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Tricky customers. We’ve all come across them at some point. Whether it’s working in hospitality, retail or even as a podiatrist, there’s always one or two that make themselves known. The trick is knowing how to deal with these customers – while keeping your sanity at the same time.

As a podiatry team manager, I’ve found that having a few standard go-to strategies is the best approach. On any given day, I deal with patients and facility staff, both of which require 100% of my attention. Over the years I’ve found it’s not just enough to politely smile and nod, so with all my interactions, I aim to be genuine and have the customer’s needs front of mind.

Following these simple but effective strategies can help you reach a conclusion that’s better for everyone. You walk away feeling you’ve achieved something and the top-notch customer service you provide means they go home happy. It’s a definite win-win.

First up, listen.

When a customer wants to vent, it’s usually best to let them. Even if you think you know what they’re going to say, and even if you might not agree – for the customer, it’s a therapeutic exercise. It gives them a chance to get whatever’s on their mind off their chest and into the open. Actively listen to what they have to say, then reiterate their concerns back to them. If you acknowledge their feelings, it goes a long way to helping defuse the situation. Who knows, they might just be having a bad day. They are human after all.

Try to empathise with their situation.

Part of actively listening to a customer is about building rapport. Ask them why they feel the way they do. This is a great opportunity to engage with them and show your concern. After all, everyone likes being listened to. So if you can, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Even for a moment. You might find that when you understand their point of view better, you’ll naturally empathise with them.

Keep a lid on things.

We get it. Sometimes the natural reaction with a difficult customer might be to match their intensity. But as professionals, it’s important you keep a lid on things. So, my top tip for dealing with emotions is to remain as calm as can be, at all times. Easier said than done, but if a customer can see you’re getting flustered, things could escalate. So try not to take it personally. Take a few deep breaths. Get your Zen on. Think of a happy place. You’ll thank me later when you and your customer prevail with cool heads.

Get busy fixing.

Often, when customers want something fixed – it’s better to give a brief rundown of the actions you’re about to take. In reality, they probably won’t want to wait around too long, so if you can, make sure that first action is done as soon as possible. If it’s something you can’t action straight away, be sure to let your customer know, then keep the line of communication open. If you say you’re going to do something, make sure to back it up with action. Remember to be honest, open, and unafraid to communicate the reality of the situation. The customer will definitely appreciate your forthright approach.

Every customer counts.

When you think about it, every single customer interaction is an important one. Especially for podiatrists, because great customer service equals a loyal customer base. So keep these strategies in your back pocket for when you next need them. If you aim to handle every patient or staff interaction with empathy, service and care, it’ll go a long way to building a successful podiatry career.