Dealing with difficult situations—putting it all together

Jani Rogers (JR Talent Management) leads a workshop offering methods for dealing with difficult customers.
Jani Rogers (JR Talent Management) leads a workshop offering methods for dealing with difficult customers.

After describing the dynamics of what customers need to have a positive experience, Rogers moved into a more specific presentation on the role of the consumer affairs professional when dealing with difficult situations.

Simply put, customer affairs professionals exist to take care of problems.  Serving customers is more than an individual choice—service is an organization-wide attitude—an attitude demonstrated by individual actions. Customers, company, and the law must be in-sync to provide great customer service—with great communication between and among all.

A word about communication
Rogers stated that effective communication is the key that solves the mystery of insurance to the customer.  Communication, important at all times, is especially important when dealing with sensitive situations.

From the customer perspective, when contacting either regulators OR industry professional, they are experiencing FEAR—defined here as False Expectations Appearing Real.  The customer’s fears must be addressed and that is done through communication.  Communication will break down the consumer emotions of distrust and anger.

The difficult customer
Rogers noted that the difficult customer can have either a legitimate grievance or simply be a customer with a need to talk.  Customers become angry at insurance companies and regulators because the customer has suffered an unexpected event and now are experiencing some level of emotional response as they turn to the insurance industry to help make them whole from this event. Whether a legitimate grievance or not, the role of the customer service representative is to move the conversation into solving, ending or an agreed-upon positive next step.

Regardless of the situation, the customer service representative must find the right words to reassure the consumer and empower the individual.  Consumer affairs professionals can do this by letting the consumer know they are always important to the company and reinforce the feelings of attachment, inclusion and control.

Jani Rogers (JR Talent Management) shares practical, simple ideas on how to handle confrontational customers.
Jani Rogers (JR Talent Management) shares practical, simple ideas on how to handle confrontational customers.

Professional response to the difficult customer
Rogers offers this formula for all consumer affairs professionals working with a difficult customer:

  • Pause:  Give the customer time to express themselves and encourage them to express their emotions.  Just listen—without interruption—and frequently reason will creep in.
  • Acknowledge: Empathize, but do not agree, “I understand why this is difficult for you.”
  • Clarify:  Show them you care by working to understand every detail—ask questions that will give you the details you’ll need.
  • Respond:  Craft a positive and appropriate response that will resolve the root cause of the problem but do not overpromise.  Create a next step action plan—and do it.
  • THANK the consumer: Remember to thank, with sincerity, the individual.

Customer service professionals who demonstrate these behaviors will create a positive interaction with the customer.  Those customers will move forward talking about the proactive actions of the company—even if the decision is not exactly what they think they want.

Customer service professionals who:

  • Respond in a personal (not emotional) manner,
  • Provide a positive attitude,
  • Provide choices, and
  • Always, always follow through…will ultimately be successful as professionals.

Those professionals will reap benefits for themselves, their company and the organizations designed to regulate the industry—and the industry will grow exponentially—because the customer is being well served.

Skills every customer service professional must develop
Rogers concluded her comments with a quick-hit overview of skills every professional must have or acquire in order to be successful when working with any consumer—but especially a difficult consumer.

  • Tact:  Because people are easily displeased or disappointed—seek tactful ways to convey information.
  • Patience:  Listen attentively to what is really happening.
  • Empathy:  Ability to understand the customers’ needs and mood.
  • Like people:  Build relationships to retain customers—keeping a relationship is easier than finding a new one.
  • Positive attitude:  Defined as a desire to make everything right for the customer as best you can.
  • Good assessment:  Create the ability to get information from the customer—even if the customer doesn’t realize this is important.  Have the critical ability to effectively gauge what is needed.
  • Negotiation:  Professionals must be able to make a quick and shrewd decision regarding customer needs without sacrificing policy and regulations.
  • Attention to detail:  Life is detailed; so is insurance.  A truly great professional remembers and acts upon the details for the customer, the company and the regulator.

Rogers urged all attending to remember, regardless of industry, without the customer, we have no work to do. 


Jani Rogers
JR Talent Management
204 Bayou Court
Coppell, TX 75019

Click here to view Rogers’ presentation

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