“I wish all your family were dead”.

So said a less than satisfied caller as she slammed the phone down on a lovely Helpline assistant that I worked with this week. The Helpline assistant had been politely and patiently trying to explain that the caller would not be entitled to receive a payout from her late ex-husband’s insurance policy.

It’s hard not to react when another person attacks. We’re hard-wired with a ‘fight or flight’ trigger when we come under fire.

There are, however some basic things to remember, when dealing with ‘difficult’ customers:

  • There is no such thing as a ‘difficult customer’ – only a customer who is in a difficult situation.
  • We have all been someone else’s difficult customer at some point – it doesn’t mean we’re not nice people the rest of the time – someone, somewhere loves us!
  • People in difficult situations do not always behave in the way we’d prefer – they make the best choice they can at the time – which might not be the choice we’d make in the same situation.
  • There is always an underlying reason for the way a person behaves. Even if we can’t accept their behaviour, we can usually empathise with the cause (in this case; shock, confusion, grief and mourning – the lady’s ex-husband had tragically been murdered abroad).

Dealing with difficult customer situations on the telephone requires skill and resilience and I greatly admire those who do this well. more…