Facing the Customers “From Hell” – Earning Your Badge of “Valor”

Ask anyone who is in the customer-facing business and I am sure you will hear a wealth of stories about “incredulous” customers, whose purpose in life appears to raise your level of Zen or burst your blood vessels.

Strangely though, many a times, the same people who rolled their eyes about these customers from hell, also see their experiences as badges of valor. You have not seen the business until you’ve had your fair share of demanding customers. They pay you for a service or product and they expect delivery to their satisfaction.

One of my team mates – Seong Cheng, we are looking at you – is a classic case. Having cut his teeth with several community customers jobs, Seong Cheng has accumulated enough experiences with community customers to know that patience is a key. Yeah, motherhood statement, you may think, but it boils down to that.

The patience to hear the customer out regardless of how inane it seems. From our first-hand experiences, a good bulk of community customers are looking for someone to vent their frustration. Some of it could have come from the difficulty of articulating their problems. The first face-to-face engagement is often daunting because that’s when the customer is ready to explode and dump his anger on YOU. If you get pass the first base, congratulations, you have earned your first badge of honour. Where applicable, it helps to do a site visit to see the problem up close. You will get a better feel of what is bothering your customer, and it also shows that you are serious about helping them.

In your second engagement with the same customer, remember to have your facts ready. Explain what you have done or tried to do since the first engagement. If you have resolved their grievances, good for you. If you can’t, explain why. It helps if you can offer suggestions or alternatives. MOST people are willing to cut you some space if you explain why certain things cannot be done. Or at least not at your level. Offering suggestions and alternatives show that you are serious about helping them. Discussing and working through the suggestions help to build understanding and a relationship. 

Is this relevant in our e-economy setting today? You bet! That’s because whether it’s e-commerce or traditional commerce, your customer is a living person. That means that all the idiosyncrasies with a human being are alive and well, and only the platform has changed. In fact, in the age of the digital economy, many have lamented the soul-less nature of answering machines, and the irritation of selecting options. I’m sure you can remember the relief of finally getting to speak to a real person in your last call to customer service.

On the business side, you have to learn how to manage each individual. Some people react well to a soft and friendly approach, while others may simply exploit that and push you for more benefits. This is where understanding the parameters is important. Whether it’s a business or a public body, there are clear rules and regulations. A demanding customer may be unhappy that he or she is unable to extract more from you, but hey, no organization can meet demands without limits.

Which brings me to my final point. There are battles which you can’t win. It boils down to opportunity costs and the resources you are devoting to the issue at hand. If the customer’s expectations are overboard, you will have to decide if it’s worth the effort, but never underestimate the damage one unhappy customer can do to your brand overnight when his/her post goes viral when you least expect it.

Don’t forget that we’re always here to help with your digital reputation. Feel free to talk to us via a complimentary 30-minute consultation session about your business. Drop us a message here.

[by Danny Lee, Associate Director]

← Back to News