Customer Service Part IV

In our fourth and final part in our series on great customer service we'll expand on dealing with difficult customers, a topic we covered in part three. Below we offer a few profiles on difficult people and ways of dealing with them. Use this as a quick reference guide when in a tough situation.

  • The Stubborn One
    • Stuck on their position
    • Unable or unwilling to see other points of view
    • Solutions:
      • Engage them in discussion and debate.
      • If you know you are correct, be persistent.
      • Provide documentation to help support your case.
  • The Quiet One
    • Not interested in the subject matter
    • Think they know everything
    • Nervous
    • Solutions:
      • Figure out why they are being quiet.
      • Ask them easy questions.
      • Give positive feedback when the person responds to your question.
  • The Jester
    • Good natured
    • Distracted by other issues
    • Solutions:
      • Be professional and stay cool.
      • If the behavior is a real problem, address it privately and calmly.
      • Find something to agree with.
  • Yakety-yak
    • Talks about problems
    • Can't stay on track
    • Solutions:
      • Tie what they are saying back to the issue at hand.
      • If you can't figure out the connection, ask them how it relates.
      • Separate out the issues and address one thing at a time.
  • Off Base
    • Brings up ideas that are wrong
    • Solutions:
      • Correct their misconceptions in private tactfully.
      • Have documentation on hand to show your point.
  • Bigger Issues
    • Some personalities just clash
    • Sometimes people are out to cause trouble
    • Solutions:
      • Keep the person focused on the task at hand.
      • Ask lots of questions to keep them involved.
  • The Chatterbox
    • Talks about personal matters when in conversation
    • Can be distracting and impede progress
    • Solutions:
      • Tactfully bring the conversation back to the matter at hand.
      • Ask easy questions and involve them in the discussion.
      • If it is appropriate (i.e. with a colleague), set boundaries using phrases like, "I'm not comfortable discussing that at work. Would you like to have coffee later to talk about it?"
  • The Know-It-All (may have an attitude)
    • They are very interested in the topic at hand
    • They are an expert in this subject
    • They like to hear their own voice
    • Solutions:
      • Ask them complex or detailed questions.
      • Be prepared! Have documentation ready.
      • Have confidence in yourself and your ability to do your job.
  • The Whiner (may be complaining)
    • They have a legitimate complaint
    • They are innately negative
    • This is a pet peeve
    • Solutions:
      • Use active listening, empathy, and paraphrasing to ensure that they feel heard.
      • Find out what they want from the conversation: a solution, advice, or just to vent are some examples.
      • Encourage them to think of solutions.

If you refer to this cheat sheet for dealing with difficult people regularly you'll be prepared for most situations or at least have a solid enough foundation to deal with them as they come.