Mildred Mensah Mannoh, Head, Private Banking – Stanbic Bank Ghana

“Our greatest asset is the customer. Treat each customer as if they are the only one.” – Larice Leitao.

The intricate dance of dealing with difficult customers is a common challenge faced by businesses, bringing forth a delicate balance of risks and rewards. In this exploration, we delve into the potential pitfalls and benefits while uncovering effective strategies to handle challenging customer interactions.

The Unpleasant Encounter

Rose’s morning has started delightfully, she is having an all bright and sunny day just as beautiful as she imagined it to be. What an ideal day booming with positive affirmations from her raving fans. It’s about 3:30 pm and she plans to end the day in that same elated state and go take care of family. Then suddenly, her phone sounds an unusual tone and responding with a very energetic voice, she says her usual pleasant hello. On the other end of the call is an angry customer, totally unfathomable, who is less than pleased. Her voice rises and falls like a tempestuous storm, and suddenly, her most beautiful day is under siege. The customer shouts, insults, and screams on top of her voice and controls the conversation in just one way, making it impossible to utter a word. Finally, she bangs the phone and threatens to spread the negative word on social media.

She shakes and trembles, totally confused about what to do. She sits quietly for a while to ponder over what just transpired on the phone. Do I not offer the best customer service to my clients? Am I not good after all? She asks herself. Her confidence takes a steep decline. All of a sudden, she regains some energy to deal with this challenge with the right customer resolution tactics through a recent training by her organization. So, I ask you. When was the last time you dealt with a difficult customer? Would it be more appropriate to categorize this person as a customer in ‘difficulty. Who is a difficult customer? Is it one who is already having a bad day, going through a nasty divorce, or the employee truly underdelivered on a promise causing an anger burst?

Dealing with difficult customers can be highly challenging and this aspect of the business often

 leaves the employees frustrated, stressed and confused. Nevertheless, by understanding how to navigate these issues, this seemingly overwhelming problem can be addressed whilst maintaining a positive outcome and professionalism in the relationship.  Difficult customers are an unavoidable part of doing business. Therefore, even the most experienced customer relationship managers get their fair share of this challenge. Most customers would have a reason behind their rage and not just because they want to prove or seem difficult. In order to have full understanding and resolution to the issue, it requires a deep dive into the matter at hand. A quick, professional approach will yield the desired results being the reward. Your inability to address this in a timely fashion can collapse a business with its high risks. In seeking indicators to identify a difficult customer, these types of customers come in various forms. Recognizing their behaviours is crucial in discovering the appropriate strategies to address their concerns. Identifying a problem is the first step to resolving the issue and preventing future conflicts.

Understanding the Difficult Customer

Before diving into strategies, it’s crucial to define a difficult customer. A difficult customer is a totally dissatisfied, unhappy, displeased and upset person whose service expectations have not been met. The person contacts the relationship manager or the company with a grievance and complains about a bad service which proves immediately overwhelming for the relationship manager. He or she has had a negative experience, a service gone wrong simply put.

Identifying Difficult Customer Types

Difficult customers manifest in various forms – from the angry and impatient to the silent observer who can silently harm a business’s reputation. Recognizing these behaviours is pivotal for tailoring effective strategies to address their concerns.

Strategies for Effective Resolution

To navigate these challenges, a set of tested strategies are imperative. These include maintaining composure, empathizing with the customer, apologizing sincerely, finding immediate solutions, and knowing when to escalate. Such approaches can lead to the coveted reward – retaining difficult customers as valuable clientele.

Risks and Rewards

Dealing with difficult customers carries inherent risks such as brand damage, loss of customers, and legal complications. However, successfully resolving issues can transform disgruntled customers into raving fans, fostering loyalty and brand warmth. While facing the inevitability of challenging customers, businesses can minimize risks by thoroughly training staff, logging complaints for analysis, and addressing internal issues that contribute to customer dissatisfaction.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Handling difficult customers is not just a challenge; it’s an opportunity for businesses to showcase their conflict resolution prowess. Resolving conflicts effectively can result in loyal customers, showcasing the service recovery paradox. Dealing with difficult customers requires a strategic mindset, empathetic understanding, and specific skills to navigate complex situations. By turning negative experiences into positive ones, businesses can not only maintain customer satisfaction but also foster lasting relationships, creating a ripple effect of positive word-of-mouth.