Top 3 tips for dealing with difficult customers


By Cate Schreck - Service Excellence Coach

From 1986 to 2002, I worked for one of the Big 4 Banks. During those years of working across Victoria, I experienced some very"interesting" customer complaint behaviours. It didn't matter if I was working in Bendigo, Ballarat, Horsham, Bacchus Marsh or Geelong - bad customer behaviours were not location specific.

Here's just a few examples of what I experienced:

  • Verbal abuse and insults - too many to count
  • Having an empty beer bottle launched at me (it missed)
  • A note from a customer advising a staff member to be careful when they left at the end of the day
  • A customer jump over the counter to punch a staff member. (Police were called and the customer left with some nice new jewellery - handcuffs.)
  • Pens thrown, chairs kicked, doors slammed and windows broken

You will have your own opinion as to what type of behaviour is OK when you want to complain to a business. As an employee of the Bank, who was expected to deal with those interactions, trust me when I say - none of the above is OK or helped the customer get what they wanted.

At some point in my career with the Bank, myself and many of my co-workers, accepted that this was how it was going to be and most of us would come to work with an imaginary suit of armour on to handle those interactions. The Bank was diligent in providing the training on what to do in the event of a hold up, but when it came to the day to day difficult interactions, you learned by experience - your own and that of your co-workers.

Don't get me wrong, most customers were friendly and genuinely nice people to interact with but it would only take one customer with low emotional intelligence to ruin your day. Part of being emotionally intelligent is being able to control your emotions and understand the effect that our behaviour has on others.

My Top 3 tips for dealing with the difficult customers:

  1. Improve your soft skills - read books, watch videos and book in for soft skill training. The better your soft skills, the better your ability to deal with difficult people - in the moment and after the event.
  2. Go easy on yourself - if you've never had soft skill training then you are missing key learnings that will make difficult interactions much easier. Pat yourself on the back for surviving but........
  3. Be proactive - Ask your employer for access to soft skill training or sign up for the training outside of office hours. Soft skills transfer to EVERY job and employers today want staff with great soft skills.

Who provides the soft skill training that helps you embrace complaints? Lightbulb Training Solutions do!

Contact us for more information.