4 Tips for Managing a Difficult Customer Situation
Posted by Aaron S. on December 27, 2018 in Retail Focus

Over the past several weeks, your small business has been focused on ensuring each customer has the best possible experience in your store. Now, as the retail season transitions from making purchases to completing returns, this same focus remains a top priority. This is particularly important when things don’t go according to plan. Despite you best efforts, customers sometimes end up dissatisfied, which can lead to anger and frustration. When this happens, it’s very important that your team is well-trained and prepared to handle the discussion. 


Listed below are 4 tips you can use to help manage a difficult customer situation:


Give the customer an opportunity to vent. Sometimes customers just need someone to listen to their frustrations and acknowledge their concerns. Once they have vented, they become open to discussing potential solutions. Being a good listener in these situations can quickly deescalate the discussion and turn the focus to a solution-oriented conversation.


Show empathy and be apologetic to the customer. Suggest that your employees look at these situations through the eyes of your customers. Also, saying “I understand” in these situations can help put a discussion back on a positive track. It's OK to be wrong—even if you are right. It's also OK to apologize. Apologies can make customers feel they have won the discussion, which can make them feel better and help them move on. By giving a customer this win, your employees and your business will ultimately be better off.  


Remain professional.  Showing emotional control in this situation allows the employee to keep a level thought process and make good decisions. When dealing with a difficult customer, it is very easy to take things personally. It is important for your employees to remember this is a business issue and not a personal one. It’s also important to remember these situations often occur in front of other customers. Your employees represent your brand, so it is important they engage in positive solution-oriented conversations in these types of situations. 


Empower your employees to make decisions. One situation you want to avoid is having your employee tell a customer no, and then a manager tells the same customer yes. This scenario is unfortunate for both the customer and your employee. If you already know you are going to take care of the customer, allow your employees the ability to make that decision in the moment. You can quickly minimize the situation if you make sure the customer understands you are working to solve the problem and have the authority to do so.


In this competitive retail environment, everyone is looking for that degree of difference that allows their business to shine above the rest. Customers continue to find value in the positive experiences they encounter while interacting with businesses they visit. If handled correctly, dealing with an unsatisfied customer could be an opportunity to wow that customer in a totally new and unexpected way. Solving a problem in the moment could easily turn that person into one of your most loyal customers. 

Aaron S. is our Retail guru
Aaron joined Acuity in 2017 as our Retail Specialist—bringing with him almost 30 years of experience in a broad range of retail. He started his career stocking shelves in the seasonal department at a local retailer. A few years later, Aaron transitioned to a gas station/convenience store, where he worked second shift while getting his degree in organizational communications from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. It was during this time he made the move to the loss prevention and safety aspect of retail. Over the next 25 years, he worked in various retail segments, including video games, cosmetics/skincare, hardware/appliances, pharmacy/grocery, and clothing. Aaron held several positions during this time, including District Loss Prevention Manager, Regional Loss Prevention Manager, Regional Compliance Auditor, and National Manager of Loss Prevention and Operations. Outside work, Aaron likes to spend time with his wife (who has also worked in retail for over 20 years) and their twin teenage boys. They enjoy being outdoors on the water, fishing, and camping. As the Retail Specialist, Aaron’s goal is to enhance the partnership between retailers and Acuity by showing retailers that an insurance company can be a supportive resource and that Acuity truly understands their industry.

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