It’s easy to jump straight to negative assumptions with this one.
We often think of a difficult client or challenging customer as someone who’s angry, irritable, or just downright rude.
They can certainly be any one of those things. But, there are some less obvious pressures that turn even the nicest of people into customers who become difficult to deal with.
For instance, a person might become difficult to deal with because of the type of work that needs to be done (like an expensive and complex HVAC installation that requires a lot of logistical input). It could be the location they’re based in (perhaps the site is in a distant rural area that’s tricky to access). Or it could even be personal (such as their financial situation).
At first glance, these aren’t things you have any control over, and it’s reasonable to wonder why you should shoulder the responsibility.
The reason, though, is that difficult customers are still paying customers. Sometimes, these end up being the most satisfying jobs to complete. Especially if you’re able to offer them genuine support and help, too. They will value the service you provide more as a result.
With that in mind, the advice below—especially our first point—is focused on strategies for improving communication and access to information.
There’s often more to a difficult customer than first meets the eye:
1. Listening can help you deal with difficult customers
One of the most effective strategies for working with difficult clients is to listen to them.
This can be a challenge, especially if they are being rude. But there’s no question that listening is an effective way to quickly get to the root cause of their problem.
For instance, sometimes a customer might be under the stress of their own. But by listening, you’ll find it much easier to help them if they can properly explain their situation.
Let’s say your customer has repair work scheduled for their leaky roof. You agreed on a price and are ready to go ahead. But it turns out the leak deteriorated quickly after a weekend of terrible weather.
Unfortunately, the price of the job has to go up, but now the cost is more than they can afford. The customer is understandably worried about their home, which they use to work remotely. They also have a young child to care for.
As the situation becomes increasingly difficult, what do you do?
Only by listening and getting the full picture can you help.
It may be that one hefty payment is more than they can afford. Instead, the customer could pay you via monthly instalments. This guarantees that the fix can go ahead without crippling their bank account. And, you still get the guarantee of being paid so the work can get started on time. Everyone is happy!
Rather than dismissing the change in their circumstances as “too difficult” or “too inconvenient” to deal with, a new solution can be found. In this case, access to finance.
This might also end up being a solution you find works for other customers, too.
For the example above, if sourcing finance is a viable option, it might be that the strategy ends up becoming a part of your business model. This can positively affect how you approach working with other customers down the line!
At any rate, by listening to their individual experiences, your business can react accordingly, discover new strategies, and more easily avoid working with difficult clients and tricky situations as a result.
2. Give your staff the tools they need to work efficiently
Frustrated customer service staff is the last thing you want in your company. And what’s the quickest way for staff to become frustrated?
When they can’t do their jobs—especially when it’s through no fault of their own!
It’s a simple thing, but these days, with tech & software making everything from sending an email to booking a holiday easier than ever it’s important that our work can flow smoothly, too.
From dealing with customers face-to-face in the field, or speaking with them over the phone. Your service staff should be able to go about their day with as little friction as possible. That’s going to be much easier if your business has a database of easily accessible information to support them in their work.
With such a tool, they can find the information they need to answer queries in moments rather than minutes if a customer calls or sends an email. This means they can work far more efficiently.
Of course, when you do meet your staff’s expectations by providing them with the tools they need, it’s going to make dealing with difficult customers even easier.
Whether it’s thanks to the job management software your staff uses in the office to create and send an invoice, or the mobile app you engineers use to easily fill in forms and collect signatures in the field. These tools make the difference between one task flowing quickly into another.
Without them, you’ll only end up having staff who feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall, just to send an email! When processes run smoothly, your staff are likely to feel happier in the work they’re doing.
When that’s the case, that mood will flow over to affect your customers, too.
Speaking of emails, writing out the same repetitive messages each day can be a bore.
Fortunately, with The Customer Communication Toolkit, you can take another great step toward empowering your team to send professional, precise, and accurate messages with ease.
See how automation can play a role in saving you even more time!
3. Let customers access data with an online portal
Strategies for working with difficult clients can also include online portals, to help them help themselves.
Known as “customer self-service”, it’s an increasingly popular approach that, in this case, means letting your customers access their data without having to approach you directly.
By using a customer portal, they can save your team from time-consuming admin and get the info they need themselves.
You’ll no doubt have used this type of portal yourself as a customer; where you can log in to a service website to access your personal profile and see data such as your purchase history, download invoices, and even make new booking requests.
With a customer portal for your own plumbing, HVAC, or electrical business, you can provide these same benefits to your customers. This means it’s easier for them to engage without having to pick up the phone or even send an email!
Much like your staff, one of the biggest frustrations that can lead to a client being difficult to deal with is when they’re prevented from resolving simple problems themselves.
While no one should expect your customer service team to be live and responding 24/7, customers will at least expect (and enjoy) access to solutions that mean they don’t have to rely on you for that. Instead, with an online portal, they can solve these points themselves.
4. Make it easy for customers to communicate with you
It’s a common saying that “time is money” and so it’s obvious why no one wants their time wasted.
When customers can interact with you easily, you’re only ever going to save time and in all likelihood, go on to earn more money.
That means that having a variety of ways for your customers to interact with your services is important. Whether it’s a phone call, text, email, the aforementioned customer portal, or even an online booking form, if your customer has all these options, you’re creating a much more efficient way to communicate with them.
Customers will respect you for respecting their time.
Besides, when it comes to securing a job these days, time is of the essence! If it’s not easy for a customer to reach you, Google will help them find a competitor who is. If you make it easy for customers to reach you—and thanks to tools like an online booking portal—you’re much more likely to engage and connect with them.
The sooner they can reach you, the sooner you can confirm a job, do the work, get paid, and then move on to the next job.
5. Streamline the way you communicate at every level
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rush through jobs at lightning speed (quality over quantity and all that, right?)
However, if you set up communication to be straightforward and informative, particularly thanks to automated messages supporting your staff, then you’ll find that the quality of your customer relationships will also improve dramatically.
For the customer, having a speedy, efficient process—like getting a confirmation moments after they request a job—not only helps to meet their expectations but brings them peace of mind that they’ve been acknowledged and that their job is a step closer to completion.
From the moment you start handing out estimates and requesting deposits, it helps to have a digital software solution at your back: a paperless business is the way forward and will help you deliver an efficient, fast, and meticulous service.
Of course, sending confirmations all the livelong day is both tedious and time-consuming and can mean that delays are more likely to occur. It’s a sure-fire way to frustrate customers, which in turn makes it more likely you’ll find yourself working with difficult clients.
When it comes to dealing with difficult clients, your team—equipped with the right tools—will be in the best position to deal with an angry or frustrated customer, and get to the bottom of their issues much faster.
You may uncover new methods that help your business in unexpected ways and it’s all thanks to a few simple strategies, backed up by powerful software. With all that data at their fingertips, it means no long pauses on hold, no waiting for days for a follow-up email, but instead, clear communication that gets the results you need.
For more, take a look below and see how Commusoft’s automation software, coupled with The Customer Communication Toolkit, could be just what you need to make dealing with difficult clients a thing of the past! It’s another great resource that can make it easy for your business to improve the way it communicates with customers without having to deal with the administrative burden.
Hi! I'm Rhys Pattimore
I'm eager to share great stories, advice, and tips that can help inspire and motivate field service businesses to find success. It's that, or I'm hunting down the best bagel recipe I can get my hands on!