Working directly with customers, especially in retail, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Pleasing a paying client -- while keeping your sense of self, your company goals, not to mention your sanity intact -- is hard work. It's important to have strategies in place to turn your most upset customers into loyal fans.

Here are four things to keep in mind about what to say (and what not to say) when dealing with grumpy, difficult, and sometimes unruly customers.

1. Have a script, but be flexible.

Field-tested responses might sound canned to you, but don't groan yet. Done well, scripts work, and make operations and dealings with customers run much more smoothly.

First, sit down with your team and brainstorm some of the most difficult and most common problems that come up. Where do you get stumped? What information do people ask the most? What information would your staff benefit from having on hand?

The key with these scripts is to stay flexible so that your responses are tailored to each client. Don't forget to inject your own personality! Always use their name when addressing someone, and remember if you're replying via email to include any helpful links or images directly in the email response to make it as seamless as possible.

We know great service benefits from having good systems, so below I'll outline some of my favorite "field-tested" responses to tough customer questions that you can use and modify when you're providing support.

2. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know.

We are all human, and even the best customer service representatives get stumped. If you are dealing with an irate customer, don't be afraid to admit you don't know the answer to one of their questions.

What to say: "I understand your concern, and I am making it my personal responsibility to resolve this problem for you. To be honest, I need to reach out to another member from our team to get the best answer for you, but I will get back to you with a resolution today. Thank you for your patience, [Name], I truly appreciate it."

When a customer feels they have someone on their side working to fix a problem they've having, they are more likely to calm down and allow you the time to fix it for them.

3. Use positive language.

Whenever possible, use positive language with a client. Instead of saying you can't, you won't, or your company doesn't, focus on the positives. Let's say someone placed an order online, and didn't think to use a discount code. A week later, they reach out and say they expect a refund for the difference of a 20 percent discount code they forgot to use.

What to say: "We appreciate you as our customer, and as a courtesy we have issued you a refund for the 20 percent. Yay! Also, here's a 10 percent discount code for you to use on any future order [insert code here]. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns, [Name], I'd be happy to help."

Place the emphasis on what your company can do, and what they are doing right. Focus on the solution, which is what the customer actually cares about.

4. Resolve the issue to your best ability.

Your item is out of stock, or backordered, or there's been some kind of mistake. Whether it's your company's fault or the item just isn't available, you need to stick with this fact -- a customer wanted to buy something from you and you didn't have it.

What to say:

"Thank you for your interest in [product]. It unexpectedly became wildly popular, and I regret to inform you it is now unavailable. However, I would love to offer you an upgrade to a more expensive product at no additional cost to you, as our way of showing our appreciation for your business and your patience."

"This one is very similar to the original that you liked, and it's actually one of our best sellers. Please let me know if you like this one as much as we do, and we would be happy to send it out today, thanks, [name]!"

Follow up after they have received the item, not to up-sell them, but to see how they are enjoying the product, and to thank them again for their interest in your brand. What's the key here? You are focusing on building the relationship. They will more than likely be blown away by your graciousness and generosity, and you may find yourself with a loyal customer for life.

It's entirely possible to turn angry customers into lifelong supporters. Simply put yourself into their shoes, and offer a solution you would be satisfied with if the roles were reversed.

Published on: Sep 22, 2017
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