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Handling difficult customers


Hi All,

I am currently developing a 'handling difficult customers' course for experienced CSA's. I am looking for something a little off the wall and away from the usual assertion technique training/ questioning training. etc.

They have all been through courses of this nature before.

I would appreciate any thought you may have to help out. I am now looking for any spark of inspiration!!
I yield to the masses and hope you come to my rescue

thanx in advance

Rob Black

12 Responses

  1. Using actors
    Have you thought of using actors. They can demonstrate scenarios, do interactive improvisation or play the part of difficuly customers in role-plays.
    I would rate as a good place to start.

  2. Use of video/cctv
    If you already have CCTV in your customer facing situations, how about useing that for an interactive, ‘what would you do here senario?'(as long as you get the correct legal permissions.)
    You could also make your own mock video with lots of bad things in and have a competetion to find out how many the delegates can spot!

  3. Technique
    Have you tried involving aspects of NLP and particularly mirroring and matching skills, while I realise that mirroring is commonly taught on customer service courses – matching rarely is.

    The other thing you could do to make this more interesting is actually to put your customer service agents on the receiving end of bad customer service not just in role play but in real life get them to phone other organisations and experience their customer service and evaluate it.

  4. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
    Hi Rob

    A few questions spring to mind initially.

    Firstly, if ther are experienced CSA’s why do they need another course? What are the specific area’s you need to cover from the organisation’s point of view? In addition to this, what do the CSA’s find difficult to deal with from their point of view?

    I used to run a “what’s the worst that could happen?” session to allow people to identify the worst kind of people they might have to deal with. They then had to identify as many ways as possible that could have caused that person to be difficult and the worst possible impact that person could have on them as an individual, then on the organisation etc. Some people chose to draw a picture of what their difficult customer would look like. Once they had done all of this, they then passed their difficult customer onto another member of the training group who had a for them to find as many ways as possible to deal with that difficult customer before each one being discussed as a whole group. This allowed people not only to learn something but also contribute their own experience to help others.

    I hope this helps!

  5. Handling difficult customers
    Hi Rob,

    I now exactly what you mean, I trained in the call centre for 3 years and constantly had to deliver the customer service modules. It can be very difficult as it tends to be a common sense topic, i.e. how would you like to be treated as a customer?
    I have some e-learning modules that I offer as an add-on to my training courses. I could certinaly hook you up with one of these as a demonstration to see if you could gather some inspiration from that.
    Paul Fay

  6. difficult customers
    Use the power of the group.

    Ask individually how people handled a difficult situation. Then what would they do differently with hindsight.rothe group. Finally anything further you can add.

  7. Difficult Customers?

    You might like to try a workshop format. If all your delegates have been on this type of course before, it’s likely that they will be able to remember a lot of what they learned before.
    Perhaps a workshop, where some of the more experienced people are asked what works for them, and all the delegates are asked to express their own feelings, might work better than what has gone before.

    I have used this kind of format with Customer Care people with some considerable degree of success, and I’d be happy to chat offline if you wish.

  8. Inspiration!
    Hi Rob,

    I would echo some of the other contributor’s comments, by asking what are the outcomes that you, or the organisation, hope to gain by putting people through another course?

    Here are some of the questions I would want to ask, if I was in your shoes, including:

    Who asked for the training to be carried out, and why?

    What are the CSA’s doing, or not doing, that suggests that they are not applying their learning at work?

    How motivated are they to improve their performance?

    What is getting in the way of them being the best they can be – and what can be done about it?

    In my experience of similar environments, this might include:

    poor management practices
    lack of support when they get it wrong
    lack of praise when they get it right
    pressures to get customers off the phone quickly
    long-winded scripts that make them sound like robots
    lack of scope to use their initiative to solve problems
    poor teamwork
    poor links between front- and back-room staff
    unachievable performance targets
    stressful working conditions etc.

    Unfortunately, it is often too easy for managers to send people on a course, and much more challenging to tackle the other factors that lead to poor performance on the job.

    I hope that helps!
    Best wishes,
    Vanessa Westwell

  9. other options
    Hi Rob,

    Once again I echo previous comments and would suggest that the issue may lie more in the reasons why people are not applying previous learning in the workplace – what are the barriers they are coming across? Considerations may be:
    * what is the impact of people not doing this currently – what are you trying to change?
    * manager capability and engagement to support any required changes in behaviour
    * translation of learning into practical behaviours on the job
    * corporate culture – what is measured/rewarded?

    I can suggest how I have seen these issues tackled differently in various organisations if you would like to contact me on [email protected]

  10. interactive approach
    Hi Rob,
    Have you considered using professional actors for role playing the difficult customers your CSAs face? The learning is more powerful when all your senses and learning styles are affected! Excellent, honest feedback give participants a genuine knowledge of their own skills.

  11. Where’s the TNA?
    Rob, trainers are supposed to do a TNA before they design a programme. It looks like you haven’t established a need yet?

  12. Thanks All
    Just a quick thank you for some good responses.

    certainly some food for thought.

    eternally grateful,



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