7 ways to deal with difficult customers

Everything you need to know about dealing with difficult customers and clients, with guidance and tips on what you can do.

dealing with difficult clients

Dealing with difficult customers is a necessary part of any job. Although the majority of clients are a pleasure to support, you will sometimes find yourself having to work with a challenging individual for an extended period of time. 

You could simply battle on, but having some set guidelines with your customers can help improve, or at least manage, difficult situations better.  

It’s inevitable that eventually you will have to work with a difficult customer or two. And although the temptation might be to simply stick it out, it can be a more effective use of your time to manage them in a better way. 

Whether that be dropping the customer altogether or learning how to understand and respond best to their frustrations, there are some important ways to deal with a customer that every adviser should employ.  

 

  1. Always stay calm 

Rule number one in any customer-facing relationship is to stay calm throughout. This can be difficult and trying as frustrated customers will often vent their feelings openly. An emotional or frustrated response on your part will only escalate a situation. 

Instead, do your best to stay calm. Where customers are visibly frustrated, it is often being caused by situations outside of your control – it may be nothing to do with you. You never know what is triggering your clients’ frustration, so try not to take it personally.  

 

  1. Listen actively 

It’s important to listen attentively to your customer’s concerns. Acknowledge them and try not to get defensive. Listening patiently without reacting is a good way to start moving a situation towards de-escalation.  

Be curious about their frustrations and use reassuring phrases. A lot of the time, people simply want to be heard and understood. Using some of the below phrases will help you reassure them: 

  • ‘I understand this situation is frustrating for you’ 

  • ‘I understand that this is a sensitive topic and has caused you stress’ 

  • ‘Tell me more, so I can understand’ 

  • ‘I appreciate your frustration and I want to help resolve this situation’ 

Display a genuine desire to understand your clients’ irritation before you start to look for solutions. It’s important to see the issue from their perspective. 

 

  1. Try not to fear 

Fear is a natural response to many situations where we feel we could fail. And, although this is an entirely normal reaction, it’s important to not let fear affect our judgement or confidence.

You can’t control your customer’s frustration, nor are you expected to justify your own position. You aren’t there simply to allow your customer to ‘sound off’, so don’t let fear of failure force you into taking an antagonistic stance. 

 

  1. Be honest 

You will need to be prepared to tell your clients what they don’t want to hear. Whether it be account-related or something more personal, be honest with your client and don’t let their frustration bounce you into going down a route you don’t want. 

As early as possible in your relationship, try to establish an agreement with your customer whereby you both feel able to express your feelings without judgement.  

 

  1. Don’t conceptualise too much 

As an independent financial adviser, one of your tasks is to break down some of the heavier financial terminology, not to use it to create a hierarchy. So if some of the more in-depth financial terms are proving to be a source of frustration to your clients, start from a low base and craft your conversations in a way that is digestible.  

Where it is needed, comprehensively explain certain concepts from different angles so that there is no room for misunderstanding.  

 

  1. Put together a targeted plan 

Once you’ve spoken to a customer and feel like you understand their concerns, you will need to put together a solid plan that targets them. You won’t always be able to help, but focusing your efforts in a targeted way could help put your client at ease.  

This could also form the basis of a good future relationship. If you can show that you understand your client’s concerns clearly, are prepared to make them a priority and that you are keen to continue working together, there’s every reason this can improve your relationship going forward.  

 

  1. Drop the client 

While it’s always a last resort, there may come a day where ending a relationship is best for all parties. If you’ve done your utmost to understand, plan and action some resolutions to your customer’s issues, and have still found the customer to be unhelpful, you may need to consider ending the relationship.  

Over the course of your career in advising, you will build up a list of clients whose needs you are familiar with and whose personalities you are a good match for. It might take some time to create this ‘a-list’, but this will eventually form the majority of your advising services. If one of your clients isn’t working out, don’t feel that you have to continue to lower your standards to theirs. 

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While some customers can be challenging, the majority of your clients will be looking to you for expert financial advice. And, when it comes to generating new leads, Unbiased is the perfect platform. We help match hundreds of IFAs with the ideal clients, so if you’re looking for the right place to connect with the right clients, Unbiased is the right tool for you. 

About the author
Kate Morgan
Kate Morgan
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.

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