The 4 Customers That Drive IT Pros Crazy – And How to Deal With Them

May 4, 2017

How IT help desk workers should deal with a chatty customer, a confrontational customer, an angry customer, a timid customer or a sad customer.

Anyone who has ever worked at an IT help desk knows that soft skills often trump hard skills.

Yes, you need to know how to fix the technical problems people come to you with. But, just as importantly is knowing how to deal with people, so they have a good experience and you get the information you need to fix their issue quickly.

The problem with that? The people IT help desk pros are looking to help often make things more difficult on them. Far too often, people are emotional, uncommunicative or outright rude to IT pros, making it harder for them to do their job.

So how should IT pros deal with difficult customers? Well, in her LinkedIn Learning course IT Service Desk: Customer Service Fundamentals, Instructor Fancy Mills outlined the four most problematic customer types IT pros encounter – and strategies on how to handle them.

How to deal with the impassioned customer

This is dealing with a customer with high emotion, whether it be frustration or (most commonly) anger. Their emotion can often make it difficult to get to the root of the problem and ultimately fix their issue.

What you should do: First off, remain calm. And you can do that by focusing on the solution, instead of their words.

If a person rants, let them finish and make an empathetic statement to him or her – “I’m sorry to hear that.” But then, take control of the situation by asking closed-ended questions. If they start getting emotional again, repeat that process – let them rant, make an empathetic statement and then go back to more closed-ended questions, at least to start.

It also helps to find the root of their emotions and to acknowledge that, but then quickly getting on to the fix. For example, if they are facing a deadline, tell them you are sorry to hear that but then jump into the solution.

“Customers need us to remain calm and positive, and to guide them to resolution,” Mills said in her course.

How to deal with a combative customer

This is beyond just an angry customer. This is someone who is looking for an argument, who challenges everything you say.

“I once had a customer tell me I was stupid, I don't know what I'm talking about and what I was telling him wouldn't work,” Mills said in her course. “It's a lot to take in from someone that you're trying to help.”

What you should do: “Strategies for the combative customer include remain calm, don't get draw into an argument, don't get defensive or make excuses, acknowledge but don't validate or agree with any statements,” Mills said in her course.

Instead, allow them to vent and redirect them back to the issue at hand with closed-ended questions at first, Mills said. And don’t let them know you bothered them, even if they have.

“In reality, (combative customers) are like every other customer," Mills said. "They ultimately want their issue fixed.”

How to deal with the chatty customer

These customers seem to talk about everything but the situation at hand. They’ll talk about their personal life, people in the office, the weather – all of which get in the way of you trying to help them.

What you should do: When dealing with a chatty customer, it’s easy to zone out because they talk so much and often talk quickly. It’s essential to stay focused to listen for important clues, Mills said.

Additionally, ask close-ended questions, as open-ended questions will often lead to more rambling. And use their name, particularly when you need to interrupt – saying it is a polite way of doing that.

A chatty customer will often look to engage you in conversation as well. Resist that urge and answer questions politely, but in a short, closed manner.

“Handling chatty customers doesn't have to be painful or even dreaded,” Mills said in her course. “By implementing some key strategies to help control, contain and move the contact on, we can enjoy assisting our chatty customers to resolution.”

How to deal with the timid customer

Timid customers are the opposite of chatty customers. They provide too little information, often because they are not familiar with technology or they blame themselves for the problem. It can difficult to help them because they often don’t provide the specific answers you need.

What you should do: First off, when you have a timid customer, realize fixing the problem might take longer than usual. So take a deep breath, relax and slow down.

When talking with them, listen for descriptive words that might help you solve the problem. When asking questions, be very specific to help direct the customer. If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ask to remote in to a timid customer’s computer or send a technician on-site.

“Timid customers don't have to make us pull our hair out,” Mills said in her course. “Slow down, take a breath, and use the strategies that will best work for the customer. By taking time and taking care of a timid customer, you'll give them confidence and provide excellent customer service.”

*Image from Kai Chan Vong, Flickr

IT pros – looking to sharpen your skills? View our 14-course learning path tailored for IT help desk specialists for free until May 24th.