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How to deal with difficult customers

Posted by Sharnee on 27/04/2017

Whether your clients are private or commercial businesses, good customer service is paramount. It’s what separates businesses apart. Dealing with difficult customers is one of the most challenging things to wrestle with in a business especially if you're having a less than perfect day! So how do you handle a customer who is dissatisfied, angry, impatient, intimidating, demanding or frustrated? We give our top 4 tips.

1. Keep your cool.

Pretty obvious I know, but when someone is coming at you and pushing all your buttons, sometimes it's easier said than done. But you need to remember, you can't control anyone else's behaviour but you do have control over own actions. You aren't going to resolve the situation if you lose control over your emotions.

2. Let the customer vent.

Giving your customer the opportunity and space to get out their frustration is often all they need. At the very least, it can be the first step in resolving the situation. If the confrontation is taking place face-to-face, maintaining eye contact and showing attentiveness by standing up straight while they’re talking with you shows that you're paying attention and actually taking in what they have to say. And unfold those arms! By having your arms at your side rather than firmly folded across your chest shows you are open and approachable which will help soften the customers demeanour.

Sometimes you may even find after they've expressed their feelings, they feel a sense of guilt that they may have offended you and can quite often end up apologising.

3. Resolving the situation.

Put yourself in their shoes. Usually when there is an issue (particularly if it's making your life difficult), you want it resolved NOW. Try to spend as little time as possible focusing on the problem and find a way to quickly offer a solution. Sometimes this may mean bending your rules slightly in order to make things happen. But after all you are the boss, or manager or power-at-be and making an exception is often easy to do and within your authority. 

If the customer is still resisting or you are unsure what the actual issue is, give them the opportunity to identify what you can do to resolve the problem. And ask them to work with you to find a way to make it happen.

4. Go the extra mile.

Even though you may be left feeling rather disgruntled after dealing with your difficult customer, maintaining a high level of professionalism and customer service is paramount in how the customer views, and talks about you and your business. You want to change their negative view into a positive one. Show that you've heard their problems by sending a follow up email summarizing the next steps.
If you've promised to call - do it - even if it’s only to report that you don't have the answer or an update yet. The customer will be reassured that you haven't forgotten about their problem and that you're actively trying to resolve it.

If you can offer a quick solution, action it immediately, even if it means dropping everything in your schedule for the next hour to make it happen. Exceeding their expectations ensures they are left feeling well looked after and valued. This will in turn increase their faith in you and your service so you can continue the relationship.


None of us are perfect. So problems will occur and at times people will complain. But your business will continue to move forward. Learn from your past mistakes and put processes in place to ensure smoother sailing. Sometimes, the entire issue is with the person raising the complaint, not you, so take a deep breath, stay sympathetic and positive and above all, helpful.

But remember, don't take it personally.

How do you deal with difficult customers? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Topics: In the workplace, All