“Ugh! It’s Him Again.” How To Deal With Difficult Customers

difficult customersHis reputation preceded him. Your co-workers scattered when they saw him coming, but you were too new to know any better so you asked how you could help. His first comment to you: “You’re new.”

Difficult customers come in all shapes and sizes. They might be the elderly woman who never thinks the produce is fresh enough or the young man with a chip on his shoulder about you getting his hamburger order wrong the last time he visited your restaurant. Regardless of their reasons, their moods, or their complaints, customers with a reputation for being difficult have at least one thing in common: they keep coming back.

It’s not logical, but it’s true. If they have the reputation of being difficult it’s because they’ve been to your retail store more than once. Despite their ability to point out any flaw or imagine those that haven’t happened yet, they return to your business for one reason or another. Treat them like the loyal customer they are, even if it means smiling through gritted teeth.


listenDon’t make the mistake of assuming you know what they’re going to say. Listen to the complaint fully before you dismiss it. Many retail establishments train their cashiers to ask if the customer was able to find everything okay. If the answer is “no”, make a mental note to address the concern later and do what you can to rectify the situation now.

Listening may also reveal a hint about the customer’s foul mood. Maybe they’re lonely, are stressed about finances, or want to be noticed (even if for the wrong reasons). A little compassion can go a long way.

Be Proactive With Difficult Customers

customer serviceIf you listened well the last time, you’re better prepared to be proactive this time. If, in the past, the difficult customer complained that their garment shrank too much in the wash, steer them away from the wool sweaters. If they complained about the French fries being soggy, tell the cook to make them extra crispy. Don’t be afraid to address the previous complaint with them. Ask if their experience this time was more enjoyable. Like kids who act out in the classroom, difficult customers need a little extra attention sometimes.

When being proactive, keep in mind that any one customer can communicate with thousands of potential customers via social media. You don’t want their rant to go viral. Do your best to prevent the rant altogether.

Acknowledge Their Loyalty

customer loyaltyOne of the best ways to acknowledge customer loyalty is to call a customer by name. Additionally, if you have a customer loyalty program, make sure they get the benefits in a timely manner. “Mrs. Jones, we sent our most loyal customers a coupon in the mail last week. Would you like to use yours with this purchase?”

Ask For Input

A simple way to show a customer you value them is to ask for their input. This doesn’t mean telling them to go online and fill out a survey. Ask them, in person, their thoughts on a new menu item, an upcoming window display, products they buy that they want you to keep in stock, etc.

If you kill ‘em with kindness long enough, they might just start to like you. It’s harder to give negative feedback to somebody you like. Be likeable and retain even the most difficult customers.

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