The Most Difficult Conversations You Have Ever Had At Work Readers share stories of weird, scary, and embarrassing office conversations. Unlike a vague customer, occasionally you may encounter a customer who feels they know what they want so well, they refuse to hear about any alternatives (even if there are options that might actually work better for them). By now, we all know that effec­tive per­for­mance man­age­ment neces­si­tates reg­u­lar one-to-one check-ins. The best part is that the difficult client conversations are over and the professionals can take it on! Communication skills 6: difficult and challenging conversations. Dealing with under-performance: lack of quality in output, time management, meeting deadlines, attitudes to work, ‘stepping up’ to new role/ responsibilities and the changing landscape. For example, the customer leaves a feedback message asking for an additional service that upper management have no immediate plans to add. Firing a client. Put ego aside, and honestly evaluate the situation, as objectively as possible. If you are able to take a breath and think through a series of deliberate steps, you may be able to “de-escalate” things. Find out how to add empathy and build rapport during customer conversations by reading our article: Rapport Building With Angry Customers – With Examples. If you have to get on the phone with your client, you can also use the language in the templates or the following example script (obviously allowing the client to answer and giving them the benefit of the doubt). Perhaps you need to cancel a contract, readjust your rates, explore a new budget, or simply tell them ‘no’. Author: Moi Ali is a communications consultant; a board member of the Scottish Ambulance Service and of the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Care; and former vice-president of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. With those things in mind, here is an example of what to say: "First, allow me to apologize for [state your mistake clearly]. I asked Diane her thoughts on this. Example Business Telephone Conversation: Role-Play . If your client has decided not to work with you anymore, you may not get a chance to have a difficult conversation. Here are six example scripts to improve difficult client conversations. Perhaps he thinks little of accountants because he doesn’t understand the complexity of the work a good accountant does. As an employee, you might sometimes face obstacles that make communication challenging. The above are but a few examples of difficult conversations we face in life. You have tried other means of attempting to remedy a customer’s issue and they still demand a refund. Give the customer a chance to vent their frustration, and as mentioned above, try not to take it personally. Feedback examples about attention to detail. Instead of an apology like “our supplier is out of stock, there’s nothing we can do,” something like “we’re working with our supplier to get that back in stock as soon as we can”find the silver lining in a bad situation. Next, explain as best as you can the reason behind the wait, and let the customer know that you are working on resolving the issue. For the purpose of this article, we will focus only on difficult conversations from the client-coach perspective and how they can impact our work and business. If there was any confusion about that, let's talk about it and get it resolved. The longer it takes to address the problem, the bigger the hurdle will be to find a positive solution and make the client happy. Ending a romantic relationship. Janet - The Irate Customer - Case Stud y # 1 John, a call center agent based in Omaha, had to deal with one such situation not long ago in his job. Sometimes, circumstances arise that means a customer is waiting longer than usual. This article, the last in our six-part series on communication skills, discusses how to respond to and de-escalate difficult situations. Let us know if we can help. Use this example script to manage this difficult conversation, "After some deliberation, we've decided to terminate your contract due to [reason]. “Worst case thinking. They will appreciate you saving them the time and trouble of explaining their issue all over again. Maybe we can offer [something else] instead? Are they worried about price? Your client will want to know that you're listening to them, that you're sorry and that you're going to do something about it. Once you can get them talking, you can better refine which options will work best for them overall. One option is to shift the conversation to email. If they want to talk to you about it, you can prepare for the conversation with the following example. Talking about finances and debt. Acknowledge the client's feelings. Apologize, and let them know that you acknowledge an error was made. And this is especially true when it comes to difficult conversations in the workplace. To make up for our mistake, we're going to [insert the plan to make it better].". Perhaps we can work something out or I can help recommend someone else who can help. After 10 years in media, I have had my fair share of difficult clients and difficult conversations. 9. Having that extra communication shows you care about the customer and aren’t simply looking for another payday. If you're unsure of how to best approach a crucial conversation, here are some tips to guide you: 1. The key here is to listen. Here are four tips to help make those conversations go more smoothly. In our profession, you will be tasked to have different kinds of conversations with persons in client status, colleagues, supervisors, and individuals you will come to supervise one day. 20 April, 2018. You might not have the spare resources and staff to allow for something like that, however. It may be possible that you have a potential solution you can offer but it all starts with letting the customer know you are sorry first and let them know that you empathize with their situation. The first thing is to apologize. These are some examples of how to deal with difficult customers. The problem is they seem to have struck up a conversation with a customer service representative, and they don’t seem to plan on ending it any time soon. The above are but a few examples of difficult conversations we face in life. Try to find a way to offer a solution. Perhaps none are available now, but you can let the customer give you their contact info and you can follow up with them when a discount becomes available for them to use. Whether it's talking to a client about a mistake on their account or addressing their inappropriate tone towards my staff I have had to address all sorts of different issues along the way in my career. Unless there are outside circumstances to show otherwise, a lack of payment could just be an honest mistake or simple forgetfulness on the part of the customer. Some conversations may not feel comfortable, but they are necessary. The response is to externalize a sense of confidence that you can pass on to them. Copyright 2020 Broadly Inc. All Rights Reserved. Explain the reason behind the wait, and let the customer know that you are working on resolving the issue as fast as you can. The way business owners handle these issues can mean the difference between a one time and a repeat customer. Yet, problems can arise over the course of a professional relationship. If you can, offer some kind of compromise solution if one appears to be available. [Tilt view silhouette: iofoto via Shutterstock ] Simply saying that you don’t know won’t cut it. 2. This conversation must be handled gently so the client doesn't get defensive. Attempt to resolve any specific issues within a limited time frame, balancing their complaint against your time and the needs of your other customers. Did you receive it? At times, a customer is just so upset, there is no way to immediately respond. Even if time has passed and you still don’t have an answer yet, you can still send a quick message to your customer to let them know that you are still working on a solution. You have a customer who is close to purchasing but they seem very unsure about which option they should choose. Can I answer any questions about the invoice? "I appreciate you talking with me about your decision to move on. Perhaps a unique or unusual situation has arisen, and you do not have an immediate answer for the customer about how to proceed. How do you handle those who get particularly upset about it? Apologize to the customer, let them know you are placing a refund request, and let them know how long it should take before they see the money back in their account. 3.6.2 – © Skills for CareExamples of difficult conversations 1. Sometimes, it is those difficult moments, particularly where a client faces up to their own accountability, that offer the most growth and development. Show gratitude; despite any problems, the customer may have had and the stress you might be feeling, try to demonstrate that you appreciate their business. For example, say you're an accountant, and one of your difficult clients tells you that accountants are just glorified calculators. When communication barriers arise, it can be difficult to maintain and develop relationships with colleagues, leaders or clients. They appear to be set in their ways. The decision to fire a client will be a tough one, and the conversation could be even tougher. Rather than viewing the scenario as a personal attack, see the bigger picture of how you are dealing with a customer whose needs have not been met. So if you have had a difficult or unpleasant conversation with a client in the past and are a lawyer with low resiliency, you may be especially keen to avoid a repeat of such a conversation. Don’t forget that they chose your business over the other options available to them! We offer downloadable sample email templates for following up, including some that are COVID-friendly. Michelle Stowe is a restorative practitioner, trainer and consultant. The customer may not be right, but the customer is always the customer. Good luck! In most cases, it is good policy to go the “extra mile” and give something to the customer that they request, even if it is out of the ordinary rulebook procedure. You may use small talk when: You are with someone and waiting for someone or something to arrive before you begin to discuss work. Are you an ‘Avoider’, a ‘Full Attacker’ or a ‘Mediator’? We covered many of these scenarios in a recent blog post but here is a general example script to follow. The correct way to handle it is to let the customer know that you are going to research the options available and get back to them as soon as you can. If you made a mistake, the first thing to do is apologize, even if you have to make sure. Mistakes happen. See also: What Do You Say When a Client Won't Pay? When you’re interviewing for a customer service position it’s likely that you will be asked questions about dealing with difficult customers. Here are six example scripts to improve difficult client conversations. We can suggest others who may better suit your needs.". A customer feels like they know what they want, but seems to have difficulty expressing it. Difficult Conversations teaches readers how to have constructive, respectful and effective conversations exactly when it’s most difficult to have those converastion: when the stakes are high, when you are very emotional nad when the last thing you would want is to talk. Dealing with unruly customers is difficult, especially if the customer has called more than once to have a problem taken care of. An example of a difficult relationship conversation. The final article in our six-part series on communication skills looks at how to approach people who are aggressive, angry, abusive, hostile or confrontational. Catastrophizing. Remain Calm. Handling the difficult conversation requires skill and empathy, but ultimately, it requires the courage to go ahead and do it. Apologize, as always. If you made a mistake, the first thing to do is apologize, even if you have to make sure. The key is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Following a plan of action like the ones we outlined can help you handle the rough situations you may find yourself in. Yet, problems can arise over the course of a professional relationship. A statement like “sorry, but we just need a few more details to work on your request” could be a good opener. 81% 4203. Here are 10 steps outlining how to deal with difficult customers and improve your chances of retaining those customers. Often, the difficult conversation can … Can we talk specifically about the challenges of working with us or the expectations that we didn't meet? Adam Alter The customer may have been so focused on one particular issue or problem that they forgot about a second problem they also wanted to bring to your attention. No one likes to have an uncomfortable conversation with customers or clients. It happens sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes, but it can be especially embarrassing in a professional setting. Managing conflict between individuals: dysfunctional behaviours and working It is important to follow through and truly respond in a timely manner. Let them know you understand that they are aggravated and frustrated. No matter where you fall on the chain of command, it is likely you will have to deal with a difficult customer situation. Whatever your reason for firing the client - bad fit, challenging to work with, unpaid invoices - you may still want to maintain a decent business relationship. Tell them the truth of the matter as best as possible as to why their request cannot be fulfilled. There may be something that the client is asking from your business that you simply cannot do, whether for legal reasons, moral reasons or otherwise out of scope. This often leads to confusion and can make your day-to-day duties more difficult. Let your customer know that you are working to fix the mistake, and how long it will likely take to be resolved. No one likes to have an uncomfortable conversation with customers or clients. Let's discuss how we can continue working together.". Be respectful of their wishes, and appreciate the fact that they’ve put some time into thinking things over. You may even be able to leverage the customer into leaving a testimonial or positive review for your business. If these tough situations make you feel uncomfortable, not to worry. Here are six example scripts to improve difficult client conversations. Remember the person on the end of the phone is not shouting at you. When ending a conversation with a customer, don’t forget to ask if there is anything else you can be of help with. Bill Bryson. The more you get into the habit of facing these issues squarely, the more adept you will become at it. You must accept some responsibility for the way they are feeling, as a representative of your business or product. Your business doesn't owe a cent unless the agency can collect for you, and then it's a commission off of what's paid. This is a unique situation in that the customer might not be upset with your product or service. When we decide to become social workers and embark on our journeys, we commit to a mission to help people, and we don’t think about the part of the process that includes having difficult conversations. If you listen to your counterpart with respect, you are more likely to be heard. In fact, research from CMI has revealed that Brits find it easier to dump a partner than ask their boss for a pay rise. It is hard to do with our clients what we cannot do for ourselves. We’ve all been the difficult customer at some point. Best Practices, We have a list of tips to help turn those difficult conversations into loyal customers. When a customer is extremely angry, it can be the most difficult customer to work with because emotions are so high. How do you transfer or refer them to that other person without making the customer feel like they are being brushed off or ignored? They see it as a badge of honor and a sign of how loyal their customers are. Tips are provided for difficult conversations … Sometimes, though, it simply isn’t possible. When it comes to difficult conversations, nobody likes conflict. The best course of action usually is to provide a refund. How to Handle Difficult Conversations with Customers Here are four tips to help make uncomfortable customer conversations go more smoothly. Why difficult conversations are a must. Maybe the customer is asking for a discount when no promotions are currently running. Instead of a deflated-sounding line like “I’m not sure, let me go ask someone else,” use positive language like “we have a team member who is great at solving problems like these; let me refer you to them.” Whenever possible, fill in your colleague about the details of the customer’s problem, so there is a limited amount of repetition on the customer’s part. Not every business might find this a problem. For example, someone from a rival firm, an agent for the client, a certified inspector, a journalist, or someone from local government may all give you a hard time (to some extent) – meaning you (and they) can’t be blamed for their difficult nature. Watch for the worst case scenario thinking with clients. Speak slowly and calmly; do not raise your voice. There’s a variety of reasons you may need to have difficult conversations with existing and potential clients. Let The Irate Customer Vent. Being truthful is important in a case like this. Whether it's about a pay freeze, a denied promotion, or a violation of company policy, these conversations must be handled consistently and with care. Conversations with vulnerable people will equip them with the skills and confidence to handle challenging conversations in a sensitive and professional way. Having a difficult conversation with a client is never fun but it is necessary. The above are but a few examples of difficult conversations we face in life. As Diane pointed out, so many times we avoid a conversation we need to have with a client as we’re worried it’s going to result in them terminating our relationship. The goal is to connect with your client. Always apologize and be willing to put their needs first, even if you don’t always agree with their opinion. The following business telephone conversation can be used as a role-play in class to introduce a number of standard phrases to practice telephoning in English. Maybe the mistake was theirs and not yours. These are just some examples of a few awkward scenarios where a customer service representative may feel like their hands are tied. Asking to solve more problems is an easy way to remind the customer of any other problems, which will save both your teams’ and the customer’s time. By Meredith Wood. Try to get them to verbalize their concerns. It can be a distressing situation to be in as a businessperson, but you should be prepared for it. At Home: A Short History Of Private Life. ", See also: Setting Boundaries with Clients. Let the customer know that the customer service representative they’ve been speaking to is needed elsewhere, but ask them for their contact info. As a freelancer, agency or business owner, you may also feel distracted or overwhelmed when juggling work, clients and working from home. Course objectives . Or perhaps the customer asks for an extension on a payment deadline that is set in stone. You have to find a way to gently turn the customer down. The customer service representative can then follow-up with them at a later time. If possible, immediately begin work on some kind of solution and let them know you are making it a priority. "I'm following up on an invoice that was sent to you on [insert date]. Example customer service questions: Give me an example of a time where you resolved a difficult customer issue. My goal here is to demonstrate both skillful and problematic ways of communicating. You can go an extra step and ask the customer to leave their contact info so someone can follow up with them when things are ready. The scenario: Lea is seeing her boyfriend, Sam, for the first … The final choice still rests with the customer. Tell me about a time when you ensured that a customer was pleased with your service. Sandra Hann November 8, 2018 Health & Fitness Trends Leave a comment 324 Views. Follow it with a specific list of questions. Difficult conversations are scary because the stakes are high and there is a real cost of failure, raising everyone’s defenses. pushing with your words is like pushing with your hands If you “push” with words, you will get push back from your counterpart. B2B Accounting and Commercial Collections. I know that having tough conversations with unhappy clients is never enjoyable, but the faster you can tackle the issue, the better. You can help provide a valuable perspective shift, and suggest a solution. We think they might go on social media and say something negative about us. Whatever your personality type or personal style, the bad news is that fretting about the conversation while avoiding it won’t make the issue go away. Show empathy to the customer, and let them know that you would be frustrated too if you were in their place. If the customer is upset, they deserve an apology. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Customer service representatives have a diverse job that requires them to possess a couple of important skills to be able to deal with different types of customers, including difficult … You don’t get up in the morning and say, ‘Oh, goody, I get to tell a client, … If you've found client communication especially challenging recently, we've created a few example scripts that we hope will help you. How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Clients. You Made a Mistake. We tend to conflate the difficult conversation with thinking that they’re going to fire us when, in fact, we can do this quite kindly and gently with a client. You are trying to network and need an excuse to start talking to someone new. I've checked over our agreement [or email or other proof that they are mistaken], and found that we both agreed on [agreement]. "We are unable to do that for you, at this time. Your client will want to know that you're listening to them, that you're sorry and that you're going to do something about it. Addressing staff behavior problems. Your feedback can help makes us better.". These are just some examples of a few awkward scenarios where a customer service representative may feel like their hands are tied. Summary: Three Lessons on Difficult Client Conversations. A client asks your opinion and then says “yes, but” to your suggestions; A colleague takes credit for your work / ideas; You are critiqued unjustly; How would you usually deal with difficult conversations such as these? While proactive client management can mitigate most project obstacles and hurdles, and clear communication can practically eliminate client confusion and uncertainty, it’s nearly impossible to avoid all client conflict. How do you politely turn them away? The Most Difficult Conversations You Have Ever Had At Work Readers share stories of weird, scary, and embarrassing office conversations. Difficult conversations. For the purpose of this article, we will focus only on difficult conversations from the client-coach perspective and how they can impact our work and business. A genuine intention to help or provide information will come across to the client in how feedback is received and is more likely to generate a positive response. I understand that you expected [state their expectations] and we didn't meet your needs. Everyone has them but, by their very nature, no-one wants to have to deal with them. Citation: Ali M (2018) Communication skills 6: difficult and challenging conversations. Here are some examples of common customer service scenarios you may encounter in your business, and how to get moving back in the right direction for both you and your customer. The left column is the description of the scenario, and the right column is my commentary about what is taking place. Or perhaps the customer asks for an extension on a payment deadline that is set in stone. Angry customers are an opportunity for you to communicate how much you value them. Even if they decide to move on, you may still be able to maintain a good relationship if handled correctly. If you can’t, you may be able to offer a discount to keep them as a customer. Business relationships, Improve Difficult Client Conversations with These Six Examples. You may be surprised at the subtle way this can aid in winding down a situation. "I understand that you expected [state their expectations] and we didn't meet your needs. Apologizing is again the first step to take (whether it seems like their complaint is justified or not). When those difficult or uncomfortable client conversations arise, how can you handle them? To effectively manage client conflict, you need to handle it quickly. When giving feedback, cite specific examples to help the employee see where you’re coming from. It comes with the territory. Don’t let difficult conversations with clients or team members throw projects off track - this is the hardest and most important part of a PM’s job. Maybe they are trying to figure out how a service visit will fit into their schedule. Off or ignored in life appreciate you talking with me about a where... Media, I have Had my examples of difficult conversations with clients share of difficult conversations, nobody likes conflict above! Existing and potential clients get it resolved available to them wave of anger to! Facing these issues can mean the difference between a one time and a repeat customer they see it as representative... You were in their place it personally perhaps he thinks little of accountants he! 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