How to Handle Difficult Customers

Every business inevitably encounters dissatisfied, angry, or difficult customers. These challenging situations can have a significant impact on staff morale, customer loyalty, and the overall reputation of a business.

If you’ve seen videos on social media about customers actively disrupting a business out of frustration over certain issues, they can be a nightmare situation that can happen to your business.

The following will cover the steps to take to diplomatically resolve situations with an irate customer.

Swift Response to Customer Issues

Swift resolution will be critical to prevent customer resentment over “slow response” and a bad review.

Customers rely on staff to promptly address any issues brought up. The more time the issue remains unresolved, the greater the challenge in managing it becomes.

If you have difficulty talking to angry customers face-to-face, you can ask them to leave behind a phone number or email address to set up a private conversation with them about the experience.

Avoid Personal Offence

As the classic adage goes, “nothing personal, just business.”

Some customers who actively fire away during a rant may take things too personal and talk about the employee they address. You must still remain calm and listen, then acknowledge the points they made while avoiding giving cues. Some observers may say irate customers are a case in psychology as they might be probing for pressure points to force you to react.

A lack of experience handling irate customers can turn a bad situation into a PR nightmare. If that customer had been loyal to your business, you can’t risk them turning on you and actively driving others from your business and into the competition’s arms.

Never Argue with Difficult Customers

Angry or irate customers will possibly raise voices at you or the employee attending to them. If an angry customer yells at you, whatever happens do not yell back, as the customer could be provoking you to a shouting match. Overt hostility may fuel their sense of indignation and escalate the situation.

While the temptation to yell back seems like a no-choice option, it’s important to remain calm and hear them out. Only then you can try summarising the points and clarify where needed. It can also be a sign that the customer acknowledges that you’re listening to them and possibly calm down for a more cohesive conversation.

Ask the Customer about their Preferred Resolution

If the customer has been able to calm down and express their points over a situation, you can ask them what kind of resolution they want to see happen.

Do not make the first offer as they could try bargaining for other concessions. The negotiations should establish a common ground but as the owner, you firmly hold the line when you see that some of the customer’s ideas may seriously affect your business. In many cases, the customer may take the best offer and save face.


If you manage to resolve the situation and the customer was left satisfied, you can still contact them for a follow-up conversation and ask if there was anything else that could have been better handled. Be prepared for the possibility they wouldn’t want to talk again, but take the situation as a reevaluation with your customer service and operations team.

Other Types of Difficult Customers

Some customers might not be upset with you, but may have varying degrees of frustration, like indecisive customers and impatient customers.

Indecisive customers may be at a loss on what product or service to buy from you. Have an effective customer service attendant who can gently engage them and can listen actively to find a product/service they’ll be happy with in the end.

Impatient customers may look rude, but in reality, they want fast resolution of issues as they are pressured for time. Visualise the situation in the customer’s eye and reassure them they will act on the matter quickly. You must kill with kindness by calmly talking to them and show they will be attended to.

Effective Customer Service Team

Resolving customer conflicts can be exhausting and distract from other functions. You will need to invest in building a strong customer service team that will prepare for all types of customer scenarios on the floor and act accordingly and professionally.

Case in Point

With the above matter taken into account, take the following scenario where it can be applied.

A noted diner in your town offers homecooked pasta meat sauce with a free 500 grams of a branded ready-to-cook spaghetti pack thrown in. You already paid for the order and are eagerly awaiting the dispatch rider’s arrival using a delivery app the business uses as a partner merchant, after a fun discussion with the business owner.

Somehow, the rider ends up two towns over, 30 kilometres away, and is actually calling you from there. So what do you do?

You might be tempted to verbally abuse the driver for going to a location where you’re not actually present and report everything to the business owner. While you vent out your frustration at the business owner, and even dismiss the driver when he actually comes over to your property, you manage to listen to the business owner trying to resolve the situation from your end.

After crosschecking, the business owner informs you later in the day that they found the app errored in plotting the driver’s actual route, and the rider may be liable for not alerting the service within a specified time after the booking was made.

As such, they can take a more conciliatory tone by offering you a refund or to deliver a fresh batch of the product the next day. In the end, you would opt for a new delivery free of charge, but resolve never to conduct business with that diner again.

Being able to deal with difficult customers and handling their concerns is a strong test in empathy and professional service. Even when the customer is rather heated, you can exercise restraint and temper things for a peaceful resolution.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be constituted as official business advice.


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