As a customer service agent, you need to learn how to deal with different kinds of customers. It is not all the time that you will be dealing with your ideal customer. There will be situations when you will be dealing with angry customers who want to make you aware of their frustrations with your product or service. In these types of situations, how will you deal with them? In this article, we will provide some tips on how to deal with toxic customers.
Toxic customers can really kill your vibe. They can drain your energy and affect your view of other customers. They can cause many problems such as disrupting your organization, reducing efficiency, and even causing you to sell at a loss. Worse of all, they could even undermine your corporate culture. Learning how to deal with toxic customers is key to delivering excellent customer service.
How To Spot Toxic Customers
- Takes advantage of you
- Can’t make up their minds
- Never satisfied
- Eats up your time
- Makes your employees crazy
- Costs you money or don’t make you money
Dealing with Toxic Customers
- Acknowledge toxic customers
- Keep your cool and don’t react
- Listen and apologize
- Stand firm
- Investigate the issue
- Assign authority for hard decisions
How To Spot Toxic Customers
Whether in business or personal relationships, toxicity can inflict serious damage. In the business setting, it can result in frustrated and unhappy customers which could translate to lost business or revenue for your company if not handled properly. For this reason, it is important to nip them in the bud the moment you spot them. Here are some signals to help you identify a toxic customer.
1. Takes advantage of you
Toxic customers initially start out in a nice way. Because they are nice and friendly, you will be willing to do extra favors for them for free. Most customers would be grateful for your gesture but a toxic customer would take advantage of your generosity and would not only expect but demand ongoing favors and freebies.
2. Can’t make up their minds
Toxic customers are known for their indecisiveness. They will have you revise a proposal several times or they’re unsure of what product or service to buy from you. Toxic customers waffle and will keep transactions with you dragging on for a long time.
3. Never satisfied
Because of their indecisiveness, toxic customers are never satisfied. They will keep redoing things over and over again. Furthermore, they will return or exchange products dozens of times leaving you with an unsellable item on your plate.
4. Eats up your time
Toxic customers will keep on doing emergency and rush requests from you. While it can be fine initially, they want everything “urgent.” Redoing work, last-minute changes in the order, and rushing to meet crazy deadlines eat up your time making you and your team less able to serve other customers.
5. Makes your employees crazy
Toxic customers are hard to work with. Their unreasonable demands can push even the coolest employee to their limit. As the business owner, it is your job to rectify the situation or you could end up driving even your best members to quit.
6. Costs you money or don’t make you money
As a business owner, every customer matters even the toxic ones. But if you run the numbers, you will realize that the returns you can make on a toxic customer are not that worthwhile compared to the effort you put in. Consider the intangible costs and your employee’s mental health and your ROI gets even less.
Dealing with Toxic Customers
If you find yourself needing to deal with a toxic customer, maybe you don’t have the knowledge of how to still deliver top-notch customer service to these types of customers. One toxic customer can turn your day around. Here are some tips on how to handle toxic customers.
1. Acknowledge Them
Everything starts with accepting that there are toxic customers. These types of customers can be dangerous in the delivery of customer service. They can lead to bad moods, lower job performance, and changes in worker’s perceptions. An experience with a toxic customer can rub off to the next customer as your employees may perceive their behavior as toxic as well.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that agents who experienced toxic customers commonly shrug them off, view it as “only minor in nature” and dismiss it as “innocuous.” Rudeness can trigger a series of bad effects that can hurt your well-being and performance. So do not ignore toxic customers and learn to embrace them as part of your job.
Accepting that there are toxic customers will help you deal with them properly. They can cause problems down the road if you don’t address them. They will hurt your productivity and time management and eventually your self-esteem. In the end, it could hurt the quality of your work.
2. Keep your cool and don’t react
When dealing with toxic customers, the first thing to do is to remain calm and not react. It is natural to fight back against the toxic customer. Some of them have the tendency to violate your agent’s sense of dignity and respect. Toxic customers can trigger negative emotions which can motivate employees to react negatively.
Toxic customers have various reasons for their behavior. They may want to provoke a harsh reaction and exert power while others just need to vent out their frustrations. Resist the temptation to give the customer a “taste of their own medicine.” After all, they are still your customers and it is your job to help them.
Instead of “fighting fire with fire,” you should be tactful or you risk escalating the situation further. Before dealing with the customer, take a deep breath. This will give you a few seconds to gather your thoughts and avoid retaliating in such a way that you may be viewed as the aggressor. Staying calm will help you stay alert to your customer’s behavior.
3. Listen and apologize
Toxic customers often need an outlet to vent out their frustrations and most of the time it will be you. No matter how unreasonable their statement may sound, always listen actively. Show them that you have taken in what they said by occasionally reflecting back their words using phrases like “So, it sounds like you’re saying that…” “What I’m hearing is…” or “Is this what you mean?” This will help you uncover any unrealistic expectations that may be behind the customer’s complaints.
No amount of apologies can cover the barrage of abuse that the customer subjected you to. Surely you had been in such situations and you had uttered abusive and offensive language just like them because of your anger. A prompt apology may be needed if the customer’s grievance is genuine. Doing so will pave the way for an improved relationship. When confronted with toxic customers, you need to have a different approach.
Rather than taking their anger personally, shift your mindset to finding blame to providing a solution. Do not blame yourself for the situation, instead resolve the issue. Saying something like “Let me see how I can help” is a good way to shift your mindset. It will also allow you to handle the situation with less stress.
4. Stand Firm
However, there are times when you need to be assertive to get your message across. If the customer is repeating the same points or preventing you from getting a word in, the time will come when you need to respond. Be clear and confident when addressing the details of the situation, especially if what the customer is saying is factually wrong or they are asking you to go against the rules.
This is not always easy to do but it will help to remind yourself about why you are holding the line particularly if you are fulfilling key responsibilities of your role or enforcing health and safety rules for everyone’s protection. In addition, you can always count on the support of your colleagues whom you always back up when they are in a similar situation.
Saying “no” to these customers will always be tough and uncomfortable and could even lead to burning bridges. It is important to always be tactful and honest when dealing with toxic customers. Decide whether the customer is still worth having. If “yes” then fight for them. Otherwise, part with them respectfully and nicely.
5. Investigate The Issue
Sometimes the cause of the customer’s rant is quite reasonable. To resolve the issue, you need to get to the heart of the matter. This is where your probing skills come in. Ask them what they expected to happen and how you would have deviated from that. But again the focus of the interaction should not be on who is in the right but on making things right.
If the customer is in the right, then you need to fix the issue. As mentioned earlier, show empathy and apologize. Then fix the issue as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Your choice of words can make a difference in the resolution of the issue. As much as possible, use the future tense when conversing with the customer.
If they are in the wrong, then do not blame yourself for a situation you were not actually responsible for. The best practice in these kinds of situations is to politely ask the customer what they would like to do now. More often than not, this will blow the toxic customer’s cover. Either they will keep quiet because all they wanted was to lash out and provoke you or they will make unreasonable requests that are easy to decline.
6. Assign Authority For Hard Decisions
In any situation, you are entrusted with ownership and responsibility to take charge. Your self-confidence in your skills will allow you to effectively resolve any situation. However, there are times when hard decisions may require your team leader or superior to step in. On the part of your manager, it could mean balancing responsibilities to customers with their duty of care for their people.
Your superior can help you negotiate a solution. But you need to make sure that your manager is helping you resolve the issue and not undermining you. They should make it clear to you that they are not questioning your authority or ability but simply taking the next step in the resolution of the problem.
Managers and supervisors may be able to help you out in figuring out gray areas which you may not have authority over. There might be some decisions or protocols that only your superior is authorized to make. They can also help you out when you are unsure of what to do. In the end, seeking their help will pave the way for standardized protocols regarding gray areas.
Toxic customers can make or break the customer experience. Learning to manage them will help ensure continued revenue for your company and retain the loyalty of your customers.
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