Creating Extraordinary Customer Relationships

Rick Goodfriend

Business professor Michael LeBoeuf famously stated, “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” This may sound simple, but any working professional knows that satisfying customers takes more than a great product; it takes a great relationship, which is admittedly a much more complicated task.

Here are three tips for working with difficult clients and customers:

1.When listening to a customer, try silent empathy.
Oftentimes in customer service, while we are listening to customer complaints we are simultaneously formulating our verbal response. While trying to solve their issue may seem like the correct response, an even more constructive option is to try silent empathy while they are speaking. Empathy is a deep understanding of what another person is going through; silent empathy is the practice of guessing at what your communication partner is feeling and needing. By simply guessing and attempting to identify their emotional state and their current values, your consciousness will shift to compassion and connection with your customer. Even if you do not verbalize this, your eventual response will be stronger and better received. Your answer may be momentarily delayed, but at least you will have acknowledged their needs for connection and trust and stopped the downward spiral of defensiveness.

2. Reply with “You,” not “I.”
When dealing with customers who are clearly emotionally excited, our kneejerk response is to reply with “I had a rough day too,” “I didn’t cause that!, “I need you to calm down,” or another “I” statement. More compassion is shown by starting your reply with “you.” Examples include: “I am sorry you had a hard day,” “Would you appreciate and value more trust right now?,” “What are your needs right now?” You will be surprised how the quality of your connection and interaction increase when you keep the focus on the speaker.

3. Take a time out.
Everyone has had one of those days when you just don’t know if you have the emotionally energy to deal with another client or customer, especially if you anticipate the exchange to be emotionally charged. In these instances, taking a communication time out might be the best option. First ask yourself:

  • Is communicating right now a “have to” or “choose to?”
  • Can this communication wait until I reenergize, meeting my needs for nurturance, connection, ease, etc?
  • If I hear a response I don’t enjoy, can I stay present and avoid becoming contentious?

If you decide to take a time out, use the break to intentionally re-energize and focus on getting your needs met so you will be better able to communicate when the time comes.

More tips can more can be found in I Hear You, But… The book is available for purchase on in paperback copy and Kindle format and directly from

These tips are from Rick Goodfriend’s book, “I Hear You, But…” He has been teaching communication skills to businesses audiences and the public for over a decade. He is the founder of World Empathy Day, a day of increased consciousness for forgiveness, peaceful communication, connection with self and others, and acceptance.