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10 ways to deal with difficult customers effectively

jean pierre fumey



Difficult customers

“The customer is always right,” but at times, it’s not easy dealing with some. There are those customers who want to do your job as you do theirs, tell you how to do the job, while others are just disrespectful or merely nasty pieces of work.

Sadly, you don’t get to pick your clients, so you have to deliver value to all, including the difficult ones. Businesses working in the customer service industry must learn how to deal with demanding customers. Having the best products and services is not enough, and you will have occasional encounters with angry customers. However, having well-trained staff that can deal with difficult clients and resolve their complaints will help build a positive reputation.

So, it’s possible to deal with a problematic customer effectively if you understand what is contributing to their disappointment. This post will give you some scenarios and tips on how you can turn these situations into an excellent opportunity to enhance the reputation of your brand and improve your business.

Different forms of difficult customers

The impatient customer: This is an individual that has been waiting in a queue longer than usual. As a result, the person runs late to their next appointment. Still, the person could be restless as they seek a solution to their concern or issue.

The indecisive customer: An individual might struggle to choose between two or more products or service options. Sadly such clients don’t communicate their concerns, but instead, they keep on complaining about certain features or how a product works because they can’t make a decision.

The angry customer: This is an unsatisfied customer, especially with the end results, and any attempt to correct the situation worsens it, or it does not improve it.

The demanding customer: This type of difficult customer zaps a huge amount of energy and time at the expense of other customers. Such a person doesn’t accept alternatives even though they are a better fit.

The vague customer: The individual has no clear idea of what they want. As a result, the customer doesn’t completely understand the available options or wrongly articulates the issue. They may get annoyed when you ask them questions about their needs, or their answer might not help.

The unhappy customer: This customer doesn’t appreciate the resolutions offered. The disappointed and angry customers have a similar response.

Demand for a refund: The customer is so unhappy or disappointed that they want their money back, irrespective of the refund policy.

Here are ways to deal with difficult clients effectively.

Listen more, talk less

Arguing or taking over the customer is not right nor the best strategy to handle the situation. Allow the customer to have their say even when you know what they are about to say next or are misinformed or mistaken. Instead, listen attentively and try to build rapport with them.

Another strategy is to answer a question with a question and repeat their statements back to them. This deflects attention and keeps the customer talking, thus making it a monologue instead of a conversation. While this might sound weird, it helps you understand them or learn more about them so that you can find an effective solution to their concerns.

Still, allowing them to talk without you getting defensive is probably what they needed and not a solution, especially when they have an imagined problem. It also helps in a situation where the customer feels their concerns are not understood or are not adequately dealt with. So they fall for broad generalizations such as “nothing is working here,” or “everything is wrong here,” or “you never finish on time.”

Lower your voice

Don’t compete with customers when it comes to shouting, and so when they get louder, speak in a low tone. They will settle down when they see your calm demeanor and agree to discuss their issues without a lot of anger. On your side, you should approach their problem calmly, unaffected by their tone or volume, and with a clear mind.

At times a customer may be getting worked up due to an imagined problem such as being unable to decide which product or service is the best fit for them, they may feel delayed, or it’s taking too long to get served. Because of such a dilemma, a client may get annoyed and blame it on you. However, their anger subsides when you speak slowly and calmly.

Don’t take it personally

Customers may get personal when they encounter some challenges; however, you shouldn’t. Instead, focus on the issue at hand. In most instances, your customers don’t know you in person. They just know you as a representative of the company whose brand, products, or services have disappointed them. Therefore, stick to the problem, guide the conversation, and tell them how you intend to resolve it.

Choose your words carefully

There are instances when the customer is not difficult, but your words, voice quality, tone, facial expressions, and posture may be creating tension. This might be happening without your knowledge, and the frequent use of confrontational terms or nonverbal actions could be the problem. The best strategy to have zero conflict with any client is to use the mirror and match technique. This keeps you on the same page because of keeping them at ease and assuring them that you understand their concerns.

Deliver a prompt reply

Always make it your priority to sort issues raised by your unhappy clients because this validates them. But this doesn’t mean you’re accepting the blame; instead, it’s a way of establishing a good relationship with them. So when they send you an email listing their concerns, be quick to acknowledge it and offer to call them back to discuss the issue further.

If you promise to call them back, make sure you do exactly that even if you don’t have the needed update. When you call the unhappy customer at the scheduled time, they feel appreciated, and it reassures them that you’re trying to solve their problem and not dodging them.

Investigate the problem

When dealing with a problematic customer, your goal should be to achieve what they want if at all it’s possible. Therefore, avoid running around handling petty details that hinder you from achieving the end goal. So look for the root cause of the problem rather than treating the symptom because if you dont, the same problem will come up again and again.

For instance, a client might have certain expectations that are misaligned with the services that your business can deliver. Also, it might be communication–related where they believe one thing yet the opposite is true. In such a situation, you need to talk to the involved parties or confirm with your records to find out what went wrong-if at all something went wrong-and then offer a solution or rectify the process to avoid any issues in the future.

Offer a solution

Depending on the type of scenario, your company might be wrong or not. Offering a solution doesn’t include admitting you’re wrong but involves looking for a way to solve the problem at hand.

For instance, admitting you’re in the wrong when handling a client’s project, tell them how you will solve the problem, and get back on track is one of the excellent ways of dealing with them. However, if they are in the wrong and you can prove from the relevant clauses in the letter of offer or contract will help to solve the problem.

Another scenario is when there was a communication breakdown that contributed to this problem. The solution to such an issue is offering an alternative mode of communication that includes the client. Giving clients a wide range of solutions to pick what works best for them is an excellent way of dealing with demanding customers.

Acknowledge but never agree

Dealing with vague and indecisive customers might be challenging because they don’t understand their needs. Agreeing with them may not help; instead, this might add fuel to the fire. To resolve their problem, just acknowledge their position and immediately shift the focus to the resolution.

This strategy helps to concentrate more on the solution rather than their complaint. It will enhance their interest in finding facts instead of dwelling on their imagined problem and the ranting.

Know when to give in

At times trying to please a rude person may take a lot of time and energy, and in the end, you might get negative referrals even after putting in so much effort. So, firing them or conceding defeat might be the best solution to this problem because it will give you enough time to nurture more productive relationships with other customers.

Further, allowing them to go to your competitor is better than the emotional drain you get in exchange for their revenue, or at times you come out without any profits despite the efforts invested in serving them. Actually, it’s a win-win situation when your competitor gets your irrational customer while you get to spend a good time with more productive ones.

Take a break

It’s important to recharge your energy after an encounter with a difficult client. Previously you might have tried to go an extra mile to help a demanding client, although you felt they don’t deserve it, but it reaches a time when you can’t give the best.

At such a time, you may shift your focus to clients that appreciate you by either asking another person to handle the complaining customer or concede defeat by allowing them to try your competitor. The reason is that there are other clients who are not difficult to deal with, and working with them will be an energy booster.


The list of the best strategies for dealing with difficult customers can be endless. However, the post has given you 10 tactics that hopefully can resolve the difficult client situation. It’s best to acknowledge their position and immediately shift the focus to the resolution because this takes them away from the ranting.

Sometimes resolving a demanding customer’s problem might be hard even after following the above ways. The only solution is to prioritize the clients bringing in the majority of your revenue and firing the difficult ones. This will create a room for customers that can improve your bottom line and boost your energy.

Jean-Pierre is a polyglot communication specialist, freelance journalist, and writer for with over two decades of experience in media and public relations. He creates engaging content, manages communication campaigns, and attends conferences to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. He brings his wealth of experience and expertise to provide insightful analysis and engaging content for's audience.

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