How to Deal With the “Know-It-All” Customer


A person making an obnoxious gesture

We share lots of advice for having good conversations with customers who think that they know best.

The Difficulty of Dealing With Know-It-All Customers

A know-it-all customer has done their research and is prepared to challenge the advisor on their suggestions and advice. They will not hesitate to try and prove an advisor is wrong.

The contact centre advisor is then put into one of two difficult scenarios.

  • Scenario 1 – Having to admit they were wrong
  • Scenario 2 – Trying not to alienate the customer while turning the customer around

Both situations highlight a lack of confidence from the customer in the advisor. Restoring trust in the advisor’s ability is therefore a key starting point.

How you would go about doing this depends on which scenario you are in. So let’s take a look at how advisors can deal with both situations individually.

Scenario 1 – Having to Admit You Are Wrong

Own Any Mistakes That Have Been Made

The key message to give them is to own it. The mistake will come out in the long run anyway.

If an advisor slips up, is not totally clear on a process or simply misspoke, the key message to give them is to own it. The mistake will come out in the long run anyway.

Come straight out and say it. Making excuses will just drag out the call.

Offer a genuine apology to the customer and, if it’s a significant mistake, the advisor should look to reassure them that they are confident in their ability to answer the customer’s queries, in a humble way.

Walk the Customer Through the Situation

Now the air has been cleared, the advisor can start to regain the customer’s trust. To do this, an advisor can refocus the call and walk through the situation as they see it.

When an advisor does this, they can think about:

  • What does the customer see as the key outcomes?
  • What does the customer believe is the best path forward?
  • Why do they believe that?
A thumbnail photo of Justin Robbins

Justin Robbins

“The best way to understand the customer is to put yourself in their shoes,” says Justin Robbins, Chief Evangelist at CX Effect.

“Something has caused them to believe they know best. Unpick that and you can work together to find an ideal resolution.”

Understand the Last Resorts

When the advisor has made a mistake and the customer just won’t let it go, the conversation becomes very difficult.

If the advisor doesn’t know their last-resort option, they will panic, the conversation will drag on and it becomes a problematic situation for the person on both ends of the line.

A call-escalation policy is a classic last resort. Drawing this out and giving it to advisors as a nice visual aid makes it easy for them to understand their fallback options.

For more on creating a call-escalation policy, read our article: How to Handle Call Escalations

Scenario 2 – Turning the Customer Around (Nicely!)

Acknowledge and Compliment

It is also important that the advisor does not become passive and submissive…

It is important that advisors don’t damage rapport by directly telling the customer that they are wrong. Yet it is also important that the advisor does not become passive and submissive just because “they’re a customer”.

A better approach is to acknowledge the customer’s point and compliment them on being:

  • Attentive to the key details
  • Proactive in their research
  • Observant in spotting the mistake

Just make sure that advisors say this in a way that sounds authentic.

Your compliment will likely have gone some way in lightening the mood, which takes us onto our next step…

For more on giving good compliments in the contact centre, read our article: 50 Great Complimentary Words to Use in Customer Service

Present Your Knowledge as “Insider Information”

Once the customer is on a pedestal, respond assertively. Share your knowledge and expertise, before linking back to what the customer has previously stated.

Advisors have dealt with many of these queries before. So what they can do is position their advice to the customer so it seems like they are sharing inside information.

Statements like the below may help:

  • “99% of the customers that have asked me this before choose… because…”
  • “I was talking to a customer in a very similar position to you yesterday and what we did was… because…”
  • “Something I always recommend to customers in your position is… because…”

If the customer still feels the need to grab the upper hand, go back to recognizing their knowledge by using phrases such as:

  • “As you may have found…”
  • “As I’m sure you are aware…”
  • “As you are most likely know…”

These phrases will help to manage the customer’s ego, but an advisor’s ability to use them to great effect will depend greatly on their emotional intelligence.

Keep Calm and Manage Your Emotional Response

It’s hard for an advisor to stay calm and manage their emotions when a customer implies that they are wrong, when they are confident they are right.

Of course, there are many things that you could do in the contact centre to improve your team’s emotional intelligence, including:

  • Providing resilience training
  • Coaching advisors to control their breathing patterns
  • Holding open conversations within the team, discussing how they are feeling

One tip from Sangeeta, one of our readers, is to: “Embed your emotional intelligence in your talent screening and include emotional intelligence elements in your interviewing.”

Remind the advisor that the customer must value what they offer, otherwise they wouldn’t be engaging in a conversation with them.

Yet, in these situations, the most important thing to do is remind the advisor that the customer must value what they offer, otherwise they wouldn’t be engaging in a conversation with them.

Also, reassure advisors that it is easy to react to the negative tone of voice. But, if they can stay calm and professional, customers will find out for themselves that the advisor’s knowledge is superior.

Some Final Quick Tips

A key takeaway from this article is that, 99% of the time, a customer only becomes a know-it-all once they have lost confidence in the advisor’s ability.

We have shared some great tips for helping to restore this trust – such as walking the customer back through the interaction and sharing “insider information” – but there are other ways to do this.

So, here are some final key pieces of advice to share with your teams who struggle to deal with know-it-all customers.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the problem – Get back to the heart of the problem, by reflecting the query back to the customer to show that it has been fully understood.
  • Lower self-orientation – Think of customers as teammates. It’s good for an advisor to engage with the customer’s vision, instead of imposing their own on the customer.
  • Know the right questioning techniques – Find out what the customer’s ideal outcomes are. To do this, use questioning techniques, such as filtering, TED questions and leading questions.

To find out more about building trust in the contact centre, read our article: How to Build Customer Trust From the Contact Centre

For more advice for handling specific types of difficult customers, read our articles:

Published On: 22nd Mar 2021 - Last modified: 26th Mar 2021
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , ,



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