20 Ways To Handle Difficult Customers

Competitive Pre-eminence in the Customer & Social AgeNailing Word of Mouth Marketing Through Great CX ⬆ Images Hyperlinked

MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS | 2018 EDITION | VOLUME 121


In the age of the customer, only losers stay reactive, focused only on making a quick buck. Yet that's precisely what a Chinese manufacturer I was recently asked to help had been up to, as founder-CEO.

He had built a fortune on pricing and quotation duplicity, lying to customers and partners and making poorly paid employees always cover for him. Until customers and vendors secretly sharing pricing data turned against him, forcing him to make concessions that almost drove him out of business.

Now instead of fessing up and fixing the mess he had created, he branded them difficult customers. Except, difficult customers aren't the only reason to build an organization on strong customer success foundations. He forgot that the goal is proactive customer satisfaction. Not just making a quick buck.

We know that unbeatable customer experience and customer satisfaction is not only your best word of mouth marketing strategy but importantly, beyond proactively solving the CLTV (customer lifetime value) problem, great customer success management creates opportunities to deliver real value for your customers. Which in turn drives revenue. Which is also your ultimate goal anyway! Isn't it?No organization can avoid yellers, blabbers, intimidators, irate, impatient customers. Or worse, distractions planted by malicious competitors, whether using bots or actual humans to tarnish your brand. But my top customer service rules for building proactive customer-focused culture are:

Hire, train and retain only consummate professionals

Regularly retrain them in what customers hate, and evangelize, or better, role play contingencies corporate-wide from time to time. Better than those useless meetings.

Whatever you do, discourage scripted, robotic problem-solving where replies are predictable and fake. Which is most annoying thing to an already irate customer, as Vikas Agrawal rightly points out. Click or tap the image below for 4 additional insights specific to dealing with unhappy customers online.Be sure to underpin your organizational culture (small business or not) with a responsive culture, and be prepared to fire employees with a habit of passing the buck where customer complaints/incidents are involved.

Unbeatable CX and Customer Satisfaction that emotionally, digitally, and socially connects comes only from highly responsive, flexible organizational cultures where employees don't think they're “doing” the customer “a favor” — a word often used by British customer service agents. (See bottom of page)A well-run organization may sometimes, rightly—as opposed to self-righteously—internally decide a certain customer's values are incompatible with theirs. and that's OK. But your business strategy fundamentals must be sound.

Put differently, you can't effectively deal with difficult customers, complaints, successfully neutralize or avoid viral nightmare, if you're not proactively in the ego minimization and flexibility business.

In the Age of the Customer and the Age of Social, perception is reality. Your customer experience is your brand, and Social Media, both the loudspeaker and Big Brother. And insisting on being right; not knowing how to avoid bad PR or effectively manage customer emotion, enhance the conversation as well as conversion or close rate, is bad business practice.

You will always have shady customers. And I sympathize with for example a Mainland Chinese who legitimately might object, saying: “But look at Walmart [China]. They have to take extreme measures to stop elderly people from shoplifting.” And I've seen it many times. Yet Mark Sanborn (click or tap top image) is right.

Why?

Because attracting customers and generating profit is only the beginning of business and customer success. As the disingenuous Chinese CEO discovered.

Truly well run businesses, brands or institutions — like Byers Imports in Mark Sanborn's story (click/tap feature image) — that are nailing Customer Experience are in a perpetual state of marketing. Such that every touchpoint is optimized, —enhancing and quietly, positively managing the stories spread about them. Whatever the medium.

Not surprisingly, Forrester Research confirms that in order to get Customer Service right (see video at the bottom of the article), retain, and win customers, organizational core elements — in particular, culture — must change. Which is why writing months before that Forrester Research finding, I not only stressed the same point but also argued that the right customers want you to survive and thrive as well. At the end of the day. And the key here, is emotional intelligence, starting with employees.Get it right (images hyperlinked), and you have an organization adept at proactively leading its customers in mutually beneficial relationships.

Get it wrong, or be naive or careless, and you could easily become just another sellout that never got that critical balance right and thus quickly, if not inevitably, went out of business, having built a rigid brand with a business model insufficiently responsive to cultural demands of the Customer and Social Age. Of which Digital Transformation (including mass business migration to The Cloud) is a part. And if, as Gartner also predicts, 95% of Cloud Security incidents by 2020 will be the customer’s fault, the natural question then is: Are you even building a top-notch Customer Journey culture?

And speaking of Cloud Security incidents or tech support generally, how superior is yours?

All of the above leads to sustainable differentiation advantage through strategic intensity, which we already resolved, leads to strategic preeminence. Yet because talk is cheap and we're saying: Be known for always over-delivering, despite the title of the article, the extra 20 Call Center tips above is a good demonstration of how to standout and close like a magician.If wondering how much to spend on customer experience as I was recently asked, or customer success trends and strategies for 2019 or beyond, you haven't carefully read, explored, or understood the article. Because apart from needing to constantly adapt to customer; lead or innovate around customers' demands as IKEA has to/for millennials, the fundamentals remain unchanged.

It's all about customer value, and having (i.e., hiring) the right, responsive personnel in place. And if you have to pay more for the latter, fine. Just don't get lost in the digital transformation hype.Below are 2 final insights for dealing with difficult customers, plus keys to improving your listening and conversational skills. Click, tap, and read on. For consultation, contact me here.

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