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Handling difficult customers – has it ever happened to you?


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“Who do you think you are calling me on my direct phone line and asking me about my payment schedule? I am the CEO of the company and I’ll have you know I do have assistants that can take care of these minor issues! I built my way up high so I don’t have to listen to you complaining about these insignificant matters! When you and I will be on the same level feel free to call me – until then please talk to my secretary!”

Believe it or not, this was a response I received when I was faced with a chasing call for one of my clients that had an unpaid balance and needed to provide me with a payment information. The telephone number I was offered with belonged to the CEO but I had no way of knowing I “shouldn’t have contacted him”.When the phone was hang up on me,after this rude and unexpected response I did not know how to react.I had been working for the company for over 2 years and I was not faced with this kind of behavior up until that point. My first reaction was to get frustrated. I was working for a Multinational enterprise and took care of a business to business relationship.I was faced with a situation I had to resolve : cause ( lack of payment for a product provided ) and effect ( the account cancellation unless payment was provided).

After analyzing our discussion I realized that I was not the one to blame for the previous lack of politeness.Like my phone partner, I was part of the business world too.The fact that I was not yet the CEO of the company did not entitled him to react the way he did.And later that day I started wondering – how personal do I take my professional relationships?How do I handle my difficult clients?

We are trained while entering the Outsourcing business( or any other business for that matter)that the Client always has to walk out of a meeting satisfied.But what happens if this is not achieved?Should you take the negative feeling home?Or should it be resolved in the office?How much of this pressure is really taken personally and how do you really have to respond?

Here are some ideas you can follow in order to avoid unwanted situations like the one mentioned above and release the pressure they create:

Know your business and do the best you can ! – this is the top advice one can be provided with.Know the things you sell and the services your company provides!Do the best in presenting them to the customers and always stay on top of the situation.A firm hand is always appreciated.Show the customer that you are there for his assistance but be sure to set some grounds : you are part of a business to business relationship and none of the things exposed are personal. Sometimes is hard to keep the balance – especially when dealing with payments or collection issues – but make sure you do all in your power to maintain it.

Be professional and try to see the client’s perspective also! In the current economical climate it’s been harder and harder for small companies to keep their business on top and many of the frustrations accumulated and sometimes presented over the phone have nothing to do with you , as an office representative! There are customers who tend to forget that they speak to a Business Partner and confuse the company with the person behind the phone/desk.Don’t take things too personally, remain focused on your job and set your mind towards mutual success. If that is not possible, try and have another conversation with another person inside that firm.Another perspective might do the business well!

Try to know your customer!If you had an interaction with your customer in the previous years/months it’s easier to find a pattern for him!Try and think what are his likes or dislikes.Work on them – bring the best things up front, show him you are on his side!Find the balance together!Last but not least try and foresee what his issues may be – were there any complains in the past?How were they resolved?It’s better to prevent than cure!

Don’t fight back in the same manner!Remember that eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth does not apply in these sort of situations!Fight back with politeness and professionalism,try to calm the waters and make the client understand that you are heading towards the same direction!

Always remember you are not alone! You are part of a team and do have superiors that can assist you with these delicate matters. Do not be afraid to expose them! Seek assistance from your co workers, see what their own experiences have been and how they have reacted to these unexpected situations. Learn from them ,and know how to react in the future!

Finding the perfect balance at work is hard to achieve but we are bound to try!Don’t take the arguments personally and try to maintain your boundaries! If you sold the business well,if everything was done the way it supposed to but the result was not the way perhaps is was not bound to happen today!Business is business and sometimes perseverance is needed.Try again tomorrow, use a different approach and never lose faith : “Business is a game, played for fantastic stakes, and you’re in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game.” Sidney Sheldon


Article written by : Daria Ionescu , Outsourcing Advisors

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