Gimme, Gimme! 5 Ways to Serve Difficult Customers

Spending any amount of time in the trenches of customer service will quickly expose you to all kinds of customers. There’s the good, which we love; there’s the bad, which we avoid as much as possible; and then there’s the ugly, which we all dread. Most can quickly call to mind at least one challenging customer service experience. Some businesses even have a list of their own ‘Top 10 Hardest Customers’, whether that’s acknowledged or just silently thought about amongst your team.


Difficult customers- you know what I’m talking about. The kind that refuse to take any responsibility, want everything for free (and then some), and are asinine in behavior. Although it would be nice to tell them to go pound sand, that’s not really an option- or at least it shouldn’t be if you care about your brand. So, how do you handle difficult customers who are unreasonable and challenging?



No matter how ridiculous things get, always show respect. Fighting disrespect with disrespect never works out well in the end. Ultimately, you brand is at stake. Proving someone wrong through disrespectful ways is an expensive price to pay and will damage your credibility. Customers can’t always see the big picture and often react emotionally. Be the bigger person, stay calm, and make sure your words and body language communicate openness.


Hold Onto the Reigns

Your customer is coming to you for a resolution, meaning they understand you have the power and ability to control any outcome. Don’t allow your customer’s irrational behavior to hijack the situation. You are in charge and need to be confident in your position as a problem solver. I’ve witnessed many situations in which employees are dominated by their customer and are unable to regain control. Remind the customer that you are committed to assisting them.



Listening to an escalated customer isn’t easy; in fact it takes an incredible amount of patience and willpower. However, I have found all some customers want is to be heard. Listening satisfies this. Allow the customer as much time as needed to express their cares/concerns/frustrations. And when they are speaking, listen to understand rather than to merely reply. Try to determine the root cause and then problem solve based off of your findings.


Don’t Take Things Personally

More often than not, you have nothing to do with your customer’s frustration. You just happen to be in the right place at the wrong time. When you can separate yourself from the situation, you will be poised to best assist the customer. A couple weeks ago I had the ‘privilege’ of assisting a customer because he wanted to speak with a manager. He was incredibly irrational, disrespectful, and wasn’t going to accept any solution I presented. He made some comments about the way I was handling the situation that could have easily been offensive. However, I knew he most likely woke up in that behavior and he was just looking for a scapegoat. Don’t take things personally, it’s not your fault.


Give and Take

Resolutions are rarely clear-cut. Most times they involve some amount of give and take. Part of offering a kickass customer experience requires compromise. Treat each situation as a unique opportunity. Although the outcome may be similar in nature to your standard process, make the customer feel as though you have tailored the outcome just for them in that moment. Maybe this is offering them a coupon for a repeat visit or waiving a payment. Whatever the resolution, make sure to give a little extra.


How do you deal with challenging customers? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet!


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