5 tips to deal with difficult customers

- May 18, 2018 3 MIN READ


Dealing with difficult customers can be…well, difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right attitude and actions, you can effectively navigate these tricky customer situations and create (hopefully) a positive interaction or even a sale. Below are tips and insights to help you and your staff be more prepared to handle difficult shoppers.

  1. Have the right attitude

Take a few seconds to put yourself in the right mindset before dealing with the customer. Remind yourself that the shopper isn’t necessarily mad at you, but rather, they’re miffed about the situation. Having the right attitude will help prevent your buttons from getting pushed and ensure you respond in a calm and professional manner. It’s important to make the customer feel that they’re taken seriously. People who are upset need to be heard, so let your customers talk, and don’t interrupt them. When someone yells at us, it’s natural to become defensive, but this needs to be avoided or it will escalate the situation. Whether or not you think there is a real problem, its real from the customers perspective, so it’s important to respond with empathy.

  1. Be mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues

The things you say and don’t say can significantly affect the outcome of any customer interaction. Signs of boredom, impatience, or aggression will only increase tensions. So, be very mindful of your words and the body language you project. Your body language should demonstrate to the customer that you’re open to what they have to say and that you’re giving them your full attention.

  1. Be discreet

Being tactful and discreet is crucial when dealing with difficult customers. Remember, other shoppers are watching and listening, and some may even whip out their smartphones to record the conflict. In this situation any conflict could result in you losing a sale or repeat business from another customer, or having the entire incident hit social media.

  1. Communicate what you can and can’t do 

Once you’ve heard what the customer has to say, you’ll need to talk to them about what you can and can’t do. Start by clarifying what you’ve heard and apologise – tell the customer you’re sorry they’ve had this experience. Then focus on what you can do for them – issue a refund, provide an exchange, a credit or discount or put them in touch with the manufacturer. If you can’t bend to your customers wishes, the best thing to do is be upfront. Say I wish I could do that for you, but it’s beyond my authority. Take their phone number and get back to them if necessary.  If you can get on top of things and satisfy the shopper, they might just end up as a loyal customer who buys from you regularly.

  1. Take steps to minimise the likelihood of future problems

The best way to deal with difficult customer situations is to prevent them in the first place. Key ways to do this include keeping your store neat and adequately stocked – the more organised your store is the easier it is for shoppers to navigate. Make sure your staff know the importance of speed when serving customers. Many shoppers are extremely busy and haven’t time to wait around. Having more staff during peak times will help keep your store running smoothly. Most customer issues arise in the checkout area, so focus on making this as quick and easy as possible. Most modern point of sale systems provide product shortcuts or on-screen buttons that speed up how items are added to a sale at checkout. If your system has this capability, enable it and add your most popular items. You can also use integrated payments to allow sales to flow directly from your POS to your card reader. This means you won’t have to manually key in the transaction information into the card reader. And consider enabling contactless payments – that way, people won’t have to fumble with cards or cash, all they need is their phone.

Dealing with difficult customers isn’t easy, but it comes with the territory of running a retail store. Remember that if handled well, you could just make a loyal customer for life.