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upset customer on phone

How to Deal With Difficult Customers

Key Points

Listening to upset customers helps you understand how to interact with them in your business. Here are 7 tips to manage conflict with a customer.

Often, difficult or angry customers aren’t expressing frustration with you. These emotions are tied to external situations and psychological stimuli. What you need are communication skills to manage difficult customers. Take these tips into consideration when dealing with upset customers.

upset customer on phone

Practice reflective listening.

Telling someone, “I understand,” doesn’t always make someone feel better. This kind of broad statement will not calm the customer down. When a customer is telling you their issue, practice reflective listening. 

Reflective listening requires that you understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their words and their body language. Once you’ve analyzed the situation, then you respond by reflecting the thoughts and feelings you heard back to your customer.

Example of practicing reflective listening:

Customer: “I’m frustrated because we have a limited budget and you’re unwilling to offer us a discount.”

Customer Success Manager: “So, what I’m hearing is that our pricing is a barrier for your business. Your budget is tight, and I’m not offering a discount that meets your needs. Is that correct?”

If you’ve adequately understood their sentiment, move on. If not, say, “Tell me more, so I can better understand.” Never promise you’ll fix the situation — because you might not be able to. Your goal at this moment is to make your customer feel heard and valued.

Consider their affect heuristic.

The affect heuristic is a mental shortcut that helps you make quick and efficient decisions based on how you feel toward a person, place, or situation. It explains the fact that we all make decisions and judgments based on our worldviews and experiences.

In these situations, objective facts carry little weight for us. Instead, we run the decision or situation through our internal “software” and develop our own opinions based on what we already know. One’s affect heuristic is subjective and based on their past experiences.

Example of the affect heuristic:

Ask questions to understand the root cause of their apprehension. The questions below can help your customer relax, and yield insights into why they’re unwilling to move forward:

  • “I’d like to understand. Tell me more about why you’re skeptical.”
  • “What can I do to relieve your fears?”
  • “How can I help you feel comfortable enough to move forward?”

These questions also redirect their mind from thinking you’re untrustworthy to proactively considering what they need to move forward.

Tap into the beginner’s mind.

The beginner’s mind is the strategy of approaching every situation as if you were a beginner. When you adopt this way of thinking, you enter every conversation with the “don’t know” mind, which keeps you from prejudging a customer or their situation.

It also encourages you to live without “shoulds.” These are nagging thoughts like:

  • The customer should have already known they wouldn’t have a budget until next quarter.
  • The customer should have read my email about their discount expiration.
  • The customer should not have assumed I would be available for weekly consultations.

“Shoulds” put your mind on the defensive and jeopardize the productivity of the conversation before it even begins.

Let go of being an expert. Sure, you’re an expert in your product/service, and you might be an expert in customer service, but you’re not an expert in this customer, their situation, or the conversation you’re currently engaging in.

Example of tapping into the beginner’s mind:

So, instead of saying, “You told me you wanted to increase your inbound lead generation by 20% by the end of this month, and these delays won’t make this possible” approach each conversation with the beginner’s mind. Don’t prejudge your customer’s frustration, forget about what they should have done, and view each conversation as a new puzzle to be solved.

Try saying, “It looks like with these delays, we won’t be able to meet our inbound lead generation goal. But, let’s see what we can do to get the results we’re looking for.” This approach acknowledges the problem but immediately begins working towards a solution.

Let go of fear.

Fear of a negative outcome drives many of our reactions. Commonly, fear makes us want to control things. If a customer is being difficult, there is a fear of challenging them and damaging the relationship. If a customer expresses displeasure with your timeline or pricing structure, the fear is we might not be able to fix the situation.

First, let go of the idea that you need to fix anything. When sitting down with a difficult customer, your job is to listen, understand, and discern the next steps; not immediately produce a solution.

Example of letting go of fear:

So, instead of apologizing, slapping together a mediocre fix, or validating feelings, say, “It’s unfortunate X happened. I’m aware of how this is affecting your business, and I appreciate your patience as I work to resolve this matter.”

Remember that anger is natural.

The Recalibration Theory of Anger says this emotion is naturally wired into humans. In short, anger is our evolutionary way of bargaining. We furrow our brows, press our lips together, and flare our nostrils in to drive our “opponent” to place a higher value on what we have to offer.

Example of using anger to bargain with a customer:

When faced with an angry customer, avoid the (natural) tendency to justify your position. Instead, understand that they’re merely feeling undervalued and attempting to control the situation.

Take your customer’s frustration seriously, but not personally. Remain calm and actively listen to what your customer says. When you’ve confirmed you understand their frustration, thank them for communicating it, and tell them you’ll get back to them with a solution.

When a customer’s angry, no solution may make them feel better. Give them time to cool off. Consult with your manager or partner on the best way to move forward.

Keep calm and carry on.

Conflict is a part of business and how you react under fire impacts the future of your customer relationships.

The adage, “The customer is always right” still rings true. You have far more to lose by taking the low road and stooping to a customer’s level of hostility.

Treating someone with disdain or disrespect can reflect negatively on you and your company, so reputation management should always be top of mind.

Remember, people will often mirror the emotional signals you emit. If you respond with hostility and anger, don’t expect friendliness and understanding in return.

Use these tips for navigating your next conflict:

  • Maintain a calm and professional tone while also remaining assertive.
  • Refrain from name-calling or finger-pointing.
  • Never say or write anything that can be used against you.
  • Always resolve disputes in person or over the phone. Email is not an effective tool for hashing out disagreements.

Use your support resources.

These are the tricks you can use during a call, chat, or in-person interaction to deal with a difficult customer. While they should be used on a case-by-case basis, here are a few resources reps should learn to master:

  • Placing a customer on a strategic hold to buy time or de-escalate emotion.
  • Setting up a screen share or recording troubleshooting steps to explain a complex solution.
  • Ask a colleague for additional confirmation when you know your solution will work. (This can build rapport with a customer who’s dubious of your advice.)

Example of using your resources:

Let’s say one of your most-loyal customers calls your support team with a common problem but they’re convinced the issue is extremely complex. When you show them the proven solution, they insist that they’ve gone through the steps exactly how you outlined them. Now, they’re starting to get frustrated because they suspect you don’t trust that they followed your directions.

This is an excellent opportunity to use a strategic hold. Tell the customer you’d like to look into this issue to make sure that nothing is out of the ordinary with their product or service. You can tell them you’re performing diagnostics, referring to a colleague, or simply “running tests” to ensure things are working properly.

After a minute or two of sitting silently, return to the call and ask the customer to perform the troubleshooting steps again, but this time, do it together. This puts you in a win-win situation, because either you’ll spot the user error, or you’ll identify the abnormality without making the customer feel like they’re repeating steps for no reason.

how to deal with angry customers infographic

Is it Worth it to Deal with Angry Customers?

In short, yes. Dealing with angry customers can be difficult, but angry, demanding, or hard to please customers are beneficial to your company’s success by providing opportunities to improve your business.

These tips all have one element in common in dealing with difficult customers: listening. Listening to upset customers helps you understand how to interact with them in your business.

Dealing with unhappy customers is never easy. Many customers just want to be heard and for their problems to be understood. By actively listening to a customer’s concerns, you can see an alternative point of view on how your business can improve a product or service and help to improve the structure of your business.

No company is exempt from having difficult customers, but allowing your customers to be heard and understood can increase brand loyalty, product or services, and conflict resolution training skills.

Learn 3 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service.

By Leslie Radford
Happy man in Santa hat with bags on Christmas market

Focus on Customer Service This Holiday Season

Key Points

Going above and beyond for your customers will keep them coming back.


We all know that it’s far more affordable to retain your customers than it is to attract new ones. It’s important that you know your customers and how you can go above and beyond for them. The holiday season is a fantastic opportunity to remind your customers why they should stick around for another year (or more).

While every day is a good day to delight your customers, these best practices are especially important around the holidays, when stress levels rise and patience levels drop. Here are some ways you can do extra for your customers this season.

6 Ways to Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

happy man reaching in box at christmas

1) Prepare for the holiday rush

The holiday season is a crazy time, so make each and every interaction with your company a positive one. Being prepared will help you do so. While customers may expect longer lines and wait times around the end of the year, it’s never a bad thing to surprise them with the opposite. Keep your customer service team well-staffed so they can engage with customers when needed. Limiting how many people they have to interact with will keep frustration levels low and holiday spirits up.

2) Pay attention to your social media channels

Consumers send more messages to businesses during the holidays. According to recent research by Sprout Social, retailers can expect an average of 18% more social messages per month during 2021’s holiday season than normal months. More and more, people are wanting to interact with customer service on social media instead of standing in lines or holding the phone. Interaction with messaging systems is much more convenient.

Have support reps available to help on social media, and maybe even add more reps to your channels during the holiday season to ensure someone is always ready to help. You’ll also be meeting customers where they already are, helping them succeed during the holiday season and continue to have seamless experiences.

3) Offer a compelling discount

By a compelling discount, we don’t simply mean “10% off your next order.” Instead, try a discount that will inspire your customer to continue shopping with you.

What that looks like will depend on your product or service. You should focus on the value your product or service provides customers, not just the price you discount it by. In other words, position yourself in a way where buying your product is a complete no-brainer.

Write your promotion carefully. According to Psychology Today, a “Get $ Off” promotion emphasizes achieving a gain, while the “Save $” wording emphasizes avoiding a loss — and customers recognize that difference.

4) Get personal

Great customer service is about more than just solving your customer’s issue. Go above and beyond to personally remind your customers how grateful you are for their business and why you care. 

We may live in a digital world, but it means a lot to receive something handwritten, and capitalizing on the holiday spirit in this way can build a positive brand association. This could be a simple greeting or thank you card in the mail or as extravagant as a gift delivered to their door.

Here are some of his best practices for personalized communication with customers:

  • Use tone and language that aligns with your customers’ knowledge and experience with the product.
  • Listen to your customer and empower them. Asking the customer direct questions about their preferences both personalizes the experience and builds their confidence in the product.
  • Send follow-up messages to customers after each interaction to thank them and offer further assistance if needed.
  • Recommend features and tools based on their history and business needs and always provide notated documentation.
  • The strategy of sending personalized notes or gifts works well because, with every exchange, customers are encouraged to become brand ambassadors.

5) Invest in premium packaging

Anyone that’s spent any amount of time wrestling with a roll of wrapping paper and tape dispenser knows the value of a pretty package. In fact, according to a recent Dotcom Distribution packaging study, branded or gift-like packaging makes customers more excited about receiving an item, especially younger shoppers. 

Moreover, 42% of respondents credited sustainable packaging as a feature most likely to make them want to shop with a brand again. 

First impressions make a huge difference in our fast-paced, digital lives, so using premium packaging allows your product to stand out against others. 

6) Be transparent about the small print

Refund and exchange policies, as well as additional services, are often part of the small print on your website or receipts. As busy and loud as the holiday season is, do your customers a favor and place those policies and services front and center. 

When buying gifts, customers prefer a return policy that ensures they can easily return them. You have a better shot at increasing sales and keeping if you can offer this, especially if you offer free returns. In fact, 55% of consumers won’t even shop with a company that doesn’t offer free returns.

Delight Your Customers

white christmas gift with red bow

These customer service strategies are a chance to delight your customers, express your gratitude, and remind them why you care.

By offering compelling discounts with creative call-to-actions will inspire your customers to buy, but great customer service is why they will return. Remember to focus on the value that you are bringing your customer, not just how low you can get your prices.


By Leslie Radford


customer service

3 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

3 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

By Leslie Radford

Key Takeaways

Keep a Positive Attitude

Problem-Solve Creatively

Be a Resource

At NuvoDesk, we want to help you do better business, not just offer you a place to do business. We know that investing in customer service is crucial to long-term business success. 

A RightNow Technologies Customer Experience Report found that 86% of U.S. adults are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

Here’s how you can provide excellent customer service to your clients:

Keep a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude goes a long way in providing excellent customer service. It can change negative customer experiences into positive customer experiences. Because many customer interactions are not face-to-face, your attitude should be reflected in your language and tone of voice.

It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of written communication. The brain uses multiple signals (i.e. body language and facial expressions) to interpret someone else’s emotional tone which is absent online. Don’t be afraid to use emojis to convey warmth and good humor, or pick up the phone if you find an email or chat conversation getting tense.

Problem-Solve Creatively

There is an 80% churn rate of customers who receive bad service. You must thrive on solving problems for your customers and make it a central part of your support role.

Wow your customers with your problem-solving abilities. By creatively meeting their needs in ways that go above and beyond, you’ll create customers that are loyal to you and your product. By actively listening and anticipating their concerns, you come up with ingenious ways of helping your clients.

Be a Resource

Knowing your products and services inside and out will allow you to serve your customers better. Believe in the product and what it can do for them. Make it your goal to learn everything there is to know about your product so you can amaze your customers. Know how to troubleshoot any issues to provide prompt service for clients. Know what products complement the product or service they’re interested in. Be ready to provide additional information they may need.

Make them #1

Being a resource and having a positive attitude can help you solve problems for your clients. Make them your number one priority and create lasting relationships.

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