Blog Article

Handling Difficult or Angry Customers

Whatever the situation it is important to handle an irate or difficult customer situation in a professional and skillful manner.


1.  Introduction

In your service delivery things won't always go to plan. Why not?


2.   Process for handling Difficult or Angry Customers


2.1   Formulate a Plan


Everything is always easier if we can have a plan to follow.  If should provide a good basis for handling difficult situations but be flexible enough to be changed to meet the current situation.

By having a clear plan, you are less likely to lose control of yourself and the situation.

What are the key steps that should be in your plan?

First thing to do is STOP, THINK and ASSESS the situation.

Consider the customer situation as you know it.

Does he/she have good reason to be upset?

Do we know what has happened to make them behave this way?

Is this their normal behaviour?

Are you over reacting?

Generally take stock of the situation.

This will actually only take a couple of seconds but will give you time to collect your thoughts and put the relevant skills into play.

What you are doing is putting some ‘distance’ between you and the customer.

Giving people labels can often give you a good start to getting control of yourself in order to deal with them.

Don't waste time on getting into a negative frame of mind e.g” I wish this was’nt happening to me”  It is happening to you so:



2.2   Think positive - use Visualisation



“I know I can handle this”.


2.3   Demonstrate Empathay toward the Customer


Customers will feel better and react better if they believe you understand their feelings and are sensitive to their concerns.

Demonstrating awareness is the skill of showing customers that you understand and appreciate their situation.

This helps you build a rapport and defuse the emotion and negative feelings that the customer may be experiencing.

By building a good rapport you are more than half way to sorting out the situation because everybody (you and the customer) feel better.

How can we show empathy?

Imagine yourself in their situation

  • What annoyances or experiences have they experienced?
  • What is their situation?
  • What are the possible consequences if the problem is unsolved?
  • What sort of things could you say? 


Important: Don't say you know how they feel - you can't possibly and they won't believe you and will get more annoyed.

What could you say?

  • “I can imagine that must be very annoying, let me see what we can do to resolve the problem”
  • “That must be very difficult for you, tell me about  the situation and I will try and find a solution”



It is not always your fault, so it may not be appropriate to apologise.

It is more constructive to demonstrate awareness of the problem as an alternative.

If you or your company HAS made a mistake, a simple, sincere apology is the best way to show that you accept responsibility and recognise the failure.

“I apologise for the trouble this must have caused”

In summary, demonstrating awareness, showing empathy and creating rapport worked because it helps reduce the emotion and prepares the way for reaching a reasonable solution.  It indicates that the message has been received and it keeps you in control of the situation.

Continue prompting to draw out the key points.

When the customer has been allowed to let off steam and calm down, the next step is to focus on the problem in hand.  Get the customer to concentrate on the problem.

Ask questions to confirm what is required and where the problem lies.

“So the most important step is to get the part in the post as quickly as possible?”

“The priority then is to ensure we can check your policy?”

Verify any facts you are not sure of and show the customer you have a good understanding of the problem and what they expect to be done next.

Having confirmed the root of the problem propose a course of action to the customer and get agreement that this is the best course of action for the customer.

Explain what you are going to do and why.

Give the customer alternative actions if possible.

“To ensure that we have fully corrected the problem we would like to run a full diagnostic test.  This should ensure you have no further problems.  Would you like us to run the test today - or - schedule it out of office hours?”



What do you do now?

Do everything you said you'd do, when you said you'd do it.  Make sure other people in your organisation do what they said they'd do in this and chase them on progress.

If there are any changes - tell the customer.

Don't over commit.  Be realistic and stick to that decision with the customer.  Don't be pushed into committing to something you can't deliver - it will make it more difficult later on.

“Naturally, we will do our best to effect the repair with minimum disruption - but until we can test the entire network, we can't be sure of achieving a permanent fix.  I would rather be sure of letting you have a fully working network tomorrow morning that have the system fail again this afternoon”.


What key principles should we always remember?

Rule 1          The customer is always right.

Rule 2          If you find the customer is wrong then return to rule 1.

No one ever won an argument with the customer.

If the customer is pleased with the way it was handled and the result, take time to reflect how you did it - How?

If it didn't work that well with the customer consider what you would do differently next time.

Every difficult customer is an opportunity to get better at handling them.



3.   “Profit from Complaints”


So far we have spent time  looking at ways to deal with a difficult customer when he has a complaint or a problem.

What about the complaints themselves?

No one likes to hear complaints.  But we need to learn to understand the value of complaints.

They help us to know what is wrong or where we might improve.  You can be sure your organisation will never be perfect.


ow do you handle complaints in your job?

It is vital we respond well to complaints and give our customers the opportunity to complain.

We should formalise the way we handle complaints and learn the important lessons they may contain.

We must be seen to be responsive and to care.




Revisit the objectives and aims and bring out the key learning points.

-  verbal communication has to be worked at

-  get to know the customer

-  plan how to deal with different ‘types’ before  talking to them

-  think positive

-  stay in control of YOU!



  • Prosell offers a program that combines sales training and sales coaching.  It is based on recognised research, which tells us that training alone has limited impact and that when supported by skilful coaching, has 74% more chance of being implemented.
  • Prosell has resources to deliver these programs across Australia, covering Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.


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