How to Handle the Difficult Customer: Eight Tips to Win Tough Encounters

Pros Say: Listen, Practice Zen, and Break Problem into Chunks

Difficult Customer

We’ve all got them—customers who are tough to deal with. These could be unhappy clients, angry faces in your store, or buyers who are simply out to get you. But no matter who they are or what their deal is, the sooner you can identify these customers, show empathy, and turn their mood around, the better off you and your store will be.

HR pro and leadership trainer Mary White shows you how to effectively deal with difficult customers while still providing great service in her webinar for AudioSolutionz, “Tips for Dealing with Difficult Customers.” White shows you how to recognize customer anger and respond accordingly, avoid taking customer anger personally, set smart boundaries, become a great listener, and structure messages for problem solving.

Deal With Unhappy Customers Correctly and Strengthen Relationships

Fox Business, in an article titled “10 Ways to Handle Difficult Customers,” notes that if you want to stay in business, you’ll have to learn how to deal with angry customers.

“The customer may always right, but that doesn’t mean all customers are easy to deal with,” Fox Business said. “As anyone who’s ever worked in customer service can tell you, customers can be downright unruly.”

Dealing with difficult customers and disarming them, Fox Business said, is the key to winning them over and providing great service.

Dealing with difficult customers can be particularly tough when those who are unhappy continue to change the game as the argument progresses.

“When a customer is never satisfied, it’s natural for the salesperson to lose motivation for working with this person,” psychologist Sherrie Campbell wrote in Entrepreneur. “Sticking it out requires a strategy for dealing with difficult people, self-restraint and an ability to keep power in the relationship.”

Career-site Mindtools adds that handling the situation correctly can not only smooth things over at the moment, it can also build an even better relationship.

“If we know what to say and, more importantly, how to say it,” the article, “Dealing with Unhappy Customers,” noted, “we may be able to save the situation. In fact, we can even end up with a better relationship with our client than we had before.”

How to Deal With Difficult Customers: Eight Tips

  1. Listen: Fox Business says listening is the first step in understanding the problem and settling the customer, and it’s as critical as it is uncomfortable.
  2. Assume everyone is watching: Even if you don’t have an actual audience, Fox Business adds, it’s pretty easy these days for unhappy customers to broadcast their complaints, and no one wants to be that viral video that winds up on the evening news.
  3. Show that you care: Do this, says Monster, both verbally and through open body language.
  4. Don’t make promises you can’t keep: Just like with your kids, you may be tempted to say whatever it takes to end the conflict. Monster suggests moving up the chain of command and enlisting help who may be calmer and have more authority
  5. Admit you’re wrong: If possible, Entrepreneur writer Sherrie Campbell, employing this tactic can actually get the customer to defend you.
  6. Don’t take things personally: Stick to the facts and stay firm with them, Entrepreneur adds.
  7. Go zen: Hubspot writer Meg Prater recommends approaching every situation zen-like, as if you were a beginner—don’t prejudge the customer, let go of the idea that you are an expert, and “view each conversation as a new puzzle to be solved.”
  8. Break it up: Prater also recommends taking a problem and breaking it into smaller, more manageable portions which can be easier to tackle.

No, says White, you probably can’t expect to never deal with an angry customer, but you can learn to diffuse the situation, solve the problem, and even gain new trust and loyalty.

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Jeff Schmerker
About Jeff Schmerker
Jeff has extensive professional experience writing on a variety of topics, from pharmaceutical research to environmental history. He has published more than a half-dozen books, and he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and restaurant reviewer. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife and son.