Dealing With Difficult Customers: The Basics

By | Aug 28, 2009

Creative Commons License photo credit: Zach Klein

Streeter Seidell, ComedianThe dreaded difficult customer, you know them as soon as they walk in the door.  It’s in their stance, the look on their face, their tone of voice and general body language.  The arrival of a difficult customer, though, does not have to spoil your whole day.  There are ways to deal with difficult customers that can not only diffuse their anger, but make them happy return customers who regularly sing your praises.

Entire books have been written about how to deal with difficult customers, and I obviously am not going to write book here (and you don’t want to read a book).  So, here are some basic tips for dealing with difficult customers.

Don’t Argue

Even if you’re right, you can’t win.  When a person is angry, you can’t reach them with reason.  You must first defuse the anger, then you can reason with the customer. Which brings us to…

Defuse the Anger

There are various ways to defuse anger in a person, and I’ll go more in-depth on those techniques in a later post.  For now, let me leave you with a few tips for defusing anger:

  • Don’t get angry yourself.  Angry energy builds on angry energy.  If you start getting angry or defensive, you’ll just make the already angry customer angrier.
  • Listen!  Listen to the customer, listen to their complaint.  You can’t understand or empathize if you don’t listen to what the problem is.
  • Empathize.  Understand the pain of the customer.  Not just the fact that their product didn’t work, but what that customer endured when it happened.
  • Apologize.  You may have been told never apologize because it could be construed as admitting guilt.  But the truth is, what most difficult customers want is an apology.  Just saying, “I’m really sorry you’ve had so much trouble,” can go a long way towards defusing the customer’s anger.

Resolve the Issue

After apologizing, the most important thing you’ll do for the customer is resolve the issue.  If you can’t resolve it, then find someone who can.  If you have to make some calls, let the customer know that, and let them know when you’ll contact them back.  And then follow through on-time!  Even if you don’t have the answer yet, let them know you haven’t forgotten and you’re working on it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ferdinand Reus

A gambian smileDealing with difficult customers doesn’t have to spoil your whole day.  Take one thing at a time, calm the customer down, listen, and resolve the issue.  Your angry customer will leave with a smile on their face.

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4 Comments so far
  1. Judith (1 comments) October 20, 2009 12:54 pm

    How come I no longer receive your newsletter???

    Thank You,

  2. Jodith (189 comments) October 23, 2009 1:11 pm

    So sorry…I’ve been having some technical difficulties the last month and haven’t gotten any posts up. Things should be back to normal on Monday.

  3. Kim (2 comments) July 7, 2010 10:28 pm

    Useful tips, Some nice points Jodith. Quick support also helps. If a client has any problem, he/she send an email and if they get reply within few hours, they feel that their money/project is in safe hands.

    I have mostly web-based customers and all i do is, create in-depth FAQs and knowlesgebase so that most of their questions answered automatically.
    Kim´s last blog post ..Body Building HGH

  4. Julio (2 comments) February 22, 2011 12:28 pm

    This is nice, short sweet and to the point. I would like to add that, “you actually need TWO people to have an argument”; if you are able to keep your ‘cool’, speak softly and have an open mind in order to reach a viable solution to the problem at hand, nine out of ten times the problem will be solved, not to mention both the ‘frustrated’ person and you will be able to walk away satisfied and in good terms with each other. Another great advice. Thank you Jodith.

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