When you set the scene for your workday, anger and frustration were not in the original script.
Your morning is just getting started, and a theater full of unhappy customers has you yelling “Cut!” You furiously attempt to please the whole audience, but just can’t seem to hit the mark. Difficult customers are a discouraging twist in your plot. This is definitely no time to sit back and enjoy a bucket of popcorn.
With cap in hand, you reach out to your first disgruntled client, knowing you are no longer directing the show. You cross your fingers and hope for a happy ending, reminding yourself that the customer is always right.
The next few takes depend heavily on the character of the customer. Will the interaction be your yellow brick road back to Kansas, or will it be more like a battle with King Kong?
Here are 6 types of difficult customers every business has to deal with, as described with movie characters, that narrate your story. And the Academy Award goes to…
1. The Scarecrow, “The Wizard of Oz” (The Confused Customer)
The Scarecrow is the undeveloped film in the camera. They are confused with a product or service. They seem to have no idea what they want, or they change their mind frequently. They ask questions that don’t make sense and are in a constant state of confusion. They may ask for your general opinion without giving any information about what they really want, which can make it very frustrating to help them.
Be as honest as possible with the Scarecrow.
It isn’t enough to provide your opinion—your opinion should be backed by facts and data and loaded with evidence, such as what other customers say about your products and services.
Take baby steps as you slowly walk the Scarecrow across the stage. For example, if they are having trouble with invoicing, tell them about another customer that experienced a similar scenario and what they did to solve the issue. They learn through simple, easy to understand experiences. Give them something simple to relate to in order to help them understand the invoicing process.
2. Edward Scissorhands, “Edward Scissorhands” (The Quiet/Unresponsive Customer)
Sometimes, less is more. This is not one of those cases. The Edward Scissorhands customer is quiet and unresponsive. They are the silent type that make you squirm in your seat and demand action. They provide very little information. Perhaps they are distracted by a call or email, but it’s always hard to tell. This makes it difficult to settle the score, because you want to help them but don’t know how. You’re also forced to decipher their code while other customers wait in the dark.
This is one of the hardest customers to read because lack of communication can sometimes be more difficult than a customer with a motor mouth. The Edward Scissorhands customer is going to require patience and empathy. Perhaps they are going through personal issues that make it hard for them to think straight. You will need to take them by the hand and walk them through the scene. They may know what they want, but aren’t sure how to articulate it in detail.
3. Dr. Evil, “Austin Powers” (The Demanding Customer)
Dr. Evil makes million-dollar demands you may not be able to deliver. They know exactly what they what, and it’s usually unreasonable: special discounts on brand new products, services you don’t provide, or extravagant attention from the CEO. They are often loyal customers, albeit very demanding ones. This stems from a sense of entitlement, and spending more money can even increase the challenge. You want to keep their business, but you don’t know how to meet their unreasonable demands.
The best way to deal with Dr. Evil is through compromise.
A healthy give and take can help even the playing field. Do your best to give them what they want while letting them know you are going the extra mile. If you wait on them hand and foot without communicating your extra efforts, their requests may become overwhelming. They may even begin demanding sharks with laser beams on their heads.
4. George McFly, “Back to the Future” (The Vague Customer)
George McFly customers are modest and unassuming. They are unable to provide enough details for you to help them. They may tell you they have a problem with your website without specifically addressing the issue, making it very difficult to diagnose the dilemma. You need to know exactly what they need, but how can you get the correct information without being too aggressive?
Ask specific questions and anticipate their needs with potential answers.
For example, if they have problems with the website, do some digging. Are they having trouble finding a product? Are they unable to complete the checkout process? Is the website not responding?
Giving options to the customer will help narrow down the solution and guide them in the right direction. Even if you don’t come up with the correct answer off the bat, they’ll be forced to provide more information until a resolution is reached.
5. The Joker, “Batman” (The Rude/Complaining Customer)
Some customers can find the darkness in any storyline. The Joker always has something negative to say. Perhaps they have a problem with your product or service and express this through cruel words and a hostile attitude.
According to Harris Interactive, 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience. The Joker may be a tough critic, but their bad attitude shouldn’t be a reason to bring down the curtain.
When dealing with the Joker, check your emotions at the door and never stoop down to their level. It’s important for them to feel like they’ve been heard. Ask them about the product or service they are upset about and find out why. Sometimes their emotions are more intense than the actual problem. Get a grip on how they are feeling. Remind them they are important to you and let them know that you care. Make sure to thank them for their business and ask them what you can do better next time.
6. Darth Vader, “Star Wars” (The Impatient Customer)
Darth Vader customers are overconfident and impatient. They believe that they can do everything you do, ten times faster. They are always in a hurry and will attempt to control your schedule. They may not be as particular about certain details as other customer types. However, you are busy too, and their impatience doesn’t need to drag you over to the dark side.
Always maintain honest and open communication with the Darth Vader customer. Let them know exactly what is going on, where you are in the process, and what needs to be done to finish the job. Explain everything in detail and leave no stone unturned. Thank them for their patience and reassure them that you are moving as quickly as possible to reach a solution.
Healthy customer relationships require a balance of patience, honesty, compromise, and a consistently positive attitude. These 6 profiles may not include every type of customer, but they might help you overcome difficult customers and grow your business.