saying, “I understand,” ever made you feel better? I didn’t think so. Plus, this kind of broad statements isn’t accomplishing anything. Instead, practice reflective listening. This approach requires you understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their words and their body language. Then, respond by reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard back to your customer.
2. Consider their affect heuristic.
The affect heuristic is a mental shortcut. It helps you make quick, efficient decisions based on how you feel toward the person, place, or situation you’re considering. Simply put, it’s the fact that we all made decisions and judgments based on our worldviews and experiences. It’s our bias.
In these situations, objective facts carry little weight for us. Instead, we run the decision or situation through our internal “software” and develop our own opinions based on what we already know.
If you customer keeps asking, “What’s the catch?” and delaying the onboarding process with rescheduling and endless due diligence, it might not be helpful to say, “You’ve already purchased a year’s subscription of this marketing software. Can we move forward?”
Your customer could have unknowingly been trapped into a year-long contract with a vendor who did not deliver on their promises. Because of that experience, your customer is now viewing you through that lens.
3. Tap into the beginner’s mind.
The beginner’s mind — also known as the zen mind — is the strategy of approaching every situation as if you were a beginner. When you adopt this way of thinking, you enter every conversation with the “don’t know” mind, which keeps you from prejudging a customer or their situation.
It also encourages you to live without “shoulds.” These are nagging thoughts like:
- The customer should have already known they wouldn’t have budget until next quarter.
- The customer should have read my email about their discount expiration.
- The customer should not have assumed I would be available for weekly consultations.
“Shoulds” put your mind on the defensive and jeopardize the productivity of the conversation before it even begins.
4. Let go of fear.
Fear of a negative outcome drives many of our reactions. Commonly, fear makes us want to control things. If a customer is being difficult, we’re afraid to challenge them because we might risk the relationship. If they express displeasure with your timeline or pricing structure, we’re afraid because we might not be able to fix the situation.
First, let go of the idea that you need to fix anything. When sitting down with a difficult customer, your job is to listen, understand, and discern next steps — not to immediately produce a solution.
5. “Chunk” the problem.
Chunking is the process of taking one big problem and breaking it into several smaller, more manageable portions. These small portions are easier for us to tackle, and make us more willing to begin dealing with the issue at hand. Many people use chunking to organize their daily tasks. It’s equally helpful when managing challenging problems.
Does your customer always have a reason why they can’t set up their account and get started using your software? At your next meeting, ask them to help you break down each of the final steps you need to take to get things moving. Simply seeing each task chunked can make it easier for your customer to digest what’s left to do.
6. Remember, anger is natural.
Ever throw out a price or time investment required, and watch your customer become frustrated, maybe even angry, at how high it is? Or maybe you’ve been on the other side. A customer tells you how much they want to pay for your new product upgrade, and it’s so low it makes you mad.
The Recalibration Theory of Anger says this emotion is naturally wired into humans. In short, anger is our evolutionary way of bargaining. We furrow our brows, press our lips together, and flare our nostrils in to drive our “opponent” to place a higher value on what we have to offer.
7. Keep calm and carry on.
Conflict is a part of business. How you react under fire impacts the future of your customer relationships.
The adage, “The customer is always right” still rings true. You have far more to lose by taking the low road and stooping to a customer’s level of hostility.
Treating someone with disdain or disrespect can reflect negatively on you and your company, so reputation management should always be top of mind.
Remember, people will often mirror the emotional signals you emit. If you respond with hostility and anger, don’t expect friendliness and understanding in return.
8. Use your support resources.
My colleague, Clint Fontanella, likes to call these “the weapons in your customer support arsenal.” These are the tricks you can use during a call, chat, or in-person interaction to deal with a difficult customer.
While they should be used on a case-by-case basis, here are a few resources your reps should learn to master.
- Placing a customer on a strategic hold to buy time or de-escalate emotion.
- Setting up a screenshare or recording troubleshooting steps to explain a complex solution.
- Asking a colleague for additional confirmation when you know your solution will work — this can build rapport with a customer who’s dubious of your advice.
Be great today, and use these tips to communicate with difficult customers.
This article is a repost from Hubspot.com. For the complete article, please follow this LINK.