How to Deal With Demanding Customers and Handle Complaints Like a Pro

By Eva
April 20, 2021
How to Deal With Demanding Customers and Handle Complaints Like a Pro

The Japanese say "customer is God", and the adage is true in the rest of the world too. But what happens when the wrath of the retail God comes crashing upon you? It’s not a pleasant sight, to say the least.

However, what you need to keep in mind as a seller is that a customer’s anger isn’t directed at you personally. It’s tied to their psychological stimuli that are triggered due to their demands not being met, a late delivery, a defect in the product, etc.

Dealing with demanding or frustrated customers isn’t a child’s play, especially if you’re the one to jump to the defensive quickly. However, with some good communication skills and a little (read: a whole lot of) patience, you can deal with any customers.

In this guide, we discuss some psychological tips to satisfy your customers, pacify them, and make them your regulars.

How to Satisfy Difficult Customers and Handle Complaints?

Again, it’s important to remember that customers are paramount for your business. Therefore, you may get the shorter end of the stick in most dealings with demanding customers. But that doesn’t mean you should accept abuse from a customer.

Here are some psychologically-sound tips for dealing with difficult customers.

Affect Heuristic Is In Play

The affect heuristic simply means that our brains make instant decisions based on our current emotions. Affect, in psychology, refers to emotional response. Thus, affect heuristic means a decision you make as an emotional response.

When dealing with a problematic customer, keep in mind that their affect heuristic might have prompted them to make a decision that they’re now not happy with.

Thus, you should ask them questions to understand where the apprehension comes from. Suppose a customer buys a massage chair from you in a moment of inspiration from some Internet quote telling them to practice more self-care.

But now they can’t seem to get the settings on the chair right. After the momentarily emotional influence wears off, they may start having second thoughts. Approach them with questions, offering help:

  • Is there any way I can help you use this chair better?

  • How can I help you enjoy this product?

  • Kindly tell me more. I’d like to understand and help.

Listen, Listen, Speak

The worst thing you can do in response to an angry customer is cut them off in the middle of their sentences. Plus, never say ‘I understand..’ because we all know how unhelpful this is.

Rather, the customer wants to feel heard. The best way to deal with the situation is to "reflect" their words and actions.


I’m angry because I wanted this item delivered for my niece’s birthday, but your shipping takes a week.

Customer Service:

I understand, but...

No. That’s a huge No. Try this instead.

Customer Service:

So, what I hear is that you want the gift to be shipped in time for your niece’s birthday, but our long shipping times might make that difficult. Is that correct?

When you say this, the customer feels their sentiment is being heard and adequately understood. Letting the customer feel valued will make them calm down in most cases.

It also helps to call them by their name - if you know it - because it adds a layer of personalization.

Besides verbal cues, you should also consider non-verbal ones.

Do not (and we repeat!) roll your eyes when the customer is expressing their concerns. Do not smile or nod your head excessively. Instead, maintain eye contact and give them a sense of being heard.

Approach With A Zen Mind

The Zen Mind approach means considering yourself a beginner when dealing with a situation. Put your brain in the "don’t know" mode and then converse with your customers.

Often, when a customer is expressing a very common (and often non-relevant) concern, you may likely have nagging thoughts, such as:

  • The customer should have read the item description properly.

  • The customer should have searched our operational hours on Google before driving two hours to a closed store.

  • The customer should have read the email about the promo code expiring before complaining about it not working.

When you approach something with a "should have" mentality, it puts you on the defensive. Instead, tackle the situation with a Zen mind, assuming that the customer knows nothing.

Thank Them For The Complaint

A single "thank you for bringing this to our attention" can go a long way. When you thank your customers for voicing their concerns, you’re saying that you take them seriously.

Instead of just saying it once, make it a habit. For instance, when a customer comes to you with a concern, thank them for reaching out.

Then, while you’re working on resolving their issue, thank them for their patience and time. Finally, when you solve their problem, thank them for their feedback - even if it’s negative.

Accepting negative feedback gratefully means you’re willing to improve, and that’s something customers value.

Chunk It Up

If your customer is facing a big problem, break it down into smaller parts and solve them individually. It will help you in two ways.

First, it will be easier for you to manage the situation when it’s broken down into chunks.

Second, your customer trust will increase as you resolve the "chunks" successively instead of taking days or weeks to solve a big problem at once.

Also, when relaying information, tell your customer the steps you’re taking to solve their issue. Don’t simply tell them you’ll resolve their concern because that might come off as stalling at times.

Instead, tell them how you will solve their issue and the steps you’ll take. The best way would be to make a timeline for them so that they can have a mental picture of the duration it will take to come to a resolution.

Keep Calm and Carry On

When you’re running a business or providing a service, conflict is inevitable. If you can’t escape it, why be scared of it? Instead, learn to deal with uncomfortable situations.

But no matter whatever happens, never take crap from Karens and Kens. Help the customer as much as you can but if you notice them slipping into the abusive (physical or verbal) territory, don’t hesitate to escort them out, call the police, or block their account. You’ve got this!

Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash