The “Difficult Customer”Simple Strategies for working effectively with challenging customers
Presented byDonna ThrashCareer Progression SpecialistBrevard Workforce321email@example.com
Training Objectives: • You will learn the differences between difficult and challenging customers and why customers are often labeled as “difficult”. • You will learn effective strategies for working with resistant, angry and challenging customers. • You will learn effective strategies for preventing challenging behaviors from occurring.
Y A V I SCustomers we like to work with… Most of us prefer to work with people who are: • Young • Attractive • Verbal • Intelligent • Successful Customers who are most like us. Motivated, goal oriented, etc.
We like to work with customers who … • Want to be helped, • Who we can relate to, • Who make us feel competent, • Who make our work feel worthwhile, • Who we feel we are helping, • Who verbalize their appreciation of us.
Customers are labeled “difficult” when …. • We do not feel competent in helping them, • We do not feel our helping is effective, • When they are not being cooperative, • When they do not seem to want our help, • When we believe we are putting in more time than they are.
What makes a customer “difficult”? • Their stuff. • Their history, personal mythology, perceptions, biases, experiences, psychosocial development/history • My stuff. • My history, personal mythology, perceptions, biases, experiences, psychosocial history/development • Our stuff. • Our shared history, relational patterns of interaction, established patterns of behavior, expectations etc.
Challenging vs. Difficult? The effects of the words we use
Challenging requiring full use of your abilities or resources The Free Dictionary arousing competitive interest, thought, or action Merriam Webster
Difficult: hard to deal with, manage Merriam Webster hard to deal with; troublesome The Free Dictionary
Challenging customers • Arrives late • Misses or cancels appointments • Demanding and/or unpredictable • Does not complete tasks • Passive, unresponsive • Blames others • Defensive • Lazy • Racist • Unmotivated • Unrealistic expectations • Needy or dependent
Challenging Customers • The resistant customer • The angry or hostile customer • Other types of challenging customer
The resistant customer • Resistance is a natural reaction to change. Change can result in anxiety and fear. • Resistance cannot be attributed to a single underlying cause, but is the product of multiple internal and external influences. • There is no such thing as an unmotivated client/customer. • Many customers are believed to be difficult because of the effect they have on the counselor/case worker.
Resistive behaviors • Missing appointments • Arriving late • Blaming others • Lack of effort • Anger/hostility • Talking too much/too little • Nonadherence to rules, policy etc. • Defensiveness • Intellectualization • Uncooperativeness
Possible causes • Negative expectations, perhaps based upon experience or mythology • Interpersonal skills of counselor and customer • Customer’s fear of failure • Uncertainty leading to fear (fear of the unknown) • Skills deficit of counselor • Goals mismatch
Dealing with resistance • Help customers view their problems in a different light (re-frame). • Focus on customers positive coping strategies • (identify and develop strengths rather than focus on deficits). • Promote problem recognition and ownership • Help customers make decision to change
Set SMART Goals • A S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as one that is • Specific, • Measurable, • Achievable, • Results-focused, • Time bound.
Goals continued… • Goals must be meaningful • Start with small requests for change • Reviewable and modifiable • Be willing to let the customer tell his/her story • Must consider where the customer is in his/her readiness for change
Transtheoretical Model- Stages of Change Pre-Contemplation Stage – In this stage, people are not really interested in participating in behavior change to reduce risk factors and will defend their current behavior in the face of efforts to encourage change.
Contemplation Stage – People in the contemplation stage are likely to respond positively to information about the need to change, and are more likely to utilize educational interventions, and feel an emotional impetus to modify their behaviors.
Preparation Stage – People in this stage may be experimenting with small changes in their behavior. They have probably resolved to make a serious attempt at real change within the near future. These people will likely respond well to structured programs that can help get them to the next level.
Action Stage – People in this stage are engaged in a new, healthy behavior. This is a difficult time due to temptation and the chances of reverting to old behaviors since it hasn’t been all that long. They are open to receiving help to prevent relapse and to further build their confidence that they can succeed.
When confronted with difficult clients, we need to look at ourselves to see what we contribute to the process.
The Angry/hostile customer • Anger and fear are closely related emotions. • Anger may be masking depression or grief. • Grief is a common experience resulting from job loss. • When customers feel vulnerable, they may lash out at us. • Angry customers can be experts in detecting and exposing our weaknesses.
Angry/Hostile Behaviors • Scowl • Clenched fists, set jaw • Tension in voice • Tone of voice • Sarcasm • Missing appointments or arriving late
Possible Causes of Hostility • Fear of change, failure, loss of control • Feeling vulnerable • Fear loss of independence-seeking help • Habit- a learned reaction as a way to maintain control over others. • Displaced emotion or transference • Unempathetic counselor • Personality traits of customer • Past experiences, lack of social skills
Dealing with hostility • Try to identify the source of the client’s anger. • If the customer’s anger toward you is valid, it is best to admit your mistake and move on. • Is the anger infrequent or chronic? • Confront the client’s feelings in a nonjudgmental and nonthreatening way. • Attempt to diffuse the hostility by responding in ways that meet the client’s emotional needs, not your own.
What not to say: • “Look, I’m only trying to help you.” (guilt) • “If you don’t talk about it, you’ll never get over it”. (anxiety) • “Don’t bark at me, I haven’t done anything to you”. (more hostility) • “ I know you are angry. I know just how you feel”.
With chronic anger: • Set limits early on. State what behaviors will and will not be tolerated and what the consequences will be if limits are broken. • Evaluate the client’s readiness for change. • Consider the need for referral to behavioral health services. Anxiety management training, social skills training and problem-solving skills development are effective treatment approaches.
Potential violence Watch for signs of heightened tension. • Clenched fists • Loud voice • Angry words • Threatening words • Narrowed gaze • Sudden bursts of activity
What to do • End the session/conversation in a way that preserves some basis for a future relationship. • “I’m sorry, I’d really like to work with you, but right now you seem to be pretty upset. Maybe we can get together again later”. • Leave the room and alert security/consult with supervisor • Maintain thorough records
The Challenging Customer • Customers can be challenging for many reasons. • It is important to try to understand the reason behind the behavior and to not personalize it or label it in a way that limits how you respond to it (countertranference). • Recognize when your own good efforts to help a customer have been exhausted. • Know when to refer.
Prevention • Often, what we do can prevent “challenging” behaviors from occurring. • Be on time for appointments. • Reminder phone calls before the 1st & 2nd meeting. • Allow enough time during the first meeting to build rapport and to hear the customer’s story. • Engage in active listening & empathic understanding. • Eliminate distractions during appointments. • Promptly admit mistakes and move on. • Seek to understand your customer’s needs. • Establish clear roles, expectations and boundaries early on.
Other Challenging Behaviors • Being late • Silence • Changing subject • Involuntary behaviors/ticks • Forgetfulness • Exaggerations • Omissions • Lying • Lack of initiative/follow through • Poor Boundaries • Mental Health Issues
Possible Causes of Challenging Behaviors • Attempts to prevent embarrassment • Limited skills, fear of failure • Psychological issues • Cultural differences are not recognized • Unrealistic expectations/goals • Have not committed to change
Dealing with Challenging Behaviors • Seek first to understand • Document, document, document • Seek support, counsel from others • Know when to make a referral • Focus and build on customer strengths • Engage in a collaborative relationship working toward mutual goals. • Start with modest goals, work on only one change at a time. • Match your style/approach to the needs of the customer • Understand and make accommodations for cultural differences and older customers. • Avoid power plays, stay calm and in control of the conversation. • Know when to end the session/meeting
How to Make a Referral • If the customer’s challenge serves as a barrier to your ability to work with the customer… 1. Talk to your customer, focus on behaviors not personalities. 2. Act as a bridge, aiding the client in the referral process. 3. Other services may better serve the customer’s primary/immediate needs. 4. Follow up with the customer to maintain relationship and increase chances of follow through. 6. Thoroughly document process, consult with supervisor as appropriate.
Donna ThrashCareer Progression SpecialistBrevard Workforce321firstname.lastname@example.org