ReadingHow to deal with difficult customers: 7 tips with examples

How to deal with difficult customers: 7 tips with examples


Dealing with your difficult customers need not be difficult.

You can spot them early by recognizing digital cues such as shorter messages and decreased email responsiveness. You can learn their mindset by understanding their emotional reaction to a challenge. And most importantly you can take preventive steps from the beginning to not lose their business.

Using intelligent technology platforms, smart strategies, and customer service skills, you can customer service skills; you can de-escalate conflicts, find tailored solutions, and turn challenging interactions into positive experiences for the customers and your business.

Let’s explore.

Understanding the Nature of Difficult Customers


A difficult customer is someone who presents challenges or complications about a product, company, or even customer service reps in a way that disrupts the usual flow of interactions or transactions. Some of their behavioral indicators include:

  • Excessive demands
  • Constant complaints
  • Rude language
  • Refusal to compromise
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Inconsistency in communication
  • History of complaints

How to identify difficult customers early?

Imagine using AI as a smart tool in your customer interaction toolkit. It's like having an intuitive guide that quickly spots customers who might need extra care from the beginning. This AI assistant helps you identify those customers early on, allowing you to provide the attention they need promptly.

By recognizing these customers early, you're better equipped to address their needs effectively, prevent issues from escalating, and ensure a smooth experience. It's all about being proactive in your approach to customer interactions, keeping the experience positive and under control. This intelligent use of technology improves customer interactions and contributes to a harmonious and efficient customer journey.

Here’s how you can spot a difficult customer early.

  • Sentiment analysis: AI detects negative sentiments in interactions.
  • Behavioral patterns: Identifies customer complaints or unusual demands.
  • Predictive analytics: Uses past data to predict potential difficult customers.
  • Real-time monitoring: Analyzes feedback, complaint messages, and ongoing conversations for signs of difficulty.
  • Customer segmentation: Groups customers based on behavior for proactive handling.
  • Feedback analysis: Scans reviews and feedback for recurring complaints.

Once you have identified difficult customers, you can prioritize their complaints, route their tickets to relevant customer service agents, resolve their problems swiftly and efficiently, and go the extra mile to ensure a positive customer experience.

According to a 2022 survey by Statista, nearly eight out of 10 global consumers deemed good customer service important to keep them loyal. Besides generating negative perceptions, ineffective customer service hinders sales. Therefore, it is even more important for companies to ensure a positive customer service experience to build strong customer relationships.

What are the types of difficult customers?


All difficult customers are not the same, and they must be handled thoughtfully.

The challenging customers showcase a variety of behaviors, making it essential to take diverse and nuanced approaches to help them effectively. Given the range of customer behaviors, tailored strategies are imperative while dealing with difficult customers.

Therefore, we have outlined different situations as per the customer type and recommended solutions to address them effectively.

Demanding customers

They are difficult to manage because of their expectations and, at times, consistently growing expectations about the product or service. However, they can be an asset to your business if their needs are understood and managed effectively, potentially providing valuable insights for product improvement and service enhancement.

Situation: They may ask for product features and solutions that are beyond your scope. And chances are that they don’t want to compromise, even if the proposed solution is better for their requirement.

Solution: Identify their requirements and problems with your product as early as possible. Communicate your challenges and offer viable alternatives within reasonable limits.

Pro-tip: Actively listen to their needs, validate their concerns, and collaboratively explore feasible solutions.

Unhappy customers

They pose a challenge due to their persistent dissatisfaction despite prior resolutions. Effectively managing their concerns can turn their experience around and potentially transform them into loyal advocates for your business.

Situation: An unhappy customer, despite previously resolving an issue, expresses renewed dissatisfaction due to an unexpected product malfunction, which impacts their business operations.

Solution: Provide immediate assistance, such as expedited repairs or replacements, and offer compensatory measures, such as discounts or additional support, to restore their faith in the product and your service.

This approach aims to not only rectify the immediate issue but also to proactively reassure the customer about your commitment to their satisfaction, potentially transforming their negative experience into a positive one.

Pro-tip: Proactively help them achieve their goals and follow up to ensure the results. Offer a goodwill gesture, such as access to a premium feature for three months, to express appreciation for their patience and offset the inconvenience caused.

Angry customers

They are aggressively showcasing hostile behavior and are often rude and verbally abusive. They are most likely to leave negative reviews, which can directly impact your business growth. You can understand their psychology to effectively deal with angry customers.

Situation: An angry customer expresses frustration with recurring product glitches that disrupt their workflow, affecting their team's productivity and project deadlines. Despite previous updates, the issue persists, causing significant inconvenience.

Solution: Address software glitches by empathizing, escalating the issue to technical support, offering a clear resolution plan, expressing gratitude, and all the while making sure you remain calm and even involve higher management if needed.

Pro-tip: Keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand, maintain a calm demeanor, and involve a manager if necessary to resolve the situation smoothly.

Impatient customers

They demonstrate a lack of tolerance for delays or slow service, seeking prompt resolution to their issues. You can ensure clear communication and timely action to help manage their expectations.

Situation: An impatient customer invested in a product requires a quick fix for a specific feature. They anticipate swift resolution due to the feature's importance in their usage of the product, but there is a more complex problem that needs time. Their impatience stems from the urgency of the issue, seeking immediate attention to continue using the product effectively.

Solution: Prioritize the urgent feature fix while maintaining transparent communication about the resolution process. You can further reiterate your commitment to swift action and follow up promptly to confirm the resolution's effectiveness. Your proactive approach will help you manage expectations and ensure your customer feels valued while addressing their urgent request for the feature fix.

Pro-tip: Keep them informed of progress, reassure them of prompt attention, and follow up promptly to ensure their needs are met in a timely manner.

Indecisive customers

They struggle to articulate their needs or make decisions, causing confusion during interactions. You can patiently guide them through the process to facilitate smoother resolution.

Situation: An indecisive customer, while considering various subscription plans for a product, faces challenges articulating their specific requirements. They express confusion about which plan aligns best with their business needs, causing hesitation and uncertainty during the decision-making process.

Solution: Guide indecisive customers patiently through subscription plan choices. You can ask clarifying questions, offer detailed guidance, and maintain clear communication. A simplified plan comparison can be created to streamline their evaluation process. This supportive approach fosters confidence, aiding them in making an informed and satisfactory decision aligned with their specific business needs.

Pro-tip: Provide them with a checklist or assist them patiently through each step of the decision-making process.

Managing difficult customers is a crucial aspect of customer relationship management. It not only ensures customer satisfaction of existing users but also showcases your dedication to assisting them, thereby instilling confidence in your products and services for potential customers.

7 Tips to deal with difficult customers


Dealing with difficult customers can be overwhelming. However, it can also be an opportunity for you to enhance customer loyalty, foster business growth, and strengthen customer relationships.

Here are a few tactics for elevating your customer service skills so that you can handle difficult customers efficiently.

Always be ready for such instances

Always be prepared for challenging instances by understanding your product thoroughly and knowing your customer needs well.

Additionally, leverage experiences from fellow customer service agents by sharing and learning from each other's difficult customer encounters. The continuous learning and sharing process enriches your expertise and equips you to navigate difficult customer interactions effectively.

Example of how the support agent is prepared to help through around the time of product update.


Customer (Sarah): "Your product update crashed my system! This is unacceptable!"

Support Agent (Alex): "I understand your frustration, Sarah. Let's resolve this. Have you recently updated your operating system? Our previous update had compatibility issues. Can we try rolling back to the previous version of our software while I guide you through it?"

Sarah: "Fine, but it better work!"

[Alex guides Sarah step-by-step through rolling back the software version, resolving the issue successfully.]

Stay calm throughout customer conversations

In tense situations, staying calm is key, considering that customers feel frustrated or anxious when facing issues.

Therefore, by maintaining composure, you can establish trust and create a positive environment. You can acknowledge their concerns, empathize, and focus on solutions. And note that customers feel heard and valued when met with a composed demeanor, fostering better interactions and problem-solving. Here’s an example that supports the concept.


Customer (Sarah): "Your service is a disaster! I've wasted hours trying to fix this issue."

Support Agent (Alex): "I understand, Emily. Let's tackle this. Could you describe the problem? It seems frustrating."

Emily: "Error messages when accessing my account. It's infuriating!"

Mark: "I'm sorry. Let's try a different approach together. While we troubleshoot, I'm here to help."

[Mark patiently guides Emily through troubleshooting, ensuring a successful resolution.]

Engage in reflective listening

While handling a customer's problem, practicing active listening is vital. When a customer talks about an issue, make them feel heard. And when a customer asks questions, give them short and direct answers.

With active listening practices, addressing the customer's problem becomes more effective, fostering trust and a sense of being genuinely cared for in resolving their issue.

Here’s how you can practice active listening and demonstrate genuine understanding.

Validate their experience:

"I hear you're facing challenges with our product," illustrates empathy and shows attentive listening. You can paraphrase and acknowledge their concerns.

Reflective responses:

"It sounds frustrating; let's work on a solution," reassure the customer.

Here’s an example to understand how to practice reflective listening.


Customer (Sarah): "This software keeps crashing! I can't get any work done!"

Support Agent (Alex): "I hear you're facing challenges with our software crashing frequently, Sarah. That must be incredibly frustrating. Let's work together to resolve this. Can you tell me when exactly these crashes occur?"

Sarah: "It happens randomly while I'm in the middle of tasks!"

Alex: "I understand how disruptive that must be, Sarah. Let's try a few troubleshooting steps together to address these unexpected crashes and ensure smoother functionality for you."

Maintain your tone of voice

Handling difficult customers can be frustrating. And an angry or rude customer may make you lose your composure. However, maintaining a respectful tone is really important to keep the conversation productive and foster a positive resolution.

First of all, put yourselves in your customer’s shoes. It will help you understand their perspective and the reason behind their complaints and reactions.

If it becomes a tense situation, take a deep breath and speak slowly. Show empathy and connect with them. It will enable you to build trust and find solutions, making the whole experience better for everyone involved.



Customer (Sarah): "This feature in your software has been broken for days! We can't perform critical tasks!"

Support Agent (Alex): "I'm sorry for the trouble, Sarah. Let's work on fixing this. Can you describe the issues you're facing with the feature?"

Sarah: "It crashes every time we try to use it, and we're falling behind on deadlines!"

Alex: "That sounds frustrating, Sarah. Let's try a workaround for now while I report this urgently to our development team. In the meantime, I'll guide you through an alternative method to perform those tasks."

[Alex assists Sarah in finding a temporary workaround to perform the tasks without the problematic feature.]

Sarah: "The workaround helps, but we really need that feature working properly!"

Alex: "Absolutely, Sarah. Rest assured, I've escalated this with high priority. We're committed to getting this fixed. Your patience and understanding are greatly appreciated. If there's anything else, please let us know."

Follow through on your promises

Handling difficult customers is not limited to having fruitful customer conversations and conflict resolution only. It also involves following through on promises made during interactions.

For instance, if a support agent assures a swift resolution or escalates a problem to the relevant department, it's imperative to fulfill these assurances. Timely updates or callbacks promised to the customer should also be honored.

Following through on commitments establishes trust and demonstrates reliability, significantly contributing to customer satisfaction and confidence in the support provided.


[The development team fixes the feature and provides an update to Alex.]

Alex: "Hello, Sarah. I'm pleased to inform you that the feature has been fixed. I wanted to personally ensure that it's working fine for you now and that you can carry on with your regular tasks without any issues."

Sarah: "Yes, it seems to be working perfectly now! Thank you for following up. We appreciate the swift resolution."

Alex: "You're welcome, Sarah. If you encounter any further issues or need assistance, feel free to reach out anytime. We're here to help."

Bring in management when needed

When dealing with challenging customers, prompt involvement of management is crucial to prevent escalations. Delaying this intervention may exacerbate issues, leading to further dissatisfaction, damaged relationships, or increased tensions with the customer. Here are a few situations when you must bring in management to

  • Complex technical problems: When the customer encounters intricate technical issues that surpass immediate resolution, requiring specialized expertise.
  • Policy exceptions: Instances where customers' requests deviate from standard protocols or necessitate exceptions demanding managerial approval.
  • Service recovery: Situations demanding extensive compensation or exceptional gestures to regain a customer's trust or satisfaction after a severe service failure.
  • Unresolved disputes: Conflicts that persist despite attempts at resolution, requiring higher-level intervention to reach a satisfactory outcome.
  • Legal or compliance matters: Issues involving legal intricacies or compliance concerns necessitating managerial expertise for proper resolution.
  • Escalating tensions: Instances where conflicts escalate or become emotionally charged, requiring senior-level intervention for de-escalation and conflict resolution.
  • Major service disruptions: Widespread service outages or critical system failures impacting multiple customers, demanding immediate managerial attention for resolution and damage control.

Don’t take it personally

While dealing with difficult customers, do not take their frustrations personally.

Understanding that their dissatisfaction isn't directed at you personally helps maintain professionalism. Instead, focus on their concerns, empathize, and strive for resolution. Remind yourself that their frustration stems from the situation, not you.

Adopting this mindset fosters a calm, empathetic response. It allows you to concentrate on problem-solving and providing exceptional service, ensuring the customer feels heard and valued despite their frustrations, ultimately diffusing tense situations and fostering positive outcomes.

How to use technology to handle difficult customers effectively?

While these tactics can help your support team a great deal, advanced technology is the x-factor that can equip your customer support team to handle difficult customers effectively. Integrating cutting-edge tools and platforms will help you streamline operations, ensure prompt, tailored solutions, and elevate overall customer experience exponentially.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems: Implementing CRM platforms allows businesses to track and manage customer interactions, preferences, and past issues. It enables the support team to access detailed customer histories promptly, facilitating personalized and efficient responses to address their concerns.

One of the advanced CRMs, DevRev, can help you streamline your customer support. The AI-native CRM goes beyond basic interaction tracking, offering a comprehensive suite of features. From aggregating data from various touchpoints to providing a holistic view of customer journeys, it enables proactive problem-solving.

Data analytics for insights: Utilizing data analytics tools helps in understanding customer behavior patterns, identifying trends, and predicting potential issues. These insights aid in proactive problem-solving, enabling companies to pre-emptively address concerns before they escalate.

AI-Powered chatbots: Deploying AI-driven chatbots on websites or messaging platforms enables immediate customer assistance, offering real-time responses to common queries or guiding customers to relevant resources. These bots can swiftly triage issues, escalate complex cases to human agents, and provide round-the-clock support.

Social media monitoring tools: Monitoring social media platforms using specialized tools enables businesses to promptly respond to customer complaints or queries publicly. These tools facilitate swift engagement, showcasing responsiveness and commitment to resolving issues, thereby mitigating negative sentiment.

Unified communication platforms: You can integrate various communication channels (email, chat, phone) into a unified platform to streamline interactions. Agents gain a comprehensive view of ongoing conversations, ensuring consistency and avoiding duplication while handling customer concerns.

Feedback and survey tools: Implementing feedback and survey mechanisms allows customers to share their experiences easily. Analyzing this feedback helps in understanding pain points, enabling companies to make informed improvements to their products or services.

Remote support technologies: Utilizing remote access and screen-sharing tools help support teams in diagnosing and resolving technical issues effectively. It enables real-time visual assistance, expediting issue resolution while ensuring a personalized customer experience.

By harnessing these technological advancements, businesses can enhance their customer service strategies, improve response times, personalize interactions, and ultimately foster long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty. Integrating technology in customer service not only empowers support teams but also demonstrates a commitment to providing exceptional customer experiences.

Foster a collaborative culture to get the best of all the worlds

When customers voice complaints, it typically relates to product or service issues. Therefore, it is necessary to build and support a collaborative culture within your organization to ensure you get the best of both worlds.

To prevent such escalation and difficult situations, maintain constant communication with your product team, adopting a preemptive approach. You can even bring in the product teams at the beginning of the process for quick and efficient customer problem resolutions.

To deal with difficult customers, you can initiate peer learning wherein support team members can share their experiences and insights gained from handling difficult customer situations. You can encourage your team members to discuss successful strategies, best practices, and lessons learned from resolving conflicts effectively.

In addition to improved customer support, this collaborative approach fosters a sense of camaraderie among team members, which will eventually lead to excellent customer service and hence improved customer satisfaction and retention.

Frequently Asked Questions