How customer services agents respond to a difficult customer can make a big difference to the future of a company. If they handle the conversation well, the customer will probably forgive the mistake and may even recommend your business to others. However, upset customers are challenging to deal with as they often have strong feelings and little patience. These five tips for dealing with difficult customers will help you turn potential disasters into good PR.

Don't take their emotional remarks personally.

Focus on actively listening to what they have to say without getting defensive. Some customers will try many ways to get under your skin, but you need to remain emotionally detached and rational.

Show that you are listening by asking relevant questions and making eye contact.

Don't do anything else except engage with the customer. Customers want assurances that you are engaged with their problem and care about finding a solution.

Don't use generic apologies.

It's easy to overuse the phrase "I'm sorry," so that it quickly loses its value. Make sure you state what you're apologizing for so that the customer knows you understand their issue. Using the customer's name can also be a useful tactic in difficult situations.

Empathize with the customer.

Empathizing with the customer's emotions is an effective tactic for de-escalating situations in which the customer is angry or upset. Empathy doesn't necessarily mean agreement; it's just an acknowledgement of the way the customer is currently feeling. Of course, you need to be genuine with your responses, as customers will quickly detect any insincerity in your voice and feel patronized instead of heard.

Build rapport.

In addition to demonstrating empathy, using rapport building tactics can also be a useful strategy. For example say, "I know how you feel. I hate it when people keep me waiting too." Words like these will help the customer to feel that you are on their side. Many customer service agents often hesitate to build rapport with customers as they worry they'll get responses like "Well if you don't like it either why didn't you do something to stop it happening?" However, it's unlikely that a customer will react in such a way if they can sense you're a reasonable person. Simply explain what you're doing to make the situation right and how you will ensure it doesn't happen again.


Many dissatisfied customers are driven by extreme emotional responses. It's vital to establish a connection when interacting with customers that are getting heated. When a customer feels like you care about them, they're much more likely to forgive your mistakes and accept any proposed rectification.