Ask members of any customer support team about their jobs and difficult customer service situations will surely come up. The customer service industry is full of difficult customer examples. And so, dealing with challenging customers is one of the most essential customer service skills. It can help address unhappy or upset customers and deliver outstanding customer service.
3 Difficult Customer Examples
The customer support industry is full of customer service scenarios that can make any service provider’s eye twitch.
Generally, customer service situations fall into a few categories. Recognizing these tough situations and learning ways to deal with them is key to bettering the customer experience.
Here are some examples of challenging customer types.
1. Rude, Angry, and Aggressive Customers
Everly present, this type of customer is the staple and the hazard of any customer service team’s operations. There are two things to remember when encountering an angry customer. First, it’s not your fault. Chances are, whatever angered the customer has little to do with you. The aggressive language in a difficult conversation could be a result of a rough day the customer is having.
Displaced aggression is a statistically robust psychological phenomenon. It involves a specific form of the attack prompted by rumination on anger-inducing experiences. That might lead to the expression of anger on innocent people. (Srini Pillay M.D., Psychology Today)
Second, matching the aggression will only exacerbate the problem. Besides, once you become angry and aggressive, chances are you might pass the emotion along to the next customer, friend, or colleague. And so the trick is to break the cycle.
Addressing rude and angry customers
The antidote to anger and aggression lies in making the customer feel heard. So listen to the customer’s frustration carefully and empathetically. Being heard is an important human need. Empathetically understanding customers’ feelings and the customer’s perception is key. Listening and hearing the customer can help alleviate tension and calm him or her down. Remaining calm when dealing with difficult people and problems is tricky. But it leads the path from a poor experience to difficult problem resolution. From bad situations to excellent customer service.
Remember that you do not have to accept disrespect. The customer’s unwillingness to calm down and continuous use of negative language is not acceptable. If the customer’s anger gets out of hand, set a boundary. Keep your friendly voice and calm and professional manner. Then inform the customer that they cannot help them if they continue to disrespect you. Then, ask the customer what they would like you to do to help them. “It’s not you against me, it’s you and me against the problem” is a great reminder. If you can do what the customer asks, do it. If not, try to come up with a compromise.
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2. Indecisive and vague customers
In the sea of choices, some customers might need a life jacket. They might not ask for one. Instead, they will ask many questions, change their minds, and seek others’ opinions. Anything to avoid making a choice. There are several factors that can cause indecisiveness. Difficulty in making decisions can be caused by several factors, such as a fear of failure and a lack of confidence or information.
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Common scenarios include fear of failure and perfectionism. Being a people pleaser, and other factors can cause people’s indecisiveness.
Helping indecisive customers decide
To remedy the situation, it’s important to understand what exactly causes the customer’s confusion. Is it the price, the quality, or the specific terms of an agreement? Customers make decisions emotionally, then rationalize them with logic. To help an indecisive customer, put on your psychologist cap.
Ask a lot of questions and find out what the customer connects to the most emotionally. Access the customer’s emotions. Then walk him or her through the process of logical justification. Add an incentive based on what you find out about the customer to sweeten the deal. Use all the information you have on hand. That can include previous orders or other things the customer has shared with the company in the past.
A comprehensive customer contact center software can help here. the more you know the better customer experiences your customer support team can deliver.
3. Impatient, Demanding, and Complaining Customers
We’ve all encountered them – customers who just don’t have the time and patience for, well, anything. An order takes too long or an item is out of stock. A service interruption that’s just too inconvenient. Your product team cannot locate the replacement product. Complainers are part of any service experience.
Demanding customers can be steps away from becoming angry and aggressive customers. And so, it’s important to accommodate these customers. Doing so in a way that is kind, professional, and doesn’t disrupt service for other customers is true customer service art.
Soothing impatient customers with kindness
Once again, the first course of action is to make the customers feel heard. Connect to them on a personal level. Repeat their complaints back to them. If there is anything you can do to remedy the situation, do it. Make sure the company’s refund policy sets up an easy refund process. Then honor refund requests.
If not, ask the customer what their ideal course of action looks like. Then, take it from there. Practice empathy. Seek alternative options in the conflict resolution of tense situations. Use positive words and positive body language. Find subtle ways to ease irate customers. Use the person’s name.
The mirroring technique is yet another skill worth learning. As humans, we’re all equipped with neurons that help us understand others on a deep emotional level. When someone is upset, we feel it with our brains and bodies. Then, we mirror the emotion and also become upset. However, if we mindfully notice the process, we can reverse it. Project a positive attitude and enthusiasm to resolve a complaining customer’s issue. The customer then will catch the contagion of mirroring and will join you on the positive side. Of course, this skill takes a lot of effort and practice. But customer service agents who master this skill come out on top.
You’re not required to be nice and warm to the customers if they are being rude to you. Unruly customer is not your target audience. But be as kind as you can without compromising your own boundaries. Accepting the fact that you cannot please everyone is key when dealing with these difficult customer examples.
Figure Out the Math Behind Difficult Customers
With emotions running wild, customer service can sometimes feel like a minefield. Again, we cannot please everyone. So how many difficult customers must a company accommodate without overwhelming or burning out agents?
LifeHelpNow founder, Michael Kansky, addresses difficult customer examples with some hard-to-argue math.
“A customer that delivers a negative Return of Investment (ROI) is a difficult customer,” Kansky says. “If you find that you spend more on keeping a particular customer happy than the reward the customer produces for your organization, it is a difficult customer.
Kansky recommends producing a formula that determines profit from each customer.
Example of difficult customer calculation:
Revenue – Expenses = Profit
The revenue is the total amount of all orders for a given period of time per customer. Expenses can get tricky. The obvious things are shipping costs, handling costs, refunds, and returns. The time expense of real customers is harder to calculate. Say you have a customer that spends $100/month. No refunds, no returns. But the customer frequently contacts the support team. He or she uses at least three hours of your customer service team’s time per month. Let’s set the value of your team’s time at $40/hour. That would mean a negative ROI for this customer, as you invest $120 per month to receive $100 back. This is a difficult example of a customer that you might not want as your customer.
However, there is an exception to that rule.
“A customer that is in constant contact with your team could be either a difficult customer or a brand advocate,” Kansky says. “Brand advocates are hard to come by. But you will always know who they are. Customers that are invested in your product or service feed you feedback, ideas, and complaints. Even if the ROI is negative, they are a goldmine. Follow a complaint and you will find a hidden treasure.”
Customer feedback is valuable. Negative reviews can serve as a guide for improvement. Phone calls, chat transcripts, and email tickets are not the only channels for customer feedback. Check social media for reviews often. You will find both loyal customers and customer complaints there. The information from bad reviews and challenging situations serves as fertilizer for your business growth.
So examine the difficult customer examples carefully. Then create a company’s policy that addresses them. A company customer success manager is a great asset that can address specific situations with a prompt response.
It’s also important to consider future factors of customer interactions. Future purchases, customer churn rate, and customer loyalty are some of these factors. Train your customer service representatives to direct customer inquiries. Keep in mind overall customer satisfaction and impact on potential customers.
Unique Ways to Address Difficult Customers
We addressed some common ways to deal with challenging customers above. However, it’s never wrong to employ a bit of creativity.
Keep an eye out for creative ways to show empathy and remain calm. Deliver professional and effective solutions using available resources. For example, use AI in customer service. These ChatGPT tools can help customer service teams phrase responses in a way that is respectful, professional, and friendly.