10 Ways to Handle Difficult Customers

How to handle difficult customers – not a question we should be asking ourselves, yet one we are unfortunately facing more and more often since the onset of COVID.

Customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service. Since difficult customers are inevitable and more prevalent in this COVID environment, it is important that you and your team know how to effectively resolve customer conflicts.

Learn how to handle difficult customers

To enhance your team’s conflict resolution capabilities and increase their skills in knowing how to handle difficult customers, contact KONA for information on online workshops and practice role-playing with customer service and call centre workshops.

Some people believe “the customer is always right,” but I do not. However, I do believe that the customer is “always the customer”, they may not always be easy to deal with but you must still politely deal with them.

What to do

Learning how to handle difficult customers is vital ingredient for any business, especially those who have call centres. Even businesses with the best products and services are bound to have occasional run-ins with angry customers.

Consumers expect businesses to provide good customer service, now more than ever and with the increase in stress created by the global pandemic, many of our customers are experiencing an increase in “unreasonable” customers.

To build a positive reputation with consumers and to help manage internal stress, it is important to have professionally trained staff who can handle difficult people and resolve customer complaints.

How to do it

Many people’s natural response when faced with how to handle difficult customers, is to get defensive and get into a negative mindset with a disgruntled client. Once you flip the switch and start with ‘thank you,’ the response is out of the ordinary for them.

This works in every business, and once the strategy is taught to the customer service teams, sales divisions, and leadership, the impact is amazing.

However, handling an angry customer doesn’t stop there. Here are several other techniques and strategies that your team can learn to enhance their quality of customer service when dealing with complaints.

To find out more contact the KONA Group 1300 611 288 | [email protected]

10 Ways on How to Handle Difficult Customers

  1. First and foremost, listen. Do not try to talk over the customer or argue with them. Let the customer have their say, even if you know what they are going to say next, that they don’t have all the information or that they are mistaken. As you listen, take the opportunity to build rapport with the customer.
  2. Build rapport through empathy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Echo the source of their frustration and show that you understand their position and situation. If you can empathise with a customer’s problem, it will help calm them down. If you verbally “nod” during the call, the customer will feel better understood.
  3. Lower your voice. If the customer gets louder, speak slowly, in a low tone. Your calm demeanour can carry over to them and help them to settle down. As you approach the situation with a calm, clear mind, unaffected by the customer’s tone or volume, their anger will generally dissipate.
  4. Respond as if all your customers are watching. Pretend you are not talking only to the customer but to an audience that is watching the interaction. This shift in perspective can provide an emotional buffer if the customer is being verbally abusive and will allow you to think more clearly when responding. Since an unruly customer can be a negative referral, assume they’ll repeat the conversation to other potential customers; this mindset can help you do your best to address their concerns in a calming way.
  5. Know when to give in. If it is apparent that satisfying a rude customer is going to take two hours and still result in negative referrals, it may be better to take the high road and compromise. This will give you more time to nurture other, more productive customer relationships. Keep in mind that the interaction is atypical of customers and you’re dealing with an exception.
  6. Stay calm. If the customer is swearing or being verbally abusive, take a deep breath and continue as if you didn’t hear them. Responding in kind will not solve anything, and it will usually escalate the situation. Instead, remind the customer that you are there to help them and are their best immediate chance of resolving the situation. This simple statement often helps defuse the situation.
  7. Don’t take it personally. Always speak to the issue at hand and do not get personal, even if the customer does. Remember that the customer doesn’t know you and is just venting frustration at you as a representative of your company. Gently guide the conversation back to the issue and how you intend to resolve it.
  8. Remember that you’re interacting with a human. Everyone has an occasional bad day. Maybe your rude customer had a fight with their spouse, got a traffic ticket that morning or had a recent run of bad luck. We’ve all been there, to some degree. Try to empathise and make their day better by being a pleasant, calming voice – it’ll make you feel good too.
  9. If you promise a call-back, call back! Even if you promised an update that you don’t have yet, call the customer at the scheduled time anyway. The customer will be reassured that you are not trying to dodge them and will appreciate the follow-up.
  10. Summarise the next steps. At the end of the call, let the customer know exactly what to expect, and then be sure to follow through on your promises. Document the call to ensure you’re well prepared for the next interaction.

To find out more contact the KONA Group 1300 611 288 | [email protected]


It is important for businesses to give their teams the proper conflict management training and techniques to be successful and know handle difficult customers. You can train your customer service, sales and leadership by investing your team in customer service workshops with KONA.

There are several great training resources available, both online and offline. To help you find the right resources for building a supportive team, we spoke with experts to compile a brief list of great training workshops.


Honing your customer service and conflict management skills takes time and practice. After your team completes the KONA training courses, you can implement recurring in-house exercises to keep their skills sharp as we will develop the training customised and branded for each client.

In conjunction with our customers, the Customisation phase is to tailor the appropriate training workshops and methodologies that will reinforce all the current in-house training and development.

This will include:

  • Roll out and logistics.
  • Worksheets.
  • Exercises.
  • Case studies.
  • PowerPoint slides.
  • On-going coaching manuals.

Our customers have experience amazing results with the below process:

KONA’s A.C.T.C Proven Process

Step 1: Assessment

Before we make any recommendations, we gain an understanding of your team’s effectiveness in the following key areas:

  • Strategic Objectives and your customers.
  • Distribution Strategy.
  • Climate of Support Leadership.
  • Team Culture.
  • Customer service Team Management.
  • Customer Management.
  • Required Soft Skills and Service Methodology.
  • Individual Performance Management and Accountability.

Step 2: Customisation

Having identified key areas of your current team’s effectiveness we will then be in a position to give feedback and recommendations of service improvement and the immediate key areas to focus on to generate continued growth.

In addition, we customise the training and coaching so that it is relevant to your customers service delivery and strategy.

Step 3: Training Modules

The Assessment and Customisation steps will help us to tailor practical training and development programs, in alignment with our customers overall strategy. For ongoing learning and referencing, and “to keep the training alive” – learning materials will also be handed over to you after the workshops.

Step 4: Coaching

Ongoing coaching plays a key role in driving sustained results from any customer management Effectiveness Strategy. We recommend follow-up, on-the-job coaching that will embed the processes, behaviours and skills required to make an ongoing success in delivering training excellence. Also, by this approach, combined by our active learning and participant engagement workshops – your team won’t revert to their old, comfortable habits!

To GET YOUR TEAM TRAINED IN HANDLING DIFFICULT CUSTOMERS ESPECIALLY DURING COVD-19, contact KONA 1300 611 288 | [email protected] for a confidential conversation today.

hope is not a business strategy hbb group kona sales training