We've all been there. Either witness to or we've been that person. The difficult customer. The disgruntled customer that rants and raves and causes a scene. Bottom line is it is an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.
Having managed two of the nation's top retailers, I have seen A LOT of interactions. And many of those have unfortunately been ugly. It amazes me to what length and how absurd some people will act over an unsatisfactory experience. As a manager of a store, we are responsible for overseeing and trying to do damage control for upset customers. It is our job to listen and to do whatever we can within our means to rectify the situation if possible. However, it can be draining and exhausting listening to some complaints. Because, at the end of the day, if you are doing only what you can do within your company guidelines and that is not up to par with what a customer wants, you are likely to get ripped apart.
While the majority of customers I deal with are perfectly nice and make my job worthwhile (I would say 99.9 percent are awesome), there are the ones that are a little harder to handle. I have seen it all. The insulting customers, the Debbie downers, the loud mouths, the personal attackers; nothing surprises me. And it is sad. However, in the business of customer service it is inevitable to deal with. There are a few things I can offer for advice.
1) Listen carefully - Your most important job with every customer is to listen. Everyone wants to be heard. And for those who are making a complaint, they definitely want to be heard. So when listening to a customer, really listen. Make eye contact, nod appropriately, offer non-verbal cues that you understand so they think or they know you care.
2) Sympathize and/or empathize - When you are in a customer service field you need to have the ability to either personally relate to a customer's feelings or sympathize with what happened to them. Even if you think it is exaggerated or totally made up – bottom line, they are right. It is your job to try and make every effort to make them as happy as possible. There are three sides to every story. And three different perspectives. Yours, the customers, and what really happened. I always tell my employees, you can think all day long that you are the best employee or the best boss ever- but if people think differently- you are clearly not. So try and reevaluate.
3) Keep your integrity - No one should ever be belittled or personally attacked in their job. I have been an unfortunate witness to my employees crying and running off of the sales floor due to the fact that someone said something demeaning. And all I can think about is karma. It is my job as a manager to take over that situation and deal with it appropriately within the guidelines of my company, however, no one should put up with personal insults. Be respectful, but at the end of the day you should not bend over backwards to appease someone that is being disgusting to you or your employees. That is just simple manners and common courtesy, which everyone deserves.
To those complaining
Finally, if you are one of those customers that complains. There are some tactics. Do not take it out on the poor cashier who might have worked there 3 days. If you are ever upset at any business, always ask to speak to a manager. That is going to get you the quickest and the best result possible.
If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, think before you speak. Don't go into a business on the attack. Put yourself in their shoes and just imagine how your level 10 blow up made the employees feel but also think about how you look to other customers. Don't embarrass yourself. Act dignified and you will get a dignified response back.
Have you ever heard of the saying, "you get more flies with honey"? Well it's true. To all of those employees who deal with difficult customers and to all of those angry customers: use a little more honey.