They weren't angry, at least I didn't think they were. If they were then at least my rhetoric was not reactive, but rather emphatic.
Which brings me to lesson 1
In dealing with a demanding customer, you should not be forceful. That just blocks negotiation. Instead, you need to come across soft and not talk over the difficult customer, even when it's abundantly clear that they are off base.
Let the customer talk them out. Keep in mind the needier their behavior, the more power the salesperson has since neediness comes from weakness. By listening, you have the opportunity to build trust, empathy, and rapport and it calms down the difficult person.
You have to demonstrate empathy through eye contact, body language and smaller verbal cues showing engagement and concern. This can prove difficult when all contact is via text written communication, this requires a completely difficult skill set due to the fact that when text is written it transcends the feeling of the author but when that same script is read, it takes the feelings of the individual and how they are feeling at the time of reading it. Use words that that can not be misconstrued as having another meaning, but before you respond fully all ways answer the email or text immediately expressing concern for their problem, this does two things, firstly it takes the sting out of their tail and secondly, it allows you time to engage with the problem and script an appropriate response.
By being empathetic and attuned, you make it clear you understand the customer’s concerns. You should repeat back what's being said so the customer can feel that they are being understood.
This sounds extremely pedantic and belittling but it is imperative that you are seen to be on the same page as the customer.
Lower the voice and slow down speech.
If a customer is irate, you should be quiet amid this aggression. As the customer grows louder, you need to stay alert, lower your voice and talk slowly but firmly.
If you don't demonstrate a sense of control, the customer will pick up on your fear and go for your jugular. You will have lost your angle.
This strategy shows that there is no emergency, the client can relax and whatever they are demanding can be handled efficiently. You have to keep in mind that emotions are contagious and if you become caught up in a customer's emotional chaos, the negotiation will not be productive. Whoops, angle lost again.
Imagine an audience.
It's effective for you to imagine other customers are in the room observing this interaction as a way to keep calm and in charge of the interaction. Imagining an audience will completely change the emotional dynamic for you.
This simple shift in perspective grants a buffer to keep you thinking clearly. After all, you wouldn't want the other clients you work with to see you as anything less than stellar. This way when a difficult customer becomes irate or abusive, you can invoke the “invisible audience” to remain grounded and in top performance mode.
Be wrong to be right.
You need to go with the customer's energy. If nothing you are doing or saying can satisfy the client, then you can use the strategy of agreement: surrendering and granting agreement to the client (even when he's right).
Because this is unexpected, the customer will probably start defending you. It's a natural behavioral mechanism that when a person is allowed to win that they will start to be more open to what they were fighting against.
This strategy helps makes difficult customers more open to negotiating because now they feel like the negotiation will be on their terms as they are more in sync with your position.
Demonstrate emotional control.
If the customer swears or becomes abusive, you need to remind yourself that anger comes from fear. By pushing aside the anger element and reading between the lines to discern the demanding customer's fears, you can attend to core issues and not be misdirected by chaos of the surface emotion.
Emotions are contagious, so executing this strategy can be difficult. When you start to match anger with anger, you have lost your angle for the second time.
If you can train your mind to see anger as fear, you can stay calm and de-escalate the customer's confrontation.
It's not personal.
When dealing with an unsatisfied customer, you need to remind yourself that this is a business issue, not a personal one. If you feel you are being attacked on a personal level, it can trigger yourself to defend yourself and move away from the issue at hand.
But you should strategize and stick to the facts, stay firm with them. In reality, this customer knows very little about you on a personal level, so you should keep this in mind and guide the conversation back to the pressing issue and how you intend to solve their problem, ignoring personal attacks.
You should remember they are interacting with human beings, not superpowers. Anger is an unintelligent emotion. The greatest strategy for you is to know your own emotions as well as have knowledge about the emotions of others.
When you know that the core of anger can be fear, you'll be at an advantage. Angry people typically do not feel their fear because they're lost in their anger. Fear uses anger to gain control. As we have covered before if you match anger with anger, a war will ensue and the relationship will be destroyed.
Therefore you must be a passive yet firm presence against the force used by the difficult customer, reminding yourself that the customer feels out of control and is trying to gain control. Angry people have the maturity of a 2-year-old, so you would be wise to remember the power in remaining calm, flexible, patient and mindful.
I hope this has helped, It is a challenge of "wills" but it is the "Will" that is in control, that will be triumphant in reaching a desirable goal for both of you.
Keeping in control over difficult situations will aid you in keeping your customers/clients.
All the best in your future encounters.
GeckoGrafix are a freelance web design business based in Cardiff, specializing in creating online presences for small independant business in the expatriate market in Spain.
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