10 Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers + Pro Tips for 2023

As a business owner, encountering difficult customers is inevitable. With the right tools, you can turn negative interactions around. Read our guide for expert tips.

No matter how awesome your product is or how helpful your staff may be, you’re bound to deal with unhappy customers from time to time. It may seem like you just can’t satisfy these difficult customers. In some cases, you can’t. Some people may just be having a bad day. In other cases, your staff might have really made a mistake. 

Regardless of the issue at hand, having a system in place for diffusing the tension with difficult customers can be a game changer. Knowing that you and your team have a protocol for how to handle these situations takes the pressure off and allows you to turn the interaction around. At the very least, you’ll be able to provide some sort of solution. 

Still, you might feel like you’ve tried everything to placate angry customers and nothing has worked. While this is frustrating, know that there are better tactics you can take to resolve these issues. In this article, you’ll find expert tips for dealing with each type of angry customer you may encounter, plus the psychology behind why it works. 


Why Is It So Important to Make Difficult Customers Happy?

It might be tempting to just cut ties with angry customers and accept that they won’t shop with you again. However, on average, unhappy customers go on to tell nine to 15 other folks about their bad experiences. When you leave a situation unresolved with a difficult customer, you may be losing more than just one patron.

Here’s another interesting statistic: a Yelp survey found that 9 in 10 customers are willing to ignore a negative review when they can see that the business responded and corrected the issue. So, when other customers see you working to correct a negative situation, they’ll respect your work and want to continue shopping with you.

In short, every customer matters – especially since they can influence whether their network shops with you. If you’ve worked in customer service, you know the saying “the customer is always right” isn’t true. Nevertheless, the reputation of your business is at stake, and it’s up to you to uphold it by making difficult customers happy.

4 Different Types of Difficult Customers

1. Impatient

Sometimes staffing or supply chain issues can affect your business flow. You may encounter an impatient customer who’s angry about long lines, or maybe they’re upset that you won’t have the product they need in time for an event. 

People become impatient when they find out that it costs more to reach a goal than they originally thought. This can lead people to make irrational choices that cost them even more in the long run. For example, a customer thinks it will cost them 10 minutes to get a coffee, but the long line requires 20 minutes. In frustration, they go to another coffee shop, but the drive there adds another 10 minutes. 

So, when dealing with an impatient customer, ask yourself: what is their goal and how much did they think it would cost them to get there? What added costs have they encountered to trigger the impatience? Having too many options to choose from can also cause impatience, so consider if this is the issue at hand. 

By understanding where the customer’s impatience stems from, you can better respond to the situation. Then, be sure to be transparent about what’s causing the issue without dismissing their concerns. Offer solutions where possible, like explaining that their drink will be the next one made. 

2. Angry

Angry customers can be hard to reason with, regardless of what set them off in the first place. This is likely because, as research shows us, critical thinking and decision-making skills become limited when anger increases. Understanding this concept allows you to better handle the situation.

The goal here is to calm the customer down. Though they may raise the volume of their voice, it’s important that you remain at a normal tone. You can also help them see reason by being reasonable yourself. 

Apologizing (even if it isn't warranted) and letting them know you’re working on a resolution are great first steps. Say something like, “I’m sorry to hear you didn’t get the product you ordered. Thanks for bearing with me while I correct the issue.” 

3. Entitled 

Entitled customers tend to be the most demanding – they’ll suck up all of your time and energy. Their sense of entitlement often derives from a misunderstanding. They don’t understand the scope of your service or how you can actually help. So, they may ask you to do things outside of reason and are less likely to accept alternative solutions.

It’s important to be patient with entitled customers, as they will aim to wear you down over time. Repeat the problem back to them to ensure you’re on the same page and to show that you understand the issue. Then, clearly explain what is within your abilities.

4. Vague and Indecisive

Vague customers tend to have an unclear idea of what they need and what you offer. You may not get much feedback from them, even as you ask questions to try to understand the issue. Likewise, you may sometimes encounter customers who are simply indecisive. They’re struggling to choose between multiple options. 

You can handle vague and indecisive customers in a similar fashion, by acting as a guide. Ask direct, pointed questions to help reach a conclusion. What features do they need? What’s their budget? What level of assistance do they need? By showing your confidence in understanding the options, they’re put at ease.

10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Customers

1. Keep Your Cool

Perhaps the hardest part of handling a difficult customer is avoiding reacting. Whether they’re yelling, talking down to you, or being impatient, you can’t stoop to their level. It’s your job to remain level-headed.

When you do match another person’s emotion, you’re essentially justifying their behavior. You’re upset, so their reaction matches yours. On the other hand, they’ll notice the stark difference between your cool, calm tone and their own. This might make them feel a bit silly, and they’re more likely to check themselves.

2. Listen First

One of the biggest reasons people have strong reactions is because they feel unheard. By allowing the customer to explain the issue in their own words, you show that you’re putting their experience first. Don’t try to talk over them, argue with them, or anticipate what they’ll say next. This will ensure you get off on the right foot and build rapport. 

Once they’re done speaking, you can practice reflective listening. This is where you repeat what you’re hearing back to the customer to ensure you understand. This is a more advanced way to show that you’re listening.

Rather than saying something like “I understand” or “I hear you,” literally tell them what you’re gathering. This might sound like, “What I’m hearing is that our product didn’t meet your expectations because you have to charge it often. Is that right?”

If the customer expresses that you’re correct, you can begin discussing a solution. If not, you can ask them to provide more information. While you shouldn’t promise a solution, it’s important that the customer knows you value what they have to say.

3. Use Professional Language

Along the same lines of remaining calm, it’s essential that you use professional language throughout the exchange. There are a few reasons for this. First, keeping your own demeanor professional helps diffuse the situation. If you were to become personal, it would only aggravate the issue.

Next, some difficult customers will search for any excuse to be unhappy. If they’re already upset and you drop your professional persona, they could use that as another reason to complain. 

Additionally, there may be other customers listening to the interaction. They’ll likely see that the difficult customer is being irrational. By maintaining your professional outward appearance, you’ll earn the respect of other customers. The same goes for online interactions. If a customer leaves a bad review, keep your response professional and solution-oriented. 

Ultimately, you are in a business setting. The customer’s issue is not personal, so you should treat it accordingly. 

4. Be Empathetic

While it’s important to act in a calm and professional manner, that doesn’t mean you need to be cold to your customers. Even if someone is being irrational and angry, it’s important to remember that they’re human just like you.

Building rapport with your customer through empathy can help calm them down. Put yourself in their shoes and consider how they must feel. Show them that you understand where they’re coming from. 

Even if you fundamentally disagree, you can likely empathize with their situation. Think about the last time a company disappointed you. Perhaps they got your order wrong or were out of a product you depend on. Maybe a new employee made a mistake. You know what that dissatisfaction feels like.

You can show empathy without outright agreeing with the customer. For example, you can nod and be respectful. You can also acknowledge which parts did go wrong by saying something like, “I can see what you’re saying, this aspect of the process didn’t go according to our usual practices.”

5. Create a Strategy

In many cases, the issues that arise are not one-offs. They may occur in different ways, but generally speaking, you likely have the same problems over and over. Perhaps multiple customers try to return products after the allotted time period. Or, maybe people always complain about paying extra for a premium service.

In these situations, you can relieve a lot of your own stress by having a set strategy to deal with each specific problem. Though you’ll customize the response to each individual customer, having a plan in place can expedite the solution, making things easier for you and the customer.

For example, perhaps you accept returns up to one week after the end of the return period. You might not advertise this, but as long as the customer has a receipt, you and your employees allow the return. 

6. Break Big Issues Into Chunks

Sometimes, difficult customers will bring several complaints to you at once. Perhaps they’ve let issues build up over time, or maybe a new employee just completely screwed up because they didn’t know the appropriate protocol. Either way, when there are lots of issues balled into one, it can feel overwhelming for both parties. 

In these cases, it’s best to break the problem into smaller, more digestible chunks. This will also allow the customer to feel like you’re addressing all of their concerns and making progress as you offer solutions for each.

For example, let’s say a customer purchased software from your company. They come to you with multiple complaints – it never downloaded properly so some features don’t work. The ones that do work don’t provide the results you advertise. And, now they’ve been auto-billed for another month and they want a refund.

You might start by helping them uninstall and redownload the software properly. Then, you can walk them through the features and make sure they all work. Next, you can dig into the lack of results. By the end of your conversation, they may no longer want a refund.

7. Know When to Let Go

There are some customers you can’t reason with. Some people simply aren’t ready to reach a solution. They may have already made their mind up that there is nothing you can do to correct the issue aside from a refund. They could have already decided that they’ll spend all day complaining until they get what they want.

This is where it’s your job to recognize the signs and let go before you spend all day trying new solutions. In some cases, it’s more productive to give in, offer a refund, and move on to nurturing other customers who actually want to shop with you. 

8. Let the Customer Solve Their Own Problem

There are some issues that customers can resolve on their own. In fact, sometimes simple problems escalate just because you haven’t given the customer all the tools they need. 

For example, a customer may give you a hard time because the payment system declined their credit card. If they’re paying online and are only presented with limited ways to pay, they could abandon the sale or leave you a bad review. In person, they might get loud and angry, even though the situation is out of your control.

In this situation, you could offer them additional payment methods, allowing the customer to simply select a different option at checkout. 

With Pay.com, you can easily add a variety of payment methods – everything from credit cards to PayPal to Apple Pay. This way, the customer has an alternate option if their card declines.

Don’t wait till it’s too late – create your Pay.com account now!

9. Know Your Resources

As you deal with more difficult customers, you likely come up with some proven strategies that help you diffuse the situation and reach a resolution. It’s important to have these resources ready and provide them to your team so they can utilize them as well. These can be technical resources as well as social strategies.

For example, sometimes stepping away can give the customer a second to calm down, de-escalating an intense conversation. However, it’s important that you time it correctly – don’t pause the conversation while the customer is venting. When the time is right, you might say you need to “check with the customer success manager” and then put them on hold or head to the stockroom. 

You might also show the customer that you’re checking that a solution will work by “checking with an expert.” This can help build trust with your customer, showing that you’re getting the best solution to the problem. 

10. Follow Through

If the answer to the issue requires additional work after the interaction is over, make sure you outline the next steps to the customer. Let them know what you’ll do and what the timeline looks like. This shows that you’re actively working on it and gives them a sense of resolution. 

Then, follow through with the plan. If you said you’d follow up with them, be sure to do so. While you may not want to interact with this person again, they’ll likely change their tune once you call back with a solution. 

The Benefits of Working with Pay.com as Your Payment Service Provider 

One way to make sure your customers are happy with your company is to make the checkout process painless. With Pay.com, you can give your customers a wide variety of payment options, so they can use their favorite credit card or mobile payment method. 

Plus, Pay.com makes it easy to get paid however you and your customers prefer. You can offer:

Even after the sale is complete, Pay.com provides additional support and insight. You can track payment status, issue refunds, and even review analytics on the Pay Dashboard.

Click here to get started with Pay.com now.

The Bottom Line: Is the Customer Always Right? 

If you own a business, you’ll get your fair share of difficult customers. Whether they’re indecisive, angry, demanding, or impatient, you’ve got to find a way to resolve issues and move on with your day. Though the customer may not always be right, it’s still your responsibility to diffuse the situation. 

By being empathetic, reflectively listening, and using your resources, you can work through just about any issue. Be sure to make things easier by offering the option for the customer to solve their own issues, as well. 

By using Pay.com as your payment service provider, you can avoid issues with payment methods altogether. Plus, you can give your customer multiple ways to pay, whether they prefer online or phone checkouts. And, if worse comes to worst, you can easily issue a refund on the Pay Dashboard and move on to connecting with more promising customers.


What's the best way for my business to accept payments?

The best way to accept payments for your business is to use a payment service provider like Pay.com. We provide everything you need to get started – a payment gateway, merchant account, and payment processing services. Plus, you can get set up and start accepting a variety of payment methods in just a few clicks.

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How do you handle a rude customer?

Most rude customers just want to feel heard and find a solution. Be sure to be empathetic, listen to what they’re saying, confirm that you’re on the same page, and offer a resolution where possible.

How do you respond to an angry customer?

When dealing with an angry customer, it’s important that you remain calm and professional. Don’t raise your voice. Allow them to speak, then repeat the issue back to them to make sure they see that you understand. Finally, offer a solution or next steps if possible.

How do you politely tell a customer they are wrong?

It’s best to avoid directly telling a customer that they’re wrong. Instead, state the facts. If necessary, you can say something like, “I’m sorry, there seems to have been a miscommunication. Here’s what’s included with this service…”

How do you end a difficult customer call?

The best way to end the call will depend on what type of customer you’re dealing with. If they don’t trust you to correct the problem, be clear about the next steps, let them know when they’ll hear from you again, and hang up. If someone just won’t stop ranting, you can say, “We’ve addressed [the main issue]. Is there anything else I can help you with today?” For inappropriate customers, you can say, “If you continue to [list the behavior], I’ll have to end this call.”

Meet the author
Ginny Dorn
Ginny Dorn is a finance and business copywriter specializing in credit card processing and fintech. She graduated from Western Illinois University with a bachelor's degree in family and consumer sciences.
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