Are some customers just difficult people? Is there such a thing as a difficult person, anyway? Not really. The accurate viewpoint for a customer success rep is that it’s a difficult situation or a difficult interaction — not a difficult person per se.
Why do difficult situations or interactions occur? Quite simply, people get impatient because of a situation not meeting their expectations. The root causes of resistance to just about any issue are:
a) Concern that their needs will not be understood or met
b) Concern about loss of control or self-esteem
Knowing this can help you de-personalize uncomfortable situations and let go of your natural fight or flight reactions. Let go of your initial emotion to handle the situation from a neutral position.
A customer success rep who attended one of my recent classes said she’s feeling much happier in her job by conscientiously following the 4 steps to managing resistance:
1) Identify the issues causing the resistance
2) Understand the underlying factors of the issues
3) Provide solutions
Here’s how she applied the 4 steps:
1) A sample was requested by a channel partner in another country, emphasizing urgency to ship immediately, so the customer success rep booked the order free of charge and scheduled shipping, but the channel partner wouldn’t approve shipment.
- The service rep, frustrated from these situations over the past year, immediately placed herself in a neutral position; this way she found it easier to open herself up for a conversation to start identifying the real issues.
- The channel partner wanted a draft commercial invoice, but the service rep’s company has system-generated documents printed at time of shipping, so the approval process was a chicken-and-egg dilemma.
2) The customer success rep strove to understand the underlying issues behind the channel partner’s request for a draft commercial invoice: to satisfy the channel partner country’s customs requirements to present a legitimate document from the shipper.
3) To provide a solution, the customer success rep offered an alternative by sending the system-generated order acknowledgment in her company letterhead.
- But the situation went back to step one, because the channel partner was upset that the order acknowledgment listed the sample free of charge.
- The service rep went to step two by asking why a dollar amount was needed in the order acknowledgment: the customs bureau of the channel partner’s country requires a price declared to determine customs duties.
- The service rep went to step three by suggesting the solution of entering a unit price under the part number and total price in the special instructions field – this would satisfy the channel partner’s need for price documentation and still accurately reflect that her company was shipping the sample free of charge.
- Because of time zone differences, 3 days were consumed without approval – just as it seemed all was resolved, the channel partner requested the service rep to re-print the order acknowledgment with a lower price per unit.
- The service rep felt very frustrated yet immediately placed herself in a neutral position, and went back to steps one and two: the channel partner wanted to save money by paying less customs duties.
- Under-declaring price for customs purposes is against company policy and against federal customs laws, so the service rep escalated the situation to her immediate manager and the regional sales director; they were able to convince the channel partner to accept the current sample order and approve shipment.
4) To follow-up, the customer success rep reflected on the series of events and realized there was a lack of understanding by her channel partner of federal customs laws in her company’s headquarters country, so as a follow-up, she asked her company’s export manager to send a letter explaining the relevant customs laws.
- My recommendation is to also ask her company’s operations department to set up an automated solution for future sample requests from international channel partners; generally, if one customer has a certain need or concern, there are also many others with the same need or concern.
These 4 steps can make your job much more fun as you become skilled in handling difficult situations. The customer depends on it! And so does your career and your company’s long-term success. Do these 4 steps work for you?