5 of the Most Challenging Customer Service Situations

customer service

Regardless of what business you are in, customer service can be challenging.

Yet it is also vitally important.

It’s been said that, “Any business with customers is in the “people” business.” How your customer service team responds to customer issues or concerns matters –and in today’s day and age where information and news of people’s experiences spreads like wildfire –handling customer service concerns satisfactorily is crucial for keeping your business’ reputation intact.

While no company is immune to difficult customer service situations –the fact is that you can take steps ahead of time to help mitigate problems. Knowing how to respond to potential situations will give your team the knowledge they need to handle challenging situations, and equip them with the confidence to know that they can navigate even the most difficult scenarios that can arise.

Let’s take a look at some potentially challenging customer service scenarios –and see how your team can respond to each one in a way that’s professional –and conducive to a resolution

1.An Upset Customer

Almost every company – no matter how excellent their products and services, will have to deal with an upset customer at some point. This is why it’s crucial to hone your customer service skills in advance.

Even Disney, host to over 135 million customers at its parks each year, has dealt with its share of angry customers. They’ve also developed a solution to de-escalate interactions with angry patrons and convert them into loyal customers. Their technique is called H.E.A.R.D, and is used by many in the customer service industry.

H.E.A.R.D. stands for:

  • H – Hear. “Tell me what happened here.” Engage in active listening to absorb the customer’s complaint without interruptions. Let them explain to you, in full, why they are angry
  • E – Empathize. A little empathy can go a long way toward calming an irate customer.
  • A – Apologize. A sincere apology can help your customer feel heard and understood.
  • R – Resolve. Finding a solution to help resolve the issue with the customer is important. Don’t hesitate to ask them, “What can we do to make this right?”
  • D –  Diagnose. Figure out what caused this customer’s problem, and find a solution to prevent it from happening again. Feedback from negative experiences can be invaluable and can show you how to take steps toward preventing the same issue from occurring again.

2.A Customer is Dissatisfied

A dissatisfied customer is one step away from becoming an angry customer. Someone who has a poor experience is unlikely to return, and instead is likely to tell others about their bad experience. In fact –according to Help Scout, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience, especially with the reach of social media.

When news that a customer’s experience wasn’t satisfactory reaches your ears, it’s important to be proactive and approach it with a mindset for conflict resolution – even if it hasn’t escalated to that level quite yet. Consider issuing a response such as, “We’re sad to hear that about your poor experience – and want to thank for bringing this issue to our attention.” You need to be ready to hear out the unhappy customer’s needs.

You may also want to consider offering them a coupon for a discount on their next purchase.

3.A Customer Asks You to Bend the Rules

Phrases such as, “Can’t you make an exception just this once?” are common in the customer service sector.

In most cases, your customers’ requests for you to ‘bend the rules’ are for simple things that would go a long way toward improving their experience. For this reason, consider giving your reps the power to bend the rules for reasonable requests that they feel can be met without too much difficulty.

While your team members will have to turn down the more elaborate requests, it’s important that they do so in a way that shows that customer that you still appreciate their business. For example, you could say, “We’re sorry we can’t give away any free products at this time due to company policy, but if you sign up for our service, you do get free customer support. That’s a great benefit that we’re proud to offer!”

4.Your Product Isn’t Up to Standard

If a customer informs you that a product that you sold them isn’t up to standard –it’s important to do everything that you can to resolve the problem. You’ll want to inform them that you’re sorry about the issue, and empathize with them –while offering a clear solution that will meet their needs, as well as something extra that will make up for their frustration, inconvenience, and time spent chasing down the issue.

5.You Don’t know the Answer to a Customer’s Question

Finally, while your customer service team should be well-versed on your products and services –there will always be the occasional query that they won’t know the answer too.

Make sure your team understands the importance of finding answers to each and every question they are asked. Instead of having your team give out knee-jerk responses such as, “I don’t know,” encourage them to respond with something like, “That is a great question, let me find out for you.” Then, regardless of how long it takes to get the answer, make sure to follow-up.

Taking the time and effort to ensure that your customer service department is well-versed and equipped to handle any customer concerns, questions, or problems will go a long way toward keeping your customers satisfied and your reputation intact. And although it’s rare, great customer service might even turn a difficult customer situation into a positive review (and word of mouth) for your business.

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