How to Manage Difficult Customers

Even when you feel like you’re on top of your game, there will be times when you’ll have to deal with difficult guests.

They may be in a bad mood, had a less-than-pleasant day, aren’t acquainted with cultural expectations, or are just wired that way.

It’s always best to believe in the best of humanity when you happen upon a guest that seems bent on making things difficult for you. They may not behave that way under different circumstances.

But this doesn’t change the fact that you must manage them. So, how does one go about that?

Listen & Resist The Temptation To Argue

When a guest is aggressive towards you, your knee-jerk reaction will be to argue back at them. Unfortunately, this does not solve the problem and can even cause it to escalate. Remember – it’s not about you, so don’t take it personally.

The first step to managing a difficult guest is to listen to their complaint. People want to feel like their issue has been heard, however unreasonable it might be. Keep in mind that an angered or agitated person often doesn’t have the advantage of a level head and rational thinking.

If they prompt you to respond to a question, do not shout back at them. Simply respond in a calm, detached manner. Mirror neurons cause people to adjust their body language and demeanor to the person they are talking to – that’s the goal. If you are calm, they will eventually match you and calm down.

Show That You Understand The Problem

If you listened carefully to what the guest had to say, there’s a good chance you’ve identified the real issue at work. You can express your understanding by summarizing what they said and ask them if you understand them correctly.

If you need to ask further questions to better understand what they’re complaining about, do so. It’s best to respond when you understand the issue well.

Don’t Play The Blame Game

In the moment, it might seem like a smart thing to blame a coworker or manager for the problem. Deflecting can temporarily displace the anger or frustration.

But ultimately this doesn’t work out for anyone – you, your colleagues, superiors, or the guest. If you take pride in your work, then don’t play the blame game.

Inform The Guest What You’re Going To Do To Solve The Problem

If it’s an easy problem to solve, you should be able to let them know what actions you’re going to be taking immediately to bring resolution to the matter. Even if you don’t know what to do right now, you can let them know that you’ll be talking to your manager to figure out what you are authorized to do in this situation.

If you’ve shown that you understand their problem, this may be satisfactory. If not, try to get your manager on the phone right then and there.

Check Up On The Guest

Once you’ve solved the issue, or you’re taking steps to get there, hopefully the difficult guest has calmed down. You can follow up with them later to see if the issue was resolved to their satisfaction, and send them a regret note so they know they are valued. You can also offer them a discount on future stays or whatever you feel is appropriate given the situation.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, you should be able to handle problematic guests using the above steps. In instances where things get out of control, it’s best to be acquainted with emergency procedures. Ask your manager if you aren’t sure. For better or for worse, you may find that you need to contact authorities, but only in extreme scenarios.

If the difficult guest felt like you dealt with the issue in a professional manner, they will become loyal customers and advocates for your business. Do your best to solve their problem.