Course Outcomes

This course focused on serving demanding customers and handling difficult situations will:

  • Outline the rapport-building process.
  • Explain why customers get upset.
  • Provide participants with tools and language for interacting with upset customers.
  • Offer processes for improving listening and working through service problems.
  • Provide suggestions for managing service stress.

Course Overview

Serving happy customers is enjoyable for those in a service role.  However, helping those who are “not so happy” can be stressful, demotivating, and costly to an organization if members of the service staff have not received training as to how best to handle demanding customers and difficult situations.  This dynamic program teaches participants how to build rapport, listen to customers, choose words that say “professional, polished, and in control,” de-escalate tense conversations, and manage daily stress.

Note: For people interested in virtual delivery, we offer a similar course called  Taming the Tank: Skills for Handling Tough Customers and Difficult Interactions in an online instructor-led format.

Program Objectives

At this program’s conclusion, participants should be able to:

  • Quickly build rapport with customers.
  • Explain why their customers get upset.
  • Choose client-centric language.
  • Listen and indicate they have heard what their customers have said.
  • Reset customer expectations.
  • Communicate with unreasonable customers.
  • Better manage service-related stress.

The following outline highlights some of the course’s key learning points. As part of your training program, we will modify content as needed to meet your business objectives. Upon request, we will provide you with a copy of the participant materials prior to the session(s).

Workshop Outline

Sharks in the Tank: Understanding Why Difficult Situations Arise and Customers Are Demanding

While some people are genuinely more difficult to please than others, often difficult customers don’t start out that way. Usually, “difficult” is a result of a series of events. This opening discussion reviews the most common reasons customers become upset, demanding, and hard to satisfy. During this segment, the group will discuss trigger points, isolate common problems, and identify any possible process issues that should be addressed outside the session.  The rest of this program will focus on actions within their control that service providers can take to improve the customer experience.

The Right PH: Building Rapport and Listening

If you don’t get kicked off on the right foot, you can contribute to a problem rather than building a solution.  In this course segment, we will explore the process of rapport building and the idea of “like likes like.” Through an interactive exercise, participants will learn how they unconsciously communicate to others using their own preferences rather than their customers’ likes and dislikes. Next, the group will practice techniques to help them adapt and listen to customers of all types. 

The Filter: Keeping the Gunk Out of the Relationship

Most of us know a slip of the tongue can muddy the water. However, when dealing with challenging customers, it’s easy to say the wrong words if the right ones are not readily available. This part of the program focuses on the word choice, trigger phrases, and how to sound professional and calm no matter what the situation.

Catfish, Snails, and Crabs: Dealing with Unreasonable Customers

While most difficult customers are difficult for a reason, there are a few that despite our best efforts to help, simply cannot be satisfied. This portion of the course addresses customers who attempt to take advantage of the serving organization, customers who refuse to accept stated rules, laws, and procedures, and others who will not accept available solutions.

Just Keep Swimming!: Managing Stress

Dealing with demanding customers can be draining regardless of the provider’s ability to handle the most difficult situations. This program concludes with a review of stress-management techniques and action planning.

At the program’s end, participants will have experience with a range of tools for managing expectations, communicating bad news, addressing complaints, and managing the stress associated with difficult customer interactions.