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How to Handle Difficult Customers

A Conversation






Tom Randall, a sales manager at Targets Ladies Clothes in New York, receives a call from an angry customer in his office. The customer Mary Gordon sounds very upset over the shipment she has received for her purchase of $600 worth of clothes. The shipment contains two items she never purchased, and a wrong size skirt. Mary Gordon will be living for Chicago by plane in the afternoon. The Manager Tom Randall handles the situation effectively. He calms down the customer with his professional skills: He doesn't argue with the customer; asks right questions; provides the customer with an effective solution for the problem. After reading this conversation, see Recommendations for your own use at work.


Tom: This is Tom Randall, Sales Manager. How can I help you?

Mary: This is a customer. I've just received my shipment this morning. How could your store make such a mistake? No one checks orders before they are shipped out?

Tom: I'm sorry if there's a mishandled shipment. But, first, may I have your name please?

Mary: Of course you can have my name if it's going to help anything.

Tom: It sure will. What's your name please?

Mary: This is Mary Gordon. I'm going to fly this afternoon. I've made this purchase for this travel. So, how're you going to help me? You know my name now.

Tom: Thank you for giving me your name, Ms. Gordon. I apologize for the problem you're having. But I don't know what the problem is yet. What's wrong with the shipment?

Mary: By the time you'll know it, I need to continue with this useless conversation some more time.

Tom: Ms. Gordon, if you tell me what the problem is, I'll do my best to help you. I'm here to help.

Mary: Ok! I guess I have no choice. I've got to repeat the same story again. I've already talked two different people before you.

Tom: But, you still didn't tell me what the problem is.

Mary: I purchased 6 pieces of clothes last Monday. I've received the shipment for this purchase this morning with two wrong items and one wrong size skirt. So you heard the problem. What are you going to do now?

Tom: Ms. Gordon. I understand you are upset and I apologize for the mixup. But, if you give the information I need, I will do what I can. I will try to re-deliver it by express shipment to your address immediately. What time are you going to leave today?

Mary: Can you arrange the re-delivery by 12 noon today? I'll be leaving at 12:30 pm for the airport.

Tom: Now, it's 10 am. First of all, I need to know how far are you from our store? Second, I need to check if we have the clothes in stock you have ordered.

Mary: Well, I live half-an hour away on Charles Street, Manhattan. I have the invoice with the item description, but this is not going to work. Now I don't even remember where I put away the invoice.

Tom: Ms. Gordon. You need not to look for the invoice. Just give me your address please, I'll pull up your invoice on the computer.

Mary:. Ok. 125 Charles Street, Apt 3C, New York, New York, 10003.

Tom: OK. I see the invoice: 4 summer casuals by Sara Vong. Which ones you have never received?

Mary: Are you sure you can re-deliver them by noon? How about if you are out of stock?

Tom: Ms. Gordon, I told you already we will deliver them by 12 noon today. Please just tell me which dresses you have not received.

Mary: Ok. I received two Sara Vong dresses, one off-white and one beige.

Tom: Alright. Those are Model 200SC in white and beige. Which skirt is a wrong size?

Mary: I've received the denim skirt in Size 6. I am Size 8.

Tom: Ok. I see it in the invoice as Size 8. I am going to check these three items right now. I'll call you back within 15 minutes.

Mary: What if you don't have them in stock?

Tom: Ms. Gordon, I'll call you back and we'll discuss it then. Ok?

Mary: Well. I hope you have them in stock. Otherwise, I have no clothes to take with me for the trip.

Tom: Ms. Gordon, I must hang up now. I'll call you within 15 minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Mary: No. Thank you.

Tom:. Bye now.


Listen. Be a good listener. This is a cardinal rule in order to be good at customer service; handy attribute when handling an irate customer. Many times, the customer only wishes to be heard and does not have a specific resentment in mind. By giving the customer a patient ear, you are letting him know you are attentive to his/her thoughts and that you appreciate his/her position.

Occasionally, you may have to get firm with an unruly customer and have to let go, admitted that “Customer is King” but if the “King Customer” is being truly unreasonable, you should be prepared to deal with him in a firm manner.

Treat each encounter with a difficult customer as a learning experience, and incorporate the learning into your next such dealing.



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