Customer Service

How to deal with difficult clients: 9 proven tactics.

Ibukun Omotesho
May 15, 2024

Difficult clients can be demanding, unreasonable, or downright rude sometimes and that is why it is important to have a strategy on how to deal with them, including responding to an angry customer.

Whether it’s a customer who’s constantly changing their requirements, expressing dissatisfaction, or simply being unreasonably demanding, knowing how to navigate these interactions calmly and professionally is essential for maintaining positive relationships and ensuring the success of your business.

In this article, we’ll explore nine tactics on how to deal with difficult clients. From active listening to setting boundaries and finding solutions, these strategies will help you effectively manage challenging customer relationships.

Additionally, understanding how to promptly and effectively address the concerns of unhappy clients is crucial in preventing negative impacts on your business.

The challenge of dealing with difficult clients.

As a business owner, you will encounter different types of customers with unique needs. The challenge of dealing with a difficult client is common across various industries.

Difficult clients, including the problematic client, can present a variety of challenges, such as unrealistic expectations, poor communication, constant changes or revisions, lack of cooperation, negativity, or hostility.

These traits can make it hard to maintain a positive client relationship and can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, and dissatisfaction.

Looking at a real-life scenario, Eventbrite is an online ticketing website for live events, Dana Kilian, the VP of customer service at Eventbrite said that the key to dealing with difficult customers is excellent customer service, in an interview, she stated that in dealing with customers “You want them (customers) to always know that if they call, they will get help from people who care”.

To ensure these customers receive the best services, they give training books to their new employees to ensure their communication, active listening, and empathy are top-notch.

The key to managing challenging clients lies in staying calm, understanding the type of difficult client you’re dealing with, setting and managing client expectations, and maintaining professionalism throughout the interaction.

As a business owner, making use of effective communication strategies such as empathy and creating a proactive approach to addressing challenges, businesses can navigate difficult client interactions successfully and turn potentially negative situations into opportunities for growth and improved customer relationships.

9 proven tactics to help businesses in 2024.

Set and manage client expectations.

Setting clear expectations involves clearly defining what will be delivered, the timeline for completion, and any potential challenges or limitations. When you do so, you will make sure that everyone is kept in the loop and this helps you avoid misunderstandings.

Moreover, managing expectations involves good communication skills and collaboration including providing regular updates on progress, addressing any changes or deviations from the original plan, and managing any unexpected challenges that may arise. 

If you’re an online fashion retailer, you can manage your business relationship better when you can set clear expectations with customers, the first step to take is to outline the specific product dimensions, fabric details, and size availability in the product descriptions, with this outline, there will be no unrealistic expectations from your clients.

This transparency helps manage the customer's expectations, so it’s not a case of ‘what was ordered’ vs ‘what was gotten’. This way, business owners can enhance project success and drive long-term business growth.

Listen to your customers complaints.

Active listening is more than just hearing words; it’s about tuning in to both what is being said and the underlying emotions behind it, especially when dealing with a difficult or angry customer. For business owners, this means being fully present and engaged when communicating with employees, clients, or other stakeholders who might be challenging to handle due to their emotions or attitudes.

For example, imagine a client expressing frustration with your product. Instead of simply acknowledging the complaint and moving on, an actively listening business owner will try to understand the root cause of the issue.

They would pay attention not only to the words being spoken but also to the client’s tone of voice, body language, reviews, and emotional cues. Active listening involves paying attention to both words and emotions to understand the concerns and perspectives of others.

Practicing active listening allows business owners to build stronger client relationships, and satisfaction, and make more informed decisions.

Stay calm and professional at all times.

When handling difficult clients, you need to remain calm and professional while maintaining a positive and respectful in various situations. This approach not only preserves the reputation of the business but also enhances relationships and fosters a positive work culture.

When faced with difficult conversations from multiple perspectives on social media platforms, staying calm allows you to think clearly and respond thoughtfully rather than reacting impulsively or becoming verbally abusive.

In challenging situations, business owners can find opportunities to acknowledge the contributions of others, express gratitude, and offer constructive feedback. This fosters a sense of mutual respect and collaboration, ultimately boosting morale and productivity.

No matter the issue at hand, approaching customers with empathy, patience, and professionalism can turn a negative experience into a positive one. It makes your customers feel heard and understand that their concerns are taken seriously.

Focus on providing solutions. 

Business owners should be solution-oriented solutions and it involves shifting the focus away from dwelling on problems or shifting blame and instead directing energy towards identifying actionable steps to solve the issues for all parties involved.

As a business owner, one must maintain a solution-oriented mindset because this inspires confidence and resilience within your team, encouraging them to tackle challenges head-on with creativity and determination.

Business owners recognize that no single individual has all the answers, so they make use diverse perspectives and expertise of their team members to brainstorm ideas and explore potential solutions.

This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and commitment among team members, leading to more innovative and sustainable outcomes.

For example, when faced with a customer complaint, a business owner who focuses on solutions would work towards having a clear understanding of what the issue is and brainstorm for possible resolutions.

The most important step that should be taken is involving both internal team members and external parties, such as clients or vendors, making that everyone's interests and concerns are taken into account.

Through open dialogue and collaboration, you can work towards finding a solution that not only addresses the immediate issue but also strengthens relationships and builds trust.

Offer multiple options. 

Clients love variety, you can provide clients with a range of options acknowledge that every situation is unique and that there isn't always a one-size-fits-all solution and are working towards understanding their clients' needs, preferences, and constraints so they can tailor their offerings accordingly.

If you run an e-commerce store, you can offer a diverse range of products to cater to different preferences, tastes, and needs. This could include variations in size, color, features, or functionalities to provide options that suit individual preferences.

This approach gives customers a sense of ownership and partnership, as clients feel valued and respected for their input. It also increases transparency and trust, as clients appreciate being involved in the decision-making process and having a say in how their needs are addressed.

Moreover, offering options demonstrates creativity and adaptability, as business owners showcase their ability to think outside the box and explore alternative approaches to problem-solving. Business owners can enhance customer satisfaction, build stronger relationships, and ultimately drive business growth.

Document every interaction with your clients. 

Documenting everything and keeping clear records of communication and agreements is essential for business owners to maintain transparency, accountability, and legal protection. It involves systematically recording all interactions, decisions, and commitments made throughout a project or business transaction.

Through documentation, you can create a reliable record of conversations, instructions, and feedback exchanged with clients, team members, suppliers, and other stakeholders. This not only helps prevent misunderstandings and disputes but also provides a reference point for any challenges posed in future discussions and decision-making.

Keeping clear records of agreements ensures that all parties involved have a shared understanding of the terms and conditions of a deal or contract. Business owners can use written agreements, such as contracts or service agreements, to outline expectations, responsibilities, timelines, and payment terms in detail.

This is a best practice for business owners to maintain transparency, accountability, and legal protection. Business owners can minimize risks, resolve disputes, and build trust with stakeholders.

Know when to escalate issues clients have.

As a company, you should train your customer support agents to know when to escalate and involve a supervisor for more complex issues because this enables business owners to effectively ensure timely resolution and good customer experience.

Your team should recognise when a situation exceeds their expertise or authority and look for  additional support or guidance from higher-level management. When the team can identify the limitations of their role and knows when to escalate, you will be able to  demonstrate a commitment to finding the best possible solution for all parties involved.

When deciding whether to escalate an issue, customer agents should consider factors such as the severity of the problem, the potential impact on stakeholders, and the feasibility of resolving it independently. 

Practice self-care so you can recharge.

As a business owner, what you are not taught is self-care and it’s easy to miss out on having a work-life balance, Dolly Parton, the founder of The Dollywood Company rightly said “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life,

Taking breaks for self-care is important for managing stress and maintaining overall well-being. It's essential to prioritize physical health during breaks and engage in activities like walking and taking deep breath exercises to relax the body and release tension.

These physical movements help reduce stress hormones and improve mood. Stepping away from your computer or phone allows you to engage in activities unrelated to work, like reading a book, listening to music, or spending time outdoors.

This break from work-related stressors helps recharge your mental and emotional batteries, allowing you to return to work with renewed energy and focus. Social connection is also crucial during breaks, whether it's chatting with coworkers over coffee or spending time with friends and family.

Allowing yourself to rest and recharge during breaks through activities like power naps or relaxation techniques helps replenish energy levels, improve cognitive function, and enhance overall well-being.

Learn and improve.

Business owners should view each experience, whether it's a success or a setback, as an opportunity for learning and growth and it’s important to take time to reflect on the actions, decisions, and outcomes from that experience, they can gain valuable insights into what worked well and what could be improved upon in the future.

Reflection involves asking questions such as ‘What were the key takeaways from this experience?’, ‘What went according to plan, and what didn't?’  When answering these questions honestly and thoughtfully, business owners can identify specific areas for personal and professional development.

This may involve acquiring new skills, Business owners can also foster a culture of learning and improvement within their organizations.

This may involve encouraging employees to share their insights and perspectives, providing opportunities for professional development and skills training, and celebrating successes and learning from failures as a team.

"Dealing with difficult clients is not just about resolving conflicts; it's about turning challenges into opportunities for understanding, growth, and building stronger relationships."

Navigating difficult client relationships is an inevitable part of running a business, but with the right strategies and mindset, you can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and success.

Whether it's setting clear expectations, actively listening, staying calm and professional, or focusing on solutions, you can easily navigate challenging client interactions. 

Ibukun Omotesho

Content Writer
I write and enjoy watching indian movies.

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