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Difficult Customer? Seven Proven Strategies To Turn The Relationship Around

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

Every business has at least one customer who makes team members want to throw in the towel. Whether that customer is constantly complaining about results or making impossible demands, you and your staff dread dealing with them, and a dynamic like that can really put a dent in morale.

Instead of griping about this customer behind closed doors -- or worse, refusing to work with them at all -- be the bigger person and try to get to the root of this person's issue. After all, a solid effort to repair the relationship and give the customer what they want can go a long way in solidifying your company's reputation as an excellent service provider.

If you want to turn your most difficult customer into one of your best, follow these tips from Forbes Coaches Council.

1. Listen to and respect your customers.

Customers require patience, active listening, compassion, care and a desire to exceed expectations. Customers just want the product or services promised in a timely manner. Knowing your customers' needs, treating them with respect and delivering service excellence can result in a customer for life. It is never the approach but rather the response that counts. Professionalism wins every time. - Arlene Donovan, Turning Point Coaching LLC

2. Understand the customer as a person.

I had a very demanding client who was making things difficult for her team and mine. Applying coaching skills -- like listening for what's not being said, creating a safe space to talk, acknowledging and validating -- led to understanding the extreme personal pressure she was under while dealing with family stress. Once it was out, everything got better. Customers are people, too. - Larry Boyer, Success Rockets LLC

3. Turn your interactions into teachable moments.

You have to be willing to have difficult conversations. If I choose to not speak up, I lose all credibility and I have become a part of the problem. Other people in the organization will lose respect for me and my work. I have to be willing to be a mirror that helps my demanding customers learn about themselves. Sometimes being frank yet respectful transforms them into evangelists. - Eugene Dilan, Psy.D., DILAN Consulting Group

4. Focus on improving the buying experience for word-of-mouth recommendations.

Difficult customers are seldom 100% wrong. Resolving their issues, making the buying experience one they find pleasant and caring about their needs will open the floodgates for new customers. In other words, there are usually other customers that had a similar experience but weren't as vocal about it. By helping one, you can have a ripple effect and help turn many others into loyal customers. - Ilean Harris, Ilean Harris

5. Address the problem immediately, and create a resolution plan together.

Understand the needs of the customer. If the customer is viewed as demanding and difficult, there often is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. Immediately schedule a face-to-face discovery session to determine where you and your team have over-promised and under-delivered. Jointly map out a plan of action to resolve and eliminate these issues, and most importantly, apologize. - Kenneth Johnson, East Coast Executives

6. Have calm, frequent conversations.

Building relationships requires dialogue. Listen to seek understanding of the entire issue -- the people, process, tools and communication factors that led to client unhappiness. Stay calm. Then, parse out root cause/effect issues and the specific actions you'll take responsibility for committing to delivering. Keep the client abreast of any changes. For the sake of the relationship, speak daily. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

7. Always put relationship-building first.

Many demanding and difficult customers have had bad experiences with either your product/service or someone in your industry. Focus on building a relationship rather than pursuing the sale to gain more insight into their real needs and previous experiences. If that doesn't work, explain that you don't think the relationship is going to work, and offer to help them find an alternative. - LaKesha Womack, Womack Consulting Group

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