Thursday, August 31, 2023

Dealing with a Difficult Customer in Person

When you interact with a customer in person, you have both greater challenges and greater opportunities to build rapport with that customer than you have when speaking with them over the phone. Consequently, nearly everything said about handling a customer over the phone is in play as well as additional approaches. 

Listen to the Customer’s Concerns

When interacting with a customer in person, non-verbal communication can supersede verbal indicators that you are listening and engaged. 

  • Make eye contact, but avoid staring. The appropriate amount of eye contact varies from person-to-person and culture to culture. 
  • An attentive posture involves leaning slightly towards the speaker or tilting your head towards the speaker.
  • Use non-verbal encouragers such as nodding, holding a thumbs-up sign, or other gestures that communicate the same idea as verbal encouragers such as go on or yes.
  • Listen fully by paying attention to your customer’s body language and posture.
  • Reflect back your customer’s expressions when you can do so genuinely. 
  • Allowing yourself to be distracted can completely negate customers’ beliefs that you are listening to them. Avoid looking at the clock or your phone, writing or doodling, or playing with your hair or picking your fingernails.
Build Rapport

In building rapport face-to-face, you must be aware of what your physical presence communicates and use positive and open expressions and postures such as facing someone directly without having your arms or legs crossed, looking them in the eye, and smiling. Your environment can also have an effect. 

For example, a desk or counter between you and your customer can close communication to some degree. 

Respond with Positive Words and Body Language

People tend to synchronize their behavior when they interact which is why mirroring another’s expressions, posture, and body language can be effective in building rapport.  Responding to negativity with positivity can defuse a customer’s negativity. Follow up with expressions of genuine empathy and with positive words and body language that convey enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, and tenacity.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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