How to Deal with Difficult Customers over Live Chat

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Chapter 1

Understanding Difficult Customers

To understand how to best serve difficult customers, it’s crucial to define what makes a customer difficult in the first place, and examine how they became unsatisfied. After all, customers who are unhappy with a service, product, or support may often times be justified in their difficult behavior. When you peel back the layers, you understand more clearly that the customer was delivered a subpar experience, and they perceive your company as the reason for their unhappiness.

Consumer Psychology

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, happy customers tell 4-6 people about their experience, which is a powerful and organic form of marketing. Additionally, positive experiences lead to customer retention, and according to Leading on the Edge of Chaos by Emmett and Mark Murphy, a 2% increase in retention is equivalent to 10% reduction in cost.

On the other hand, due to negative bias, which is the psychological phenomenon in which negative experiences more severely impact us than neutral or positive ones, we are more likely to talk about bad experience than good ones. So each customer service mishap not only compromises customer retention rates, but also narrows the pool of eligible candidates for future customers. So the question becomes how to reduce these negative experiences that create customer dissatisfaction, and how to optimize customer satisfaction instead. The key is to tap into consumer psychology in order to fully understand what customers want. Major consumer expectations are tied to integrity, efficiency, and ease of use.

Company Integrity

Difficult customers are often a direct result of a company’s shortcomings. They expect that the entities they do business with possess a certain level of integrity. What this means is a commitment to company policies, a quality product and service, and a sympathetic customer support operator in times of difficulty.

According to the 2013 Customer Rage Study, 76% customers who were disappointed by a company want to receive an apology, but only 32% received one. This study reveals that customers have certain expectations aligned with the character of the brand they engage with, and something as simple as an apology can be effective in mitigating disappointment.

Limited Patience

When customers turn to support they are expecting a certain amount of responsiveness, and have an internal time limit that varies depending on the individual. It’s important for an operator to consider the reason a customer has to chat with customer support to begin with. Generally it’s because some kind of company-related shortcoming has already frustrated them and tried their patience. According to the aforementioned Customer Rage Study, time lost is still the most reported damage at 62%.

Clarity and Ease-of-use

Customers expect a certain level of simplicity in terms of the service, product, and customer service they receive.

The building blocks of simple service include:

  • Clear instructions for use of product or service
  • Quality and detailed shipment options
  • Easily accessible privacy policy and terms of service
  • Ability to self-serve (i.e. website with clearly detailed instructions, policies, and
    contact page)
  • Accessible customer support channels

When information is inconspicuous, customers tend to lose patience — companies should look to build an information infrastructure that promotes easy acquisition and implementation of goods or services, as well as direct access to customer service.

Difficult Customers Are Just Underserved Customers

When you review the expectations of customers above, you will realize that all customers, difficult or otherwise, have similar expectations. So what is the difference between a normal, satisfied customer, and a so-called “difficult” one?

Excellent customer service.

It may seem at first glance difficult or nearly impossible to rectify all these issues through your customer service team. The answer to live support strategy that addresses difficult customers can be broken down into three service areas: enhanced dissatisfaction prevention strategy, optimized real-time chat support, and an effective resolution system.

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