It is a well known fact that the field of customer service is among the most stressful jobs that a person can expose themselves to. What is not well known is the fact that all small business owners are subjected to this same type of stress, normally without any training, when difficult customers start to communicate.
Why difficult customers = high stress situations:
Tiny businesses that are composed of small employee numbers often do not have a designated trained customer service staff available to deal with difficult customers who demand precious time-chunks taken away from pressing functions that keep the business operating.
Business owners will often assume the responsibilities of attempting to deal with those who need extra communications during a project, but the overall issue remains: difficult customers cause a very high level of stress in the workplace that must be reduced before the project runs smoothly again.
What are difficult customers?
Difficult customers are people who do not understand a single part, or all parts of a project. Once a lack of understanding is formed in their minds, the next assumption is that your business is on their payroll, so that you are their employee. It is your job to stop and pay attention to their directions, concerns, or nastiness at all times.
From the perspective of the small business employee or owner, difficult customers are often viewed as silly people who would rather that you sit doing communications instead of attending to the important business. These people are not thought of as employers, they are simply untrained customers who do not possess your education, training, and skills.
Many times it is these two opposite viewpoints clashing that will turn a normal customer into a difficult customer to manage. Other times, initial misunderstandings that can make a nice customer turn into a problem include differing society orientations. Some cultures require nice small talk formalities in business, while others frown on this practice as rude.
To stop problems with difficult customers before they start, consider the overall situation from the life-view that the client is using. Example: If a customer insists upon discussing weather prior to business, put this in your notes. It will be your turn to discuss weather first next time. Using the customers expected way of communicating puts them at ease.
How can I prevent a single difficult customer from constantly interrupting?
It is very easy to accidently give a customer permission to send many unwanted or nasty communications over a short period of time. When customers are upset, some have time to sit and dwell on potential problems associated with your firm or project. As new thoughts occur to them, they are attempting to control the situation by sharing thoughts.
Control is one of the key concepts to consider when a customer is attempting to communicate too often.
When a company is considered to be an employee by the paying client, the client will often feel a loss of control if the company moves along without them being involved. Frustrations can build when insecurities surface, and insecurities are directly related to the need to feel comfortable and in control of surrounding situations.
Unhappy customers will almost always show open signs of attempting to take control in a frustrating situation. They will tell you how to do your job, they will tell you how to run your company, and they will suggest larger sounding organization names that they will complain to; in simple words, they are proving that they are bigger than you are.
When unhappy customers start using terms or phrases that are designed to make them appear larger than you are, it is important that you do not try to correct them on any of their misconceptions. If the person wants to believe that they can run your business better than you can, to correct them gives an opening for more communications.
Why unhappy difficult customers will click ‘reply’ instantly on communications.
Online, small businesses often fall prey to customers who are more experienced at playing the customer service game than they are. When emails arrive with thoughts that the customer does not approve of, they will simply click ‘reply’ and tell the business again, in stronger control words, why only their opinion is correct. It is not unusual to have an unhappy customer send dozens of letters to reply to over a period of 24 hours.
A quick way to break an email bombardment by an unhappy customer is to assign a new name to address the issue. Have that name start their letter with, ‘I understand that you are unhappy, can you tell me all about it?’ and let that unhappy customer get everything that they are thinking out of their system onto the return note. This calms the agitation. Unhappy customers feel in charge again while they are being listened to.