All you need to know about dealing with difficult customers

While some customers are thoughtful and a joy to deal with, there are also difficult customers who try our patience and sanity. They can be demanding, impatient, and capable of provoking the best of us.


Love them or hate them, every business needs customers to survive. Good customer service professionals who know how to handle them and resolve their issues are valuable assets to any company. They are known for their deep knowledge of company procedures and policies, ability to articulate their ideas, listen carefully, and talent for empathizing with even the toughest of customers.


In this article, we list the different types of difficult customers you’ve met or are likely to meet in your career. We also break down the steps you can use to best handle them.


Let’s start by taking a look at difficult customers we commonly encounter.


Types of Difficult Customers


Whether or not they have legitimate concerns, every organization has its share of difficult customers. How many of these have you come across?


Impatient Customers


Patience isn’t their virtue. Impatient customers want their demands met and they want it fast. There’s always some urgency to their demands and they want to be prioritized over others.


Customers Who Know-It-All


The know-it-all can do your job better than you or at least that’s what they’ll lead you to believe. They will readily spout company policies at you without being asked and don’t like to hear that they’re wrong.


Bullying Customers


Bullying customers want to talk to the highest authority for the smallest inconvenience. They can be the most uncomfortable to deal with as they often resort to verbally abusive and aggressive tactics.


Forever Complaining Customers


With or without reason, this group loves to complain. This type of customer is more interested in finding fault rather than resolving issues. Many of them find little things to complain about at length that you can do little about such as small errors in the product descriptions.


Demanding Customers


While it’s normal for customers to want certain things, demanding customers have wants that never end mostly because they don’t know what they want and are never satisfied with what they get. It is difficult to keep up with them and they are draining for you and your service team.


The Raging Customers


They love to argue, but no one can pinpoint their exact issue. The more you argue with them, the more complex and pointless the argument becomes.


Customers With High Expectations


These customers can never be satisfied whether it is a product, service, employee, or something else they find problematic. Fixing things is not the solution for them. All they do is involve as many people as they can in their search for the unattainable.


Indecisive Customers


They can’t decide what they want no matter how many pros and cons you go through with them. Going along with their questions and thought processes might seem like the polite thing to do but it’s also time-consuming and can deprive other customers of your valuable time and attention.


How To Deal With a Difficult Customer?


Here are best practices to remember for dealing with difficult customers:


Step 1: Apologize


Apologize to diffuse the situation. Most customers are satisfied with a sincere apology while most bullies, know-it-alls, and other types of difficult customers will accept this as a victory on their end and be placated.


Step 2: Listen


Listen to the customer before doing or saying anything. Getting them to talk allows them to vent and helps them calm down. Once they’ve aired out their concerns, find a solution to rectify any mistakes or lapses in service.


Step 3: Offer Incentives


If you are unable to rectify a situation, offer discounts, freebies, service vouchers, or other incentives to show them that your company is willing to make up for its mistake. This can also prevent you from losing a good customer.


Step 4: Follow Up


If there is no immediate solution, tell them you’ll get back to them, give them an approximate timeline, and be sure to reach out to them as promised.


Tips to Remember When Dealing With a Difficult Customer


Make sure to put these tips into practice for your next conversation with a difficult customer:


  • Keep a positive attitude.

  • Understand and empathize with the customer.

  • Keep your tone friendly and neutral, and your voice low and confident.

  • Listen more, speak less.

  • Don’t take the insults and rudeness personally.

  • If a customer is being rude, tell them politely.

  • Keep your composure and don’t get flustered.

  • If you see no way out of a situation, ask for help.

  • If you see the discussion spiralling without an end in sight, restate the problem and its solution and quickly ask if there’s anything else the customer needs help with.

  • Document every interaction with customers so that you have a written record of every issue raised by the customer and how it was handled.


Final Thoughts


Navigating the murky waters and sometimes grey areas of customer service can be tricky. While there will always be difficult customers, customer service professionals can be taught how to handle them.


Getting together to find constructive ways to manage tense situations is a good starting point. You can also create a list of words or statements that can be used for different situations like diffusing confrontations, dealing with verbal abuse, and regaining control over a conversation.


To learn how our business services can help you run your business more efficiently, schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.

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