Customer Service / Customer Experience

5 types of difficult customers and how to communicate with them

John Allen

Updated: Dec 08, 2023 · 9 min read

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5 types of difficult customers and how to communicate with them

Anybody who has ever worked in customer service will know that customers are always a mixed bunch.

There are the really nice ones who will always mind their P’s and Q’s and make an effort to acknowledge the lengths you go to.

There are the ones who are nice enough, and are the right amount of polite.

And then there are the difficult ones. The ones who expect everything to be about them. The ones who will treat you as if you are purposely doing something to make their day worse.

Unfortunately, no matter how many positive interactions you have, it’s the bad ones you think of. They can turn your day from a good one to a bad one with a few simple words. And from that moment, you are thrown off and it feels like everything goes wrong.

It's hard to keep up a happy demeanor and follow your customer support best practices when something like that happens.

There are ways to deal with these difficult customers, though. The key is to identify them early, and use the right type of communication to satisfy them. Then, you can turn these grumps into greats.

You might even grow your business in the meantime.

Source: Digital Information World

The complainer

It may sometimes feel hard to kill complaints with kindness. And ‘the customer is always right,’ sometimes seems like an impossible mantra to get behind.

A complaining customer will usually magnify a problem. This makes them instantly harder to please.

However, taking a calm and considered approach to these people can have great results. A customer complaint could be seen as a customer going through a ‘challenging situation’.

Seeing it this way will switch your mindset. Don’t see it as an attack on your business. Instead, you should view it as someone who feels upset by unfulfilled expectations.

Be empathetic towards them. See things from their point of view instead of making excuses. Anything other than an apology will throw more figurative gasoline on the fire.

Also, make sure to be attentive and sincere when talking to them. When doing this, maintain a genuine tone. You don’t want to come across as facetious.

It doesn't matter if it's via email, a RingCentral VoIP system, or by ye olde snail mail. Get in touch with the customer and apologize for their disgruntlement. When doing this, be genuine and polite.

Make sure that you understand their point of view. Bad customer experiences happen from time to time and you need to acknowledge this. It’s how you make up for it that’s important.

This can turn a potentially damaging review into a glowing one.

The know-it-all

Whether they are a mansplainer or not, it can be hard to keep patience with the know-it-all. You could have been working in inbound sales for 15 years. And yet, of course, this person who has only just heard of the term knows more about it than you do.

It doesn’t matter what you suggest to them as a solution, it is wrong. You have tried at least a thousand different options and none of them will work for that customer. You have even helped them understand how to make the most of working remotely. But still, they just won’t listen.

The best way to deal with a client like this is not to take anything personally.

Source: Instant Search Plus

It’s like having a conversation with a person who has a different political opinion to yours. They talk over you, talk louder than you, and shoot down everything you say. Resulting in you feeling frustrated and silly.

All you need to do is be patient and attentive. Keep suggesting those ideas in a calm, clear and collected way, and explain to them why they will work.

You could even say things like, “I understand your worry. But actually, doing it this way will help because…”

As long as you aren’t smug about it, and take your time, they will (eventually) come around to your point.

The over-cautious

Decisions are hard to make. No one likes to be the one who chooses where to eat or what to watch on TV.

People don’t want to make mistakes or buy the wrong thing. A difficult, over-cautious customer can become a frustrating lead. They ask more questions than the Riddler and will be hesitant to complete a sale until they’re 100% sure.

The important thing to do here is to not add to their worry. With so much info available on certain products, they’ll just want to know the benefits to them.

Using different channels, from ACD software to email, you can talk them through a sale. Firstly, avoid over-explaining anything. Keep it nice and simple by providing straightforward answers to their questions.

Keep what you say factual and relevant, too. Make it to-the-point and convince them that they’re making the right choice. Pretend you're giving a friend with cold feet one of the best pep talks ever.

Find a problem and provide a solution. Finding the root cause of someone’s hesitance means you can talk them through it. It may seem like salesmanship 101, but it’ll work and plenty of people forget to do it.

Offer real solutions, too. Direct them to something that you know they’ll need. That'll make it much easier for both of you. It will also leave them trusting you as a company and more likely to return.

Source: Freepik

The aggressive one

These people often come across as demanding, short-tempered and self-centered. You may have posted some great marketing content. Yet, they will comment on it, tearing it apart because it doesn’t suit their narrative.

Maybe you work in a call center and their five minutes on hold was more like, “at least half an hour”. Of course, you are the first person to take the backlash of their frustration. It’s never nice when a person is being aggressive towards you. It can make you feel intimidated and anxious. And it’s only natural for you to feel a little angry in response.

Frankly, you don’t want to deal with a person like this.

Instead of walking away, hanging up, or shutting down the conversation, you need to stay calm. Even the coolest of cucumbers among us has a bad day. Perhaps this is one of those days for your customer.

Maybe they received some bad news that day. Possibly they are stressed at work. It might be that someone was rude to them themselves.

Yes, we know they shouldn’t take it out on you. But right now, they are.

As a response, don’t argue with them. Like anything in customer service, apologize for the problem. Again, see things from their point of view and offer a solution. If this is an ongoing problem, consider bringing in contingent workers. This gives a break to the current staff who are finding the customer too stressful.

The client may even make an apology at the end themselves. If not, they will hopefully return to your service, knowing they are in good hands.

The deal hunter

We all want to find the best value for our money. Keep this in mind when dealing with this type of customer. It can be frustrating having someone who will always compare prices to competitors. But don’t lose them, guide them through a sale.

When communicating with a savings-savvy customer, set clear expectations. Let them know what your price ranges are and what they can afford. Speak with them honestly and understand their needs.

The best way to do this is to ask their budget or price range, then offer products well within this span. Provide comparisons to other companies if it helps your cause. The aim of this is to provide a list of options so the customer doesn’t feel undersold by lack of choice.

Make sure, however, that products in the customer’s price range are highlighted. Let them know you understand their requirements.

You could even share your best offers via auto dialer software. Contact customers to get your best deals out there. This way, you could potentially bring new leads, too.

Furthermore, you could find effective ways to host documents online. Share and display offer-driven content on your website or via email. Let it be known to the public that you can help them save.

Don’t take offence to a customer wanting the best deal. Use it to your advantage and upsell any current offers.

Source: Insperity

No matter who you are dealing with, remember to treat every person uniquely. What might work for one person, might not work for another. Respect that you don’t always know what is going on behind the scenes. And honestly, that person is probably taking things out on you because, well, they can.

It may seem like a challenge, but when facing people like this, try and stay calm and look at the bigger picture. Do not accept any type of bigotry towards yourself or any staff member and call in a manager or supervisor where needed.

By acknowledging the types of difficult customers there are and dealing with it, problems will de-escalate before they even begin. And no doubt, when handled well, that customer will keep coming back. A bit happier each time, or at least that’s the hope.


John Allen is the director of Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, and VoIP technology provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Silver-peak and Toolbox.

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