Dealing with Difficult Customers & Complaints

Dealing with Difficult Customers

In this section you’ll learn about:


One of Greg’s long-standing clients walks into his office, unannounced. Greg is happy to see him and stands up with a ready smile and offers to shake his hand. And then it happens!

The client just loses it! He rants and raves about Greg’s inability to deliver a specific piece of equipment on time, thus meaning he wasn’t able to demonstrate it to a very important contact. He’s now lost the sale.

Greg’s devastated: he tries everything he can to reason with his client, but nothing helps. He now has one very angry customer in his office, and things seem to be getting worse every time Greg speaks. After a final mouthful of accusations and rage, the clients walks out, declares he’ll never do business with Greg attain, and slams the office door!

Anyone in business for any length of time has had to deal with unhappy or angry clients: it’s just part of the job, and it’s not easy.

However, if we know the words to say and, most importantly, how to say them, there’s every chance that we could save these situations. And, even better, sometimes you’ll end up enjoying an even better relationship with your client than you had previously.

This section will deal with difficult and angry customers and the best way to manage complaints.

We’ll show you specific techniques that often work in soothing awkward and tense situations.

At the end of the day it’s all about excellent customer service and satisfaction and trying to ensure that we’ve done our absolute best to retain our customers.

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Angry customer


Difficult or troublesome customers are just another part of doing business. Businesses who understand how to handle difficult customers can reap huge rewards; like increased customer retention and high customer satisfaction.

Example: An important client calls you on your mobile, ranting and raging out of control. You try to say ‘Hello’ and this just sets them off more. They’re mad and you’re on the receiving end.

Why: because their product arrived late, or you failed to meet a specific deadline. What should you do? There are many different reactions to these kinds of scenarios, like:

  • You could pass the blame onto someone else;
  • You could apologize, and let the customer know they’re right;
  • You could try to accept the blame, but end up copping even more aggression.

What is the right answer here: what should you do?

Most people in a work situation haven’t got a clue how to handle a situation like this, so we’ve listed some strategies you might like to try when dealing with unhappy customers: hopefully, turning unhappy customers into happy, repeat customers.

No. 1: Listen To What They’re Saying

Difficult customers are asking to be heard. They need to know that you are listening to their concerns or problems, and they want you to do something constructive to solve their problems. That’s why it’s important that you actually do listen to what is making this customer so unhappy. Allow them to speak and get their gripe out in the open; then relay the problem back to them, just to clarify. You could say something similar to this –

‘So Bob, you’re unhappy with xyz’. Once the customer confirms that this is indeed the problem, you can start working on solutions to remedy the issue, effectively and quickly. If you have listened carefully, you’ll know how to resolve the issue and ensure that your previously unhappy customer becomes a happy customer. Remember, you need to do whatever it takes to deliver on your good customer service.

No. 2: Show You Care

Difficult customers need to be heard; and they also need to know you care. By this we mean you must show empathy; be concerned with the fact that they’re upset (and the reason for it), and do whatever is in your power to resolve their situation.

When you genuinely care, it shows, so your unhappy customers will appreciate that you’re trying to help. Always put yourself in your customers’ shoes: how would you feel if you were the customer in this instance? It’s quite easy to resolve people’s frustrations if you can genuinely try to look at their complaint from their point of view. Showing customers that you care about them and their complaint will go a long way to calming down a situation, and also retaining customers.

No. 3: Offer a Solution

Dissatisfied or angry customers want solutions; and you probably don’t want to devote too much time resolving a problem, so find a quick way to offer solutions. Resolving an issue quickly shows that you’re the person who’s capable of resolving the issues. More than anything, an angry customer wants to know that you’re going to make this pain (anger, frustration) go away. By focusing on a solution and how you intend to make it happen, the customer will automatically begin to refocus their negative feelings onto more positive ones. If you believe that you understand only too well what would make the customer happy, tell them of how you propose correcting the situation. If the customer resists your solution, or you’re unsure what the problem really is, put the power into their own hands to correct the mistake. Ask their opinion: what could you do to make them happy? Their answer to this question will be the right one, so find a way to make it happen.

No. 4: Always Exceed Expectations

When you think about it, customer expectations form the basis for customer satisfaction. In order to keep your customers happy you must consistently exceed their expectations. They want to be pleasantly surprised. This is a great way to resolve issues with difficult customers: by exceeding their expectations they’ve virtually got nothing left to complain about. So go above and beyond what the customer expects, and make sure they’re well taken care of. Exceed their expectations by taking the extra time to listen to, understand, and resolve their complaints. If you have to stop everything else you’re doing to make this happen, then do it.

Below we’ve listed some quick tips on how you might exceed your customers’ expectations –

  • Be on the ball when it comes to responding to complaints: you should answer phone or email complaints within 15 minutes;
  • Actively try to identify the issue: their package was late – you can already tell from tracking that it was delayed, so make sure you’ve got this information with you and be ready to respond;
  • Provide a quick and satisfactory solution to resolve immediate frustration, and an overall solution to fix the issue completely. All customers are looking for immediate assistance, and this could just be you acknowledging them and advising that the right person is looking into the situation;
  • Understand that difficult customers are just frustrated customers. Good customer service is very hard to find and most customers are used to being treated poorly. Let them know that you’re different, and that you intend to exceed their expectations.

We use the word ‘customer’ a lot, but we must remember that customers are just ordinary people like you and me. Fedex, an logistic company lists 3 rules you should abide by when dealing with difficult customers.

We all have bad days; we’re all under different pressures from different sources. Acknowledging this should help you understand that when a customer receives bad service on top of all the other pressures in life, it can sometimes be the final straw.

Re-think the way you handle unhappy customers – perhaps all they need is someone to listen to them, and to acknowledge that a problem exists – because, let’s face it; most problems can very easily be fixed.

Open your ears; be genuine and show you care; offer great customers service, and then offer them that little bit extra and exceed their expectations.

That’s what great customer service is!

How to Deal with Customer Complaints


Customer complain


Everyone in business at some time or other has had to deal with a disgruntled or angry customer.

Your challenge is to carefully handle the situation in a manner that leaves the customer thinking your company is simply the best. Do it really well and this customer could end up becoming your most passionate advocate for your brand.

Realistically, most customers can’t be bothered complaining. They leave your store and move on to your competitors.

Research suggests that on average 80% of customers who do leave your ‘store’ were actually satisfied, so this tells us that we need more than just customer satisfaction – businesses today have got to well and truly exceed customers’ expectations if they want their loyalty.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you can deal effectively and efficiently with customer complaints you have the perfect opportunity to convert dissatisfied customers into the best promotors of your business.

Below are some tips on how to best deal with customer complains 

Actually listen to what your customer is trying to say to you

Let them finish their story. And above all – don’t become defensive. Prove that you were listening by repeating back to them what you heard.

Ask questions in a concerned and caring manner

Allow your customer the time to provide as much information as possible, and this way you’ll more easily be able to understand their perspective. It’s certainly easier to ask questions than it is to jump to conclusions.

Put yourself in their shoes.

You’re the business owner (or staff member of the business) and your goal should be to resolve any problems – not argue with your customers. The customer must know that you’re on their side and that you understand their frustration.

 Apologize, but don’t blame anyone

If your customer understands you are indeed sorry for the inconvenience, that’s usually enough to calm things down. So you don’t need to lay blame on another department or another person. You just calmly say ‘I’m so sorry this happened’ or ‘I’m sorry about that’.

‘What can we do that would be an acceptable solution to you?’

The customer may not know what their options are so have ready a couple of solutions that may resolve the problem. This way you’re working together to find the most positive solution.

Resolve the problem quickly

And if you can’t, then find the person who can. Research suggests that complaining customers prefer the staff member they’re speaking with to resolve their problem – quickly. Once you start moving complaints up the chain of command they become more complicated, more expensive to handle, and just add further frustration to the customer. As we mentioned previously, most customer complaints are very simple to resolve, so resolve them there and then.

There’s always going to be unhappy and disgruntled customers in business – and it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.

Use these simple steps we’ve outlined; talk to your customer; listen to what they have to say; then help them resolve the problem – now!

This is the perfect way to provide excellent customer service.

How to Monitor Customer Complaints on the Internet

complain monitoring


Can you believe that only a couple of years ago almost 70% of customer complaints on Twitter were completely ignored by business?

Fortunately business handles itself much better today, but it’s always important to remember that you must continuously and carefully monitor customer service channels and ensure that you’re doing everything possible to monitor complaints, and then follow through quickly to resolve them.

Monitoring Complaints with Customer Support Software

Your customers need an avenue for making complaints via email: they need to know they have a channel they’re familiar with and that they can reach you easily.

Monitoring Complaints with a Customer Support Phone Number

Old- school maybe, but it’s still important to have a customer support phone number. Yes, we know that today’s modern customers often choose to leave complaints via social media channels, however it’s important that you still maintain the traditional customer service channels to cover all your customers. Some people prefer to pick up the telephone because they want to speak to a real person, so ensure you have a customer service number, or a customer complaint number.

This number must be manned, and all calls must be answered immediately. Don’t leave your customers on-hold for 15 minutes, and don’t outsource this work. By allowing your customers to speak to someone within the company itself it shows you care and that you’re willing to offer assistance.

Customer complaint and customer support handling must be personal: you’ll be increasing customer retention and creating customer loyalty by treating your customers with respect and honesty.

Monitoring Complaints with

Our last suggestion for monitoring customer complaints is with the use of This is a fantastic tool because it continuously scours the internet for any keyword you’ve set up and you receive an alert when your keywords are found. With this instant information you have the opportunity to respond immediately.

More and more consumers are leaving complaints on digital channels so it’s very important that you’re available to answer them. Online survey tools and customer feedback tools have normally been the most efficient method of monitoring customer complaints, and today we have more on-the-spot, effective tools to help with this very important aspect of providing excellent customer service.

Tips on how to responding to an irritated customers by E-Mail

Angry customer email


Use the following pointers when responding to emails from colleagues or customers when you know how angry or upset they are –

1. ‘Put-On-Hold’ Emotional Messages

If you have no choice about sending an email on a highly emotional topic, write the email, but don’t address the email and don’t send it. Remember that in these instances face-to-face or telephone conversations are more appropriate. Read your email again some hours later and revise it as necessary: then you can send it. The delay is to give you a little time to ensure you haven’t reacted inappropriately and that you’ve responded appropriately.

2. Soften the Tone of Your Email

If you feel that the email message you’re composing sounds abrupt or too curt, then it probably is. It’s simple to soften an email message by saying ‘It was a pleasure to hear from you’, or ‘Thank you for your email’.

3. Read, Then Re-Read Your Emails

Always re-read an email from beginning to end before sending, and ask yourself whether the reader may misconstrue any parts of your message. Sometimes, when there’s been a lot of going back and forth it’s important to return to the original message just to ensure you’re still staying on subject.

4. Ask For a Second Opinion

If you have an emotional or sensitive message to send, ask someone trustworthy to read the email and give suggestions on how to make your email more customer-friendly.

If your team needs a better way to collaborate when dealing with customer support and complaints, check ou It’s a help desk that integrates inside your mailbox.

This post is part of a series on Customer service: