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Dealing with difficult customers

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Every now and then you bump into customers who just can’t seem to get enough information from you. Their seemingly endless series of questions eat up huge amounts of your time – which can be particularly frustrating when you work in a very busy environment. Why do customers do this? There can be many reasons, of course, but it’s usually one of two things. The first is that your customers aren’t yet comfortable with the product or service you’re offering, or the information you’re providing. They’re looking for reassurance that they’re making good decisions.

The second reason is that they may not be entirely sure what they’re looking for in the first place. They are attempting to determine their own needs by trial and error. Whichever the case, the solution is the same — you need to take control by asking relevant, directed questions. Try to uncover what is truly important to them, so that the information that you provide is both relevant and persuasive.

The skill of answering customers’ questions with directed questions of your own is perhaps the most valuable skill you can ever master. It helps you maintain control in a sales or service interview, and reassures your customer that you care, and are on the right track. There are two things likely happening here that you need to be aware of. First, your customer has probably been stewing over the issue for some time, and has created a ‘script’ that’s been running over and over in her head. She’s got things to say, and by gum, she’s going to say them! Second, she isn’t quite convinced that you really understand the problem yet.

The secret to dealing with All Talk & No Listen is to use effective Prompting and Echoing techniques. Here’s how they work:
1. As she’s talking, instead of trying to interrupt or shorten her ‘script’, (as tempting as it can be) use words and very brief phrases which prompt her to get everything off her chest. (eg. “really?” “Oh no,” “Is that right?” “How terrible!”). Then listen very carefully to what she has to say. This gives her the satisfaction of getting through her script, as well as giving her the sense that you really do care about her and her concerns.

2. When she has made an important point, echo it back to her as close to word for word as possible. This sends the message that you actually understand her concerns, and will help prevent her from feeling the need to repeat herself. For example, if she says, “it broke after just one day!” you might respond with “oh, no, it broke after just one day?” (Note: Be careful of your tone of voice!)

You may be surprised at how effective these two simple techniques can be. And, the great thing about All Talk and No Listens is that, once you win them over, they often become your greatest ambassadors!


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