7 Smart Ways To Deal With A Difficult Customer (With Examples)

In this post, we will be discussing how to deal with a difficult customer.

But, at the outset, let’s first understand the concept of difficult customer or client.

A difficult customer is someone who gives you or your team a difficult time. It’s not easy to satisfy such a customer.

More often than not, such customers are dissatisfied either with your product or service.

The various types of difficult customers are:

  • Rude
  • Angry
  • Aggressive
  • Demanding
  • Talkative
  • Impatient

Are difficult customers good for your business?. Absolutely. They help you in:

  • Product or service feedback
  • Improve your sales process
  • Training of your sales personnel

In fact as per a customer service report, for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other dissatisfied customers remain silent.

So, stop hating your difficult customers. Instead, embrace them. Because they are the ones who are giving feedback on your business.

Use their feedback to tweak your product or service & improve your CRM process.

It’s important for every business to give importance to the difficult customers’ feedback. Why?. Because even a single angry customer can spread negative words about your brand. And, one such negative publicity can result in many anti-referrals.

So, pick up the phone & start attending to your difficult customers right away. Yes, personally & as soon as possible. It will be worth it.


1. Speak Less & Listen More

Most often, we have a (bad) habit of speaking more & listening less. In sales, this practice doesn’t yield the desired result. And, while handling a difficult customer, speaking more is like adding fuel to the fire.

When you actively listen to a customer, it makes him or her happy. Why?. Because everybody desires attention & listening to someone does exactly the same.

To nail this strategy, ask tactful questions to your angry customer at frequent intervals.

Example: Imagine one of the customers calling you to complain about the bad customer service he or she experienced. Now, don’t interrupt him or her. Let him or she pour his or her heart out. At pauses, ask relevant questions like “I’m so sorry that you had a bad experience with us, may I know your name?”, “What is that went wrong?”, “How do you think we should improve?”.

These aforesaid questions will prompt the customer to speak & share more. As you may know, speaking & sharing makes a person calm.

At your end, all you need to do is to lend your ears to the customer. Simple! It works great.

2. Acknowledge The Problems

Let’s face this. Customers complain when they see problems with your product or service.

When you start your conversation with an angry or rude customer, nod your head & acknowledge the problems.

Example 1: Suppose one of your customers called you over the phone to complain about a bug in your software (product). Now, at first, you should nod your head & say “Sir/Madam, I acknowledge that there is a problem with our product that needs to be fixed. It’s a known issue & our team is actively working to get it resolved ASAP”.

Example 2: Imagine one of your customers called you to seek your help in regards to the installation of your software (product). Then, start with “Sir/Madam, I acknowledge that you are facing an issue with the installation process. Maybe we need to strengthen our documentation a bit more or create a video tutorial for our new users. Do you agree?”

Acknowledging the problem makes the customer believe that you are responsive to complaints. Plus, it makes him or her trust your feedback process.

3. Offer A Win-Win Solution

In B2B industry, the definition of a difficult customer becomes broader. If a customer negotiates aggressively for a price cut or is not willing to agree to terms then he or she becomes a ‘difficult customer’.

As such, what should be your approach?. How should you handle such an aggressive customer?.

Simple. Offer a win-win solution to him or her. An offer he or she can’t refuse.

As you may know, a win-win solution is a solution acceptable to both parties (you & your customer).

Example: Imagine you own a design consultancy firm & a logo design customer is willing to buy website design services from you. You have quoted $1000 & he wants it to be done at $700. Now, accept the price offer & inform him that he won’t be getting a responsive website with that price. And, he can always upgrade the website to a responsive one (in future) by paying an additional $200.

The aforesaid arrangement is a perfect win-win. Why?. Because the customer got what he wanted (A full-fledged website). And, to make it responsive (not a mandatory requirement for a new website), he can always opt for an upgrade. From your business point of view, you retained the customer without compromising on price point.

This is a strategy widely used by marketers from around the world.

4. Smile Before You Disagree

There will be times when a customer makes an illogical demand or complaint.

The best way to handle the aforesaid customer is to smile. Yes, you heard it right.

Outright disagreement doesn’t work, at least not in sales. So, start with a wide & genuine smile. Then, proceed to politely disagree.

Example: Imagine you are into a furniture retailing. You offer customers a 30-day money back guarantee. It just happened one of the buyers is claiming a full refund after using the product for 60 days. So, talk to him or her & say like “[SMILE], Sir/Madam, I am sorry but we have a 30-day refund policy. Hope you understand.”

A simple smile, generally, soothes the hostile environment & opens the door for further negotiation.

Whereas, an outright disagreement may turn off the customer & invite him or her to end the relationship with your business. Of course, no organization wants that to happen.

Skilled salespeople use a smile as a lethal weapon to not only deal with a difficult customer but also close big ticket sales.

So, try this method & see the magic happen.

5. Start With An Appreciation

Do you like to be appreciated?. I bet you do. And, who doesn’t?.

Same goes for your customers as well. Yes, including the difficult ones.

Whenever you face an angry or demanding customer, start with an appreciation. I mean a genuine appreciation.

Example: Imagine you own a restaurant. On one fine day, one of your regular customers complains that the food is stale. Now, in that situation, do not jump to respond. Relax & start with an appreciation, “Sir, first of all, I would like to thank you for being one of our best customers. We are here because of customers like you. I, on behalf of all of us, would like to thank you again!”.

Appreciation will melt down a difficult customer & provide you with a perfect pitch to take the discussion further.

6. Offer A Freebie

This is a method that I have practically seen being implemented by the retail giant, Amazon.

Once upon a time, I had ordered a book (I love reading!) on Amazon. Due to some strange logistics issues, the book didn’t reach to me on time. So, I raised a customer support ticket. And, guess what happened?. The world’s most customer-centric company offered me a cash discount for my next purchase (as a token of apology).

From an accountant point of view, this may not be a viable strategy. But, for a marketer, this is one of the most effective ways to retain an unhappy customer.

The freebies can be various forms like:

  • Cash discount
  • Gift
  • Merchandise
  • Premium packaging

Needless to say, this method works great for retail & online stores.

7. Follow Up Personally

Customers crave for the personal attention of sellers. And, difficult customers are no different.

Why?. Because it makes them feel special. Yes, it’s more about ego.

Just like in dating.

Therefore, give customers what they want. Give them your personal attention. How?. Simply, by following up with them.

Example: Suppose that you are a tax consultant. One of your clients complains that his tax return hasn’t been filed yet despite submitting all documents on time. Reply with a statement “I am so sorry to hear that. Allow me some time to personally follow up with my staff & I shall get back to you in an hour. Sounds good?”

Won’t the aforesaid statement instill confidence in your client?. Yes, it will. Because you as a business owner or salesperson have personally committed to following up.

Personal commitments work well because they are not usual business stereotype promises. They look & feel authentic. That’s why they are trusted by customers.


So, I have covered 7 ways to deal with a difficult customer.  Hopefully, if implemented properly, these methods can help you to retain customers.

Remember that nothing works until unless your product or service is of top-notch quality.

A perfect product or service along with an excellent customer support structure is what makes a business thrive.

And, every thriving business will have a few dissatisfied customers. To handle them, you need to train your sales staff with the 7 strategies discussed in this post.

Further recommended read: How To Build Rapport With Customers.

What do you think of the aforesaid ways to deal with a difficult customer? Which one appeals you the most? Please comment below.