Coping strategies for difficult customers

Sometimes I have to give myself a little more motivation to face the customers. Here's one of my coping strategies.

I have a wide circle of customers who I meet as part of my job. Some I get on with better than others; that’s only human nature. There are those who are really great and have a mug of hot tea waiting, made just the way I like it. (If you’re interested that’s two PG tips tea bags, brewed for thirty seconds, a tiny dash of milk, no sugar.) The other type are those who I get on with professionally but don’t linger around to talk to.


On the whole I get on pretty well with most of my customers, but there is one who I found really disagreeable and who felt the same about me. I suppose it is a clash of personalities, but I didn’t enjoy my visits there. Whenever he calls, I do the best job I can and get out. Fortunately I don’t have to go there very often, and I have established a reward system for myself to allow me to enjoy the experience more.

This is how it works: Each time I get a call from him I put £1 into a tin in my glove compartment. I then call him and speak to him about the problem. I can usually advise on a fix without attending the site; to give him his due, he is a good communicator. When I have to attend the site I put £5 in the tin, and when there is a good amount saved, I treat myself to something -- either a nice lunch, a book that I have wanted for a while, a DVD, or a meal out. That gives me something to look forward to on those calls that otherwise would be hard going.

The effect of this is that I don’t dread going to see this customer any more. Without the buildup of tension before I go, the call itself is now far easier, and I find myself more relaxed in front of him. Consequently the tension between us is becoming a thing of the past. With the prospect of a nice lunch in front of me, I have a little more motivation to go into the customer’s office.

Also, now that I am less tense, the customer is less tense too. He seems to be less demanding and critical, and he has even paid an occasional compliment about the jobs I do. I suppose this proves that our relationship got off on a bad footing to begin with, and we managed to calm things down. It also shows that people react subconsciously to your body language and the "aura" that you give off.

Have you developed any coping strategies to make difficult customers easy? I’d love to hear about them.

kevaburg just keep reminding yourself that the day will end and when you get home, put your feet up, crack open a beer and watch the old re-runs of Star Trek.... Putting money in the pot is one thing, but if the money came from the client/customer it would be so much sweeter! :)


Everyone has certain clients where these hurdles seem to pop up more often than elsewhere. For me, I stick with the old standard; at the end of that day, treat myself to a couple pints of beer :)


Sadly enough most people do feel tense when they need to call the IT department as they often feel threatened which does not help either. As my one customer put it: "The intimidating IT guy who can upset his work day by exposing his lack of knowledge about either the computer or the application." Having worked in the IT service environment for a few years, I find that greeting your customers on the street or shop whenever you see them (Not just at work) helps calm nerves at the office as well. It opens people up. You need to show them you are just another human being like them and that you don't always know the answers, and that you don't judge them if they make a mistake or break the computer. In any case they role of IT professionals is there to assist people in doing their work, making it better, faster and easier. We are not as so many people thing the police who will gag, scold and burn them at the stake, if we find those pictures/music/slideshows of their girlfriend/family/pet on their computer.

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