difficult calls

Your aim is to turn a difficult customers into those who will rave about their amazing customer experience with you to their friends and family.

As anyone who’s worked in customer service will know, it can be tricky to deal with a constant stream of customer queries on a daily basis. You have to mediate between efficiently dealing with queries according to company policy and giving each customer the time they deserve.

While this is the nature of the job and to be expected, there will be the odd customer who we will label as ‘difficult’.

This means that they are very difficult to satisfy. They keep complaining, and almost seem to enjoy doing it for the sake of it, no matter how hard you try to resolve their query.

These types of customers can really get you down as a customer service rep, so you need to know how to deal with them properly. We’ll explore the different types of difficult customer you might encounter and how to deal with them.

Your aim is to turn a difficult customer into one who will rave about their amazing customer experience with you to their friends and family.

1. The Dissatisfied Customer

Okay, so sometimes the company has screwed up and a customer hasn’t got what they wanted. Perhaps there was a service outage at a crucial moment, or maybe their order hasn’t arrived.

The crucial thing to remember here is they’re probably going to want to vent a little, and it’s a good idea if you can let them get their complaint off their chest. Show you’re listening by not interrupting, apologizing when appropriate and repeating their complaint back to them in your own words.

Don’t let them go on for too long though – that would just be unproductive. When you think you’ve heard the full extent of their complaint, tell them you’re going to get it fixed for them right away, whether that’s resending them their order or looking into why their service cut out.

If there’s nothing more you can do but they won’t take no for an answer, here are some tips for how to politely say no to difficult customers.

2. The Customer Trying to Get a Free Ride

Unfortunately, there are some people out there who complain in the hopes of getting something for free – whether that’s money off a subscription or a free product.

They are rare, but if you suspect you’re dealing with this type of customer then follow company policy. Give them a refund or replacement if they qualify for one, but be firm that they can’t bully you into giving them anything more.

3. The Customer Having a Bad Day

Sometimes, people are just having a bad day. While it’s not your job to be their therapist, you can be compassionate and understanding – without being taken advantage of.

Show people you’re listening and that you care about their complaint. Ask questions and repeat their problem back to them in their own words to demonstrate that you understand what they’ve said. Assure them that you’ll prioritize helping them and resolving the matter.

If you help them to calmly and patiently resolve their query, without reacting defensively to them, you could help make their day a little better. You may even make a customer complaining into a happy customer.

4. The Customer That Just Loves to Complain

When dealing with someone like this, make sure to be polite and yet firm. You don’t want to allow the customer to control the situation, and you simply need to be stoic under the volley of their complaining.

Allow them to voice their concerns, try to compensate them within reason, and offer to pass on their complaint.

You may even find that these people are often just very lonely, and in a twisted way, talking to you may be one of their only forms of human contact. Keeping this fact in mind will help you to be more patient with them.


You should never let a customer abuse you under any circumstances. If a customer begins to become abusive, by calling you names or making threats, then ask them politely not to speak to you like that. Tell them you want to help them and that you’re on their side, but you can only help if they work with you.

If they still act aggressively, inform them that you’re going to have to report them – your company should have a policy in place to deal with customers like this.

Above all, try not to take difficult customers personally. Hopefully you can accept them as a necessary part of a job which is satisfying overall.

Even though it’s hard, you can use your empathy to appreciate that most customers aren’t trying to be ‘difficult’, but are genuinely frustrated, upset, or having a bad day. Some people may even just be lonely, and you could be the only person they’re going to speak to that day!

This comes under people-management skills. There will always be times that you will need to deal with angry or upset customers, and it’s tough.

If you follow these strategies to deal with difficult customers you will improve your customer service skills.

Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back, too – dealing with difficult customers, is, well, difficult!


resized-twitter-profileCatherine Heath has a thing for psychology, diversity, tech and startups , and is l earning to code. She gives valuable insight into the women in tech scene on her website, Away With Words, and shares tips for success and self-development. Connect with Catherine on Twitter or LinkedIn

Catherine regularly blogs about knowledge base best practice forKnowledgeOwl


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