Business

How to deal with difficult customer situations

Look through your customer's eyes. Are you the solution provider or part of the problem? ~ Marlene Blaszczy

A friend of mine who owns a business sought me out recently and wanted to convey a story that upset him. He has a wonderful dog that is impeccably trained. He goes everywhere with him, including to the hospital, where he is always a big hit with the patients. Bottom line is the dog and owner are inseparable.

One afternoon, in the heat of the summer, my friend went to a financial institution to withdraw some funds. Because it was 105 degrees outside that afternoon, he decided to bring the dog inside.

He sat the dog right by the door and proceeded toward the teller counter. As he walked in, however, the head teller started hollering at him to take the dog out and saying some other very rude comments about him and his dog.

Though the head teller's reaction was probably the result of her fear of dogs or maybe even company policy on animals in the business, she handled the situation terribly. Because she alienated my friend and made him feel bad, he immediately transferred his high-balance account to another financial institution. Had this business trained its staff on how to deal with unique and difficult situations like this one, they may have avoided losing my friend's business.

No matter what the situation, it is generally best to approach the customer with a smile. A frown or an angry scowl causes the customer to raise their defenses and prevents them from hearing anything you have to say. It will always escalate rather than de-escalate a situation. Had the head teller approached my friend with a smile rather than a scowl,

things might have turned out much better.

Above and beyond a smile, a kind comment from the teller would have opened the door for them to have a civil conversation about the situation. My friend would have been more likely to listen to and accept what the teller needed to communicate. She could have said, "What a nice dog you have!" or "What is your dog's name? Can I give him a dog biscuit?" This would have helped establish a bond of trust between the teller and her customer.

After establishing trust, the teller could have then presented my friend some options that would bring an acceptable resolution. For example, she could have said, "You have a wonderful dog, but would you mind leaving him in your car while you transact your business?"

A second possibility would have been for her to say, "Would it be okay if I wait with your dog outside until you have finished your business? I just think other customers might be concerned when they see a dog in here. Would that be okay with you?"

A third option would have been for the teller to say, "Thank you for bringing your dog in. He is so well behaved. Would you mind using our drive through as some of our customers might not know how well behaved he is and may feel uncomfortable?"

These are just a few of the many options that could have been presented to my friend. The point here is that in these unique situations, you need to give the customer options rather than demands. By allowing them to choose an option that works for them, you give the customer power rather than taking it away.

Make sure you have trained your staff on how to deal with difficult situations. This training should include teaching them to approach the customer in an open and friendly manner and present options that allow the customer to decide how the situation should be remedied.

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant, is a Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University. Reach him at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com

  Comments