10 Ways You Can Handle Difficult Customers (And Personal Relationships)

Jon Clark

Is the customer always right?

What if the customer being right conflicts with the core foundations of your business?

You’re going to face difficult customer service situations at some point.

I don’t mean people who have genuine complaints that need to be resolved, some customers may request for services that weren’t captured in the agreement.

Some will spam your mailbox all day and leave bad reviews on social media to complain about something.

But how can you handle these situations? Do you flare-up and respond with the same tone?

There’s a way to handle difficult clients. And here are ways you can do this:

1. Hear Their Side Of The Story

One thing you shouldn’t do to customers is ignore them or the situation.

They want their voice heard and won’t mind going to greater lengths to get more people in on their views. That’s can be bad for business as potential customers only hear one side of the story.

Listening gives you the opportunity to build rapport with an angry customer. Empathize with them, difficult customers want to know someone is listening, so you can nod along as you hear their story.

2. Remain Calm

Dealing with difficult customers and complaints can be stressful.

Don’t turn this into you vs them.

Typically, this only results in escalating anger.

Instead, explain that you have their best interests at heart and try to do this is an even tone. The easiest way to start a shouting match is raising your voice on a person who’s already at a high pitch.

Try to calm them down and, if this is a physical confrontation, try to get them to sit down. This would also help them to start approaching the situation calmly.

Don’t get angry, remind them that you want to help and would need their cooperation to get that done.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

Most of the customers you’ll need to resolve issues with won’t be friends or acquaintances.

Yes, some customers or clients can get negative and take it personally but you shouldn’t respond with anger. Understand that this is happening because you’re the face of your company at that point.

Remember, not everyone has control over their emotions and their anger. Keeping this in mind, may help you handle the case better.

4. You Don’t Need To Handle It Immediately

There are some issues you’ll need to address at a later time because you’ll need to decide where you or the customer got it wrong.

Yes, you can be wrong and it’s okay to admit it to your customer.

If you have a promise, to call back at a certain time, or send a reply, try to fulfill your promise.

Give them an outline of all the steps you’ll take to resolve the issue.

It’s okay to take time to get things back to normal because it’s not necessarily about how fast the problem is solved, but the importance of preventing the problem from repeating itself in future.

5. Allow Them To Let It All Out

When you’re dealing with a difficult customer, you don’t want to interrupt them, they’d take it that you don’t care or understand the point they’re trying to make. Even if this is a problem that comes up frequently, you should allow them to rant as much as they want.

A good way to quickly close a recurring query is listening to all they have to say, pointing them to similar cases you’ve handled and explaining how you’ll use that experience to solve theirs.

You may actually understand what the problem is, but there’s one aspect of it you don’t “understand,” difficult customers like to vent and it’s okay to give them the opportunity to.

6. Don’t Tell Them They’re Wrong

Unless the case is so serious it results in a legal tussle, you shouldn’t tell the customer they are wrong. Yes, they may not always be right, but no one loves to hear that part.

Difficult customers love attention and it’s your job to give it to them in a professional manner.

Don’t try to justify your point, you’ll have the opportunity to state your views but don’t make it an “I’m right and you’re wrong” fight.

7. Try To Agree With Them

Deal with difficult customers by agreeing.

It’s not always wise to use rational thinking in a conversation to explain things to a customer – even though that’s how it should be. A difficult customer doesn’t want to feel like he’s not making any sense and this is where you can come in.

If it’s possible for you to agree on something, even if it’s just a point they made, do it.


Yes, it may not be your fault, maybe you’re not fully in control of that aspect of the business but they got that point right so agree.

8. Ask For Their Help

Customers who’ve experienced poor customer service feel they know two things, the problem and the solution.

So ask for their help, let them tell you how they would want that issue solved. It will ease a lot of frustration immediately.

It may be something you’ve thought about already but when you’ve finally gotten it solved the customer would feel that they changed something about your business and got their voice heard.

And that’s not bad for your business.

9. Have A Solution If Theirs Can’t Work

Your customer may suggest a solution that’s not in line with your policies. So you should always have a solution ready to solve the problem before facing a difficult customer.

The back and forth doesn’t benefit you in any way so you should always look forward to that time when you get to repair the relationship.

That’s the ideal end and solutions make that happen.

10. Know The Lines No One Should Cross

It’s okay to use these tactics on very angry customers, even the ones that get verbally abusive. But if someone harms or threatens to harm you or your employees in any way, it’s time to let security in on the issue.

Violence shouldn’t be a way to handle a difficult customer situation and they can’t get violent with you either.

That’s one line everyone should respect.