5 Tips on How to Deal With Difficult Customers

girl on a phone

Dealing with difficult customers can be a challenge. Training your staff to handle the situation calmly and confidently can turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest promoters. The likelihood of encountering difficult customers is more significant for those businesses that interact with the public daily. Now that most pandemic restrictions have been lifted, there’s a good chance you may have to deal with difficult customers who’ve been waiting on orders or never received them. We’ve helped and partnered with a wide variety of industries in providing exceptional customer service to customers who are hard to deal with. We’ll share some of the secrets on how to appropriately handle the situation while keeping your nerves intact. 


You know what it’s like to be on the other side as customers. Maybe, once you did not receive the product or service you were expecting, it can be frustrating, aggravating, and even infuriating but how you handle the situation determines the outcome. If you’re like most dissatisfied customers, you may mention it to a store associate and resolve the matter peacefully. Other customers prefer to create unpleasant and uncomfortable experiences through difficult behavior or abusive language. When this happens to you, you may wonder why customers are so difficult. Here are a few reasons for difficult customers: 

  • Poor customer service – When you’ve invested in hiring and training your staff, it’s hard to accept that your staff’s lousy attitude may impact your customer service. If this happens, it could be from a lack of adequate training. Regardless of who displayed the poor attitude first, it’s your employee’s responsibility to deal with it personally and win the customer over. Being able to disarm the customer with a sincere question during a confrontation should be part of customer service training. Your associate mustn’t present the question in an antagonistic manner or it will likely escalate the situation. 

poor service emotion

Developing scripts for an associate to reference when circumstances like this arise can be a game-changer. You want to handle the situation quickly, but you also want to show your employees that you support them. By providing a script, associates have a crutch to lean on when they become flustered with difficult customers. Additionally, guiding associates to avoid blaming the customer will help to de-escalate further confrontations. 

  • Inadequate customer service – Those times when your business fails to live up to the customer’s expectations can be challenging. Whether it is a result of difficult staff or a poor buying experience, it’s essential to focus on hiring the best and creating a simple design your customers will appreciate, so it doesn’t happen again. As a business owner, you know that your customers are the face of your brand. Overseeing the hiring process, maintaining appropriate staffing levels, and ensuring that all new hires are adequately screened and trained on your business strategy and values is half the battle. Combining this with creating an effortless design makes it easy for your customers to navigate the buying process and avoid confusion. 
  • Broken promises – In the unfortunate event that your business fails to deliver on a promise it has made, you should train your employees to show genuine interest and apologize for coming up short. They must indicate acknowledgment of the customer’s anger by placing themselves in their shoes. Disappointment in not receiving a promised product or service is not an excuse for difficult customers, but understanding the perspective can help to diffuse the conflict. A simple apology can quickly de-escalate customer conflict and bring you both to a successful conclusion. Be careful not to make any more promises that your business can’t keep. 
  • Not listening – All customers want to feel like they are being heard and acknowledged. The trend of the “entitled customer” encourages consumers to consistently expect superior service and experiences. Consumers now are expecting more from businesses both online and in person. Your associates can use the tactics of active listening, positive body language, and no interruptions when they encounter an entitled customer. When your associate remembers eye contact, remains neutral, and mindful, your customer will recognize the efforts made to understand their entire message. Without interruptions, your customers will feel you’ve resolved their issues. 

While training your associates, they should be advised against crossing arms and looking elsewhere while customers talk. Doing so will show disinterest and defensiveness. Your customers should feel like they can get their concerns off their chest and that the associate will resolve their complaints. 

  • A bad day – We all have bad days. For those times you and your staff have done all you can to appease your customers, and the customer still continues to be difficult, it’s time to initiate a different technique. Sometimes a customer may be taking out frustrations that you don’t have any power to fix. When this happens, you handle the situation by politely stating that you don’t have the ability to fix it and inviting them to fill out a comment form. Next, you create boundaries to protect you and your staff from the abuse. Customer aggression should not subject you and your team to abusive behavior in the form of foul language, hateful speech, or threats. It should be communicated to the irate customer what will happen if the behavior continues. 

How to Deal with difficult Customers

As a business associate or owner, dealing with particular customers comes down to effective conflict management. We’ve answered the question of “why are customers so difficult.” Now we’ll address the challenges of conflict management with difficult customers and how to properly handle the situation. These tips are also helpful for how to deal with unreasonable people in general: 

  • Remain calm and don’t react – Anytime you wonder how to deal with unreasonable people, it’s best to remain calm and not react. Control will allow you to regain your composure and adequately manage the conflict with clarity. When you’re faced with an unexpected verbal attack, your first instinct may be to respond with the same aggression. 

getting out of trouble

Research has shown that difficult customers violate an employee’s sense of dignity and respect while triggering emotions that motivate them to react negatively. Instead of returning the hostility, take several deep breaths and remain tactful in any response. By remaining calm, you will stay alert to the customer’s behavior and step away from the situation to ask a colleague for help. When customers complain online, they may be more aggressive. If you react through social media or online, we recommend avoiding the temptation to become aggressive or hostile. Make your willingness to help clear through positive and professional language. 

  • It’s not personal – Keep in mind that the customer is angry about inferior products or services, and you happen to be the person they want to take it out on. There may be other issues that are contributing to their anger, including the ones listed above. The recent pandemic has caused many people to be frustrated, which has been pent up for several months with no outlet. A minor inconvenience can trigger hostility or aggression. 

By exercising emotional intelligence and empathy, you can avoid taking a customer’s behavior to heart and diffuse their behavior. You’ll realize that they just want to be heard. Retaining self-control will ensure you handle the situation appropriately. 

  • Listen and apologize when appropriate – As mentioned above, being an active listener while apologizing for any broken promises will go a long way with difficult customers. No matter how unreasonable difficult customers sound, it’s essential to be an active listener and allow them to vent. At appropriate times, acknowledge what they’ve said, repeat it back to them for clarification, and display sincerity. Always remain aware of your body language during a conflict to show an open attitude and willingness to listen. When you know how to deal with unreasonable people who use abusive language, you’ll have an easier time managing the conflict and calming the customer down. 
  • Be firm – Showing an empathetic and compassionate attitude towards difficult customers is always recommended, but it’s wise to be assertive when necessary. When an angry customer is repeating the same points repeatedly or trying to prevent you from contributing to the conversation, you will need to be firm in your response. A customer may be making false statements or requesting you to break the rules to appease them. Your answer should be clear and confident while addressing the details of the matter. This may be challenging but reminding yourself of your obligations and duties, especially if it relates to safety, will help keep you on track. Rely on your colleagues to provide support when needed.
  • Fix the problem – One of the most effective ways to disarm an upset customer is to involve them in solving the problem that’s causing the frustration. Ask your customers what they consider to be an acceptable solution so you both will have something to work towards that you align on. Quick and simple solutions like refunds or returns will help you make progress immediately and calm angry customers down. 

There may not be an easy or simple solution to a problem. When difficult customers are unreasonable in times of crisis, it’s best to acknowledge the difficulty and articulate your position firmly. If they continue the difficultness or resort to abusive language, remind them of the consequences of continuing the bad behavior and seek support. 

Support Your Team after Dealing with difficult Customers

a team that throws a five

As a business owner, you may encounter difficult customers becoming hostile with your employees. The experience is a perfect time to show them how to deal with unreasonable people. For example, train your associate to deal with it personally by offering support and checking in with them. Choose the appropriate time to approach them and discuss what was said. After getting a complete understanding of what occurred, find out what you can do to help. This may include making changes to employee training or initiating a customer service survey. 

Your priority is the well-being of your employees during challenging circumstances. This goes a long way for the success of your overall business and reputation. When your employees know they can lean on you for support, you empower them to make informed decisions on how to deal with unreasonable people. 

We Can Help You Handle the Situation of difficult Customers

Our 24/7 answering service and virtual receptionist can provide relief from difficult customers. Our well-trained bilingual and live staff provide exceptional customer service for a wide variety of industries. When difficult customers call, they have the training to handle the situation with care. 

Why are customers so difficult? There are many reasons for negative behaviors. For a business owner or associate, it is a stressful experience. Taking a breather and gaining perspective will help you improve how you deal with it personally. Turn the negative into a positive by using the complaint as a learning tool for the future. In the meantime, our phone answering service takes the pressure off you and your staff by allowing you to focus on growing your business. 

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