Generally speaking, difficult customers are people whose cost of service outweighs what they
generate in terms of revenue. Every business has them – and whether internal or external, there are
several ways to treat these folks before taking the irrevocable step of showing them the door. When
pride, the need to maintain one’s dignity, or anger threaten to contaminate a customer relationship,
the following suggestions may help diffuse the situation:
- Listen to the customer. Don’t just let the customer talk, listen. The customer may have a valid
point and is just not presenting it appropriately. Don’t interrupt and don’t trivialize the
problem; the complaint or insight being expressed just might save the business a lot of time and
money. Listen and let the customer run out of steam.
- Remain calm. Speak softly and directly. Lowering your voice almost always results in the listener
doing the same. Don’t exacerbate the situation by becoming excited, matching wits, or trying to
get the upper hand. Control the situation by controlling your emotions. It’s tough for difficult
customers to play their game if the opposition refuses to play.
- Don’t take any remarks or behavior personally. Leave personal traits out of the situation. If you
maintain your professionalism, you will not lose your dignity – no matter how much the other
person is carrying on.
- Attempt to solve the problem. Don’t pass the buck by sending the customer on a wild goose chase.
The goal is to solve the problem quickly and directly. Remember that the customer may not
know your organization’s setup and may be frustrated because it’s not obvious where to go for
- Apologize for any inconvenience and thank the customer. Acknowledgement is a powerful tool for
- Remember that disgruntled customers tell up to five times more people about a bad product or business
compared to the number of people they tell about good products or services. So do your best to placate
Thinking in the Long Term.