Dealing with difficult customers training tips

10 Master Tips: Dealing With Difficult Customers Training

“Give me a refund…NOW!”
“I want to speak with a manager!”
“If you don’t give me a discount, I will write a bad review!”
“I have 100K followers! They aren’t going to be happy to hear this!”

Yikes! Dealing with demanding customers is going to happen. We have all watched those entertaining individuals labeled “Karens” on social media with their demands and entitlement. (Sorry to all of you with the name Karen, who are actually wonderful customers!)

Karen, Kyle, Grumpy Gus, Snappy Susan, or any other name-du-jour you want to give them, complainers will show up within all industries. If you deal with people, you will have to deal with complaints at some point. Issues can range from dealing with genuine problems and unfair demands to even outrageous abuse. Abuse and aggression aside (a different type of post), it is crucial to have a well-planned strategy to deal with workplace complaints and demands. Have a proactive discussion with your team to ensure they are comfortable dealing with the inevitable.

Here are some of our straightforward tips to add to your dealing with difficult customers training program.

01. Stay Clam

We know staying calm when someone is coming in hot can be challenging! Remember that your team can influence someone’s approach by mirroring what they want to see, and not reflecting what they see in front of them. Remind team members to stay calm and resist the urge to raise their voices or react with facial expressions (eye roll, anyone?). These fundamentals should be a part of any great dealing with difficult customers training program. We suggest including individual-specific tips on staying calm and professional, as some people need specific guidance.

dealing with difficult customers training

02. Act Quickly

If you know about potential issues, don’t wait! Act quickly and proactively. Rather than training your team to reach out to a manager, please encourage them to make things right, look for ways to improve, and make decisions. Speedy thinking can turn potential troubles into guaranteed wins, but your team members need to have the power to act! 


03. First Time, Every Time

Do your team members deal with the same issues again and again? Many situations are on repeat. Many team members might be tempted to go into auto-pilot mode when dealing with repetitive issues, but that would be a mistake. It is essential to hear complaints like we are hearing them for the first time. Consider individuals and their experiences:

      1. What is this person feeling?
      2. How is their personality impacting their reaction?
      3. What impact has it had on their experience?
      4. What is their immediate need?
      5. Have they experienced other challenges?

These are some of the questions we can ask ourselves to help remain objective, emotionally thoughtful, and creative in our approach. Remember- First time, every time! 


04. Assume Positive Intent

Do some of your team members like constructing a “Us Versus Them” scenario? It might be easy to do when a customer comes with “guns a blazing” and is ready for a fight. However, reinforce in your training that it would be best to assume a customer has positive intent and is not trying to trick us into providing freebies, discounts, upgrades, etc.

Many customers are upset for valid reasons, and we must remember that we ultimately want our customers to be happy. Ensure your dealing with difficult customers training includes the conversation on staying positive, which is vital to creating loyalty and trust.

05. Actively Listen

We all know it’s essential to listen, but we must actively listen! Any great dealing with difficult customers training should include details on demonstrating our listening. There are many ways that we can actively listen like:

    1. Notes. When people see you taking notes, it can mean that you are taking them seriously. Don’t forget the power of a pen, paper, and a “Do you mind if I take some notes?” to show someone you are listening.
    2. Eye Contact. Do you use a computer? It might be better to stop typing and look up. It won’t go over well if you seem distracted by something else. Maintaining eye contact is key during problematic conversations.
    3. Movement. Add movements like tilting your head, nodding, or facial expression to show emotions like shock and disbelief. Visuals help showcase your level of attention.

06. Don't Rush

When dealing with unpleasantness, we tend to want to get it over quickly! That doesn’t work when dealing with complaints. We have to listen, take our time, and address any questions. When we try to speed up a conversation, it may come across as indifference. If someone perceives your actions as “I don’t care,” it won’t lead to a successful resolution.

07. Apologize & Empathize

Teach your team that it’s okay to apologize when we are at fault and that it has to be genuine (Important one!). However, we can even apologize with empathy for experiences outside our control. It won’t hurt the situation, so why not add it? It shows that we are not a bunch of robots, and that we care about our customers.

For example, suppose someone is complaining about the weather and being late for an appointment. In that case, we can empathize with their experience, acknowledge their frustration, and work towards finding an alternative rather than washing our hands with them.

By understanding the customer’s perspective and acknowledging their emotions, your employees can build rapport with the customer and establish trust. This can help de-escalate the situation and find a solution that satisfies the customer’s needs.

08. Follow Up

Any dealing with difficult customers training program worth its weight will include a conversation around follow-up. Encourage your team members to follow up with customers wherever they can, especially when a problem arises. If they find, through follow-up, that an issue is not resolved, then it is time to work towards making it right. Please don’t give up on your customers; they won’t give up on you. It’s that simple.

09. Consistency

Are you teaching your team members the importance of consistency? When dealing with one representative, does a customer get one experience and then another experience with someone else? This doesn’t create a convincing or manageable environment for dealing with customers’ complaints. We have to set expectations with our team members to manage customer expectations. Structure your dealing with difficult customers training to ensure customers get a similar experience from whoever they connect with on your team. Consistency is key! 

10. Roleplay

We all know that practice makes perfect. Of course, we can analyze issues and think about how to move forward, but there is a more straightforward way. Sample the knowledge of your team and various approaches to handling conflict. It might seem silly, but practicing your control, speed, and the language you will use in a difficult situation can help make everyone more comfortable when the real thing comes around. By rehearsing different scenarios, your employees can sharpen their skills and learn how to respond appropriately.


Make it easy!

Let Oculus design your dealing with difficult customers training program!

That’s a great start to add to your training objectives. Of course, we can add other steps here, like avoiding arguing, acknowledging emotions, being transparent, and offering multiple solutions, but we will leave those for another day. If designing your own program seems daunting, a professional training company like Oculus can help you! Just reach out and let us do the hard work of assembling a program. It’s what we do, after all!

When thinking about your team’s development and happiness, preparing a dealing with difficult customers training can fit them with the necessary skills to feel comfortable in their roles. In a time when employee retention is critical, it’s a no-brainer! What are you waiting for? Get planning!

Here are some other resources to help you with your planning:

Harvard Law School


Our experts. Meet the team member whose expertise contributed to this post.

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