The customer is always right… even when they are wrong. This article looks at how to deal with difficult customers and diffuse any awkward situations that might arise

People who are unwell or in pain – as well as those looking after them – can sometimes be short-tempered or even rude, and pharmacy staff are often on the receiving end of that. Common customer complaints include a variety of things, such as thinking they have been over-charged; having to wait too long for service; being unhappy with the price or range of products on offer, or feeling they have been treated rudely or unhelpfully by a member of staff. Trying to communicate with someone who is angry is difficult and uncomfortable, and your first instinct may be to respond to their anger with your own, but listen carefully to what they have to say and politely and calmly try to resolve their problem, or ask your supervising pharmacist to help.

Keep your cool

Often, an unhappy customer appears much more hostile than they actually feel. But, if you have to deal with someone who is angry, keep your cool and help calm them down by:

  • Letting them talk without interrupting
  • Empathising with their situation (even if you don’t agree with them) by using phrases such as “I understand” or “I appreciate your concern”
  • Explaining your situation or point of view
  • Offering them choices or solutions to resolve the problem. Above all, don’t take anything that the customer says personally, and don’t be rude or answer them back. In the rare event that someone wants to make a formal complaint about you or your pharmacy, your pharmacy manager will be able to explain how they can do this, which may involve them simply speaking to your supervising pharmacist or writing to your head office.

Service with a smile

Research shows that helpful, friendly customer service can boost sales, customer satisfaction and the chance of repeat business because the customer becomes confident that you have their best interests at heart rather than simply wanting to make a sale. Whether you’re faced with a customer who is tetchy because they are not feeling well or because they have a genuine complaint to make, you need to deal with them in a calm, polite, yet assertive way so that when they leave the pharmacy, you are satisfied that you have done your best to help, and they still have a positive view of your pharmacy.

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