Defusing a Customer Complaint

Customer service is key to any good company. However within customer services, one of the most difficult things you can come across can be the customers. No matter what field you work in, sooner or later, you may come face to face with a furious, irate or an unruly customer. Do not worry as we have a few tried and true ways that you can smooth over the situation that will work in a way for you, the company and your customer. Some may entail compromising, being adamant on your position or with a “customer is always right” attitude.


Listen to the customer

When it comes to listing to the customer they are not going to expect perfection but they do want to know that they are being heard and taken seriously. Listen calmly and carefully to the customer’s problem, always maintain eye contact and don’t smile or grin at them. Be attentive. When a customer makes a valid point nod to the customer.


People are watching the interaction

Remember that some people may be watching what is happening.  So remember to stay calm as you never want customers to see you behaving badly. You want to assume that the customer will tell other people about the interaction that they just had with you. These should never hurt your company, but be an example of the quality of service that you provide.


Lower your voice and speak slowly

Emotions can be on high in stressful situations. Lowering your tone of voice and speaking slowly will demonstrate that you are in control and calm. This will be very important especially if the customer is very angry and talking loudly. You don’t want to aggravate the situation.



Dealing with Specific Types of Difficult Customers


An Unhappy Customer

You may encounter a dissatisfied customer after they may have had a negative experience with a member of staff or yourself. They could be unsatisfied with the service you or your colleague may have provided them with. That may be the case so greet the customer with a smile, introduce yourself and offer them your assistance. Don’t make excuses for the bad service they received. Instead, ask open-ended questions to verify the information, and make a decision that will satisfy the customer.


An Angry Customer

These are the most difficult customers. You will have to go through their emotions to get to the root of the problem. You will need to stay positive throughout the interaction, always acknowledge what the customer’s feelings are, show the customer that you are willing to help them and you are working with the customer to develop a solution for them.


An Overbearing Customer

These customers may be pushy and controlling. You will have to keep a balance between being courteous and helpful without letting the customer walk over you. Show the customer respect and be professional so you can let the customer know what you can do to accommodate them.




  • Don’t be condescending. Nothing can escalate a situation faster than an employee who seems rude or mocking. Speak in a polite, yet genuine tone.
  • Don’t be a doormat. There is a big difference between helping a customer and allowing a customer to walk all over you. Set your boundaries early, and be polite but firm.
  • Avoid your temptation to respond before fully listening to the customer and be sure to stay away from your solution to the problem. After listening fully have the strength and courage to hold silence after you’ve asked the critical question compassionately, “So what do you want?” Remember, in almost all negotiations, the one who offers solutions first almost always loses.
  • Some customers can be more difficult than others. Do not allow the customer to insult or touch you. Call security or the manager.
  • Call your customer by name, if possible. Everyone likes to hear his or her name, and just referring to the customer as Mr. or Ms. Customer can make a person feel like she or he is being heard.
  • Be sure to tell your boss the whole truth and nothing but the truth – don’t try to hide or minimize anything you did. Just tell your boss right away if you have any problem with any customer, even if it was your fault. Chances are, your boss will be pleased you were able to handle it.
  • Remember a customer is always right…only in some ways!
  • Get help if you are out of your depth. Get your manager, or call your boss, if you’re all alone. Don’t keep on floundering – you’ll only aggravate an already tense situation.