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Trainer’s Tip: Dealing with Difficult Customers on the Telephone


Advice from Andrew Bradbury to help delegates keep their cool and see the business benefits of customer complaints.

First thing is to help trainees understand the limitations of talking on the phone - both because of the lack of all facial/body language cues, and because people tend to behave differently (e.g. more aggressively) than they would in a face-to-face interaction.
Set up a simulation so your trainees can examine this at an experiential level.
Next your trainees need to be clear about what they are expected to achieve when dealing with customers over the phone - and how much "difficult" behaviour are they required to tolerate before they are allowed to, politely, put the phone down before the interaction is complete?
Another key point for trainees to get fixed firmly in their minds is that NO customer, however irate, starts out with the intention of attacking them personally. This, alone, should make it much easier to handle calls from "difficult" customers.
One last point - the statistic I heard (can't remember where from) was that 96% of UK customers would rather walk away than make a complaint.
So think, the 4% who complain are actually an incredibly valuable resource. If they kept their grievances to themselves your company would have no idea at all why it was losing customers!

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Dealing with Difficult People on the Telephone
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