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10 Tips to Handling Difficult Customers

By October 10, 2016No Comments

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It’s often a chaotic world we live in – attention spans are low and expectations are high. That makes for a perfect storm for difficult customers. The good news is that there are ways to keep your cool, turn customer experiences around, and even come out looking like a hero.  Let’s take a look at eight of those ways!



1. Don’t take it personally. Most of the time when a customer complains it’s because they are unhappy with the product, or company – not you as an individual. It could be NOTHING at all to even do with the experience. Maybe they stubbed their toe? Spilled their coffee?  Woke up late.  Stop before REACTING to another person’s emotions and think – is it me? If not, let that emotion GO.


2. Give yourself credit.  Remember all those mad skills you possess? The kind way you handle customer requests? The serious mojo you have when it comes to hitting your goals? Keep all of those things in mind when someone turns surly and never let anyone else make you feel less than you are.


3. Write it down. Want to make an impression? Write down the complaint. That shows the customer that you are listening and genuinely interested in resolving their issue.  If you’re on the phone, let them know that you are writing things down in detail.  People want to be heard and documenting a problem is a good way to illustrate your listening skills.


4. Get a supervisor in on the action. Got a REALLY tough customer on your hands and things feel like they are escalating?  Invite a supervisor to join you and the customer will notice you are treating them as important by seeking additional help.


5. Debrief with a trusted person when you’re done. When the customer leaves, it may be a good time to talk over the encounter with someone you trust in order to release the frustration, let go of any negativity and learn what can be done in the future should it happen again.


6. Master stress management.  There are so many amazing techniques you can learn to manage stress and stay the voice of reason regardless of raised voices or irrational customer behavior.  By learning to breath deeply, focus on the positives and also ensure your body doesn’t carry stress, you will be able to handle whatever (or whoever) the world sends your way.


7. Chalk it up. Here’s the thing: working with the public? There are going to be THOSE moments or sometimes even days where someone is gunning for you just because they can. Chalk it up to human nature, let it roll right off you and move on.


8. Look for the lesson.  Sometimes there’s a reason for the temperment, right? Maybe a system or process is off. A complaint can be a queue to take a look at what may need to be changed. Analyze the situation and see what can be done differently in the future for a better response.


9. Don’t lash out.  It’s easy in the heat of the moment to lash out to anyone who will listen if you’ve been mistreated by a customer (or anyone for that matter). Use caution. Breathe. Think before you speak to others so that you’re not taking your bad experience and transferring it to everyone in your wake.


10. Remember the big picture. Truth is, without customers, a company goes out of business.  Even when they are less than fun to work with – they feed the revenue stream that keeps the doors open and the checks signed. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they don’t MEAN to be challenging, and treat them with respect and understanding like the mature and successful professional that you know yourself to be.


The nice thing to keep in mind if you’re in the people business (and most of us are) – is that whatever the grievance, pressure, irritation, aggravation – any of it might be? It will done and gone before you know it. A blip on the screen. Handle it in the moment then move on to the next.  Who knows? The next one on the phone or in front of you might be the coolest customer ever!


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