How to deal with difficult arguing customer?

It is said that there are not reportedly difficult customers, but only difficult situations, which, with the lack of competent staff, can actually make the customer unhappy. How should we behave properly in case of a complaint?

This article presents information:

• how to behave in case of a complaint,

• how to refuse diplomatically,

• how to respond to the customer’s shout

You bought a wireless speaker, a great equipment, which is not only small, but it also gives you good sound, all through bluetooth, i.e. you can play your favorite music from your phone. You are before your holidays in Greece so it will be great to brighten this time with music. You checked everything at home and it worked. During your holidays in Greece you take the speaker out and you wanted to a speaker and wanted to strut your new gadget, but it didn’t work. It was a week without your favorite music, but you bought a speaker specifically for this trip. You are angry but for now you have nothing to do with it. You go back home and you go straight to the store. You are waiting in line. The seller greets you nice, and you angrily tell him that you want to submit the complaint. And then the first question is:

– And did you buy it from us?

Why are you here? You start to feel angry, but you answer politely “yes”. Then there are more questions about the receipt, usage, etc. At some point you begin to feel that the seller is looking for your fault and you are getting angry.

In the last time, I had six situations where I had to express my dissatisfaction or make a complaint, and in each case, the people handling me were completely unprepared for this type of situation, causing me negative emotions. In such situations, it is not difficult to cross the line and therefore, good preparation is required.

How to behave in case of the complaint?

We have a customer, who obviously feels injured. He comes angry or disappointed and observes your behavior, because he expects that this situation will be troublesome for you as well. The customer may also have experience showing that he or she is suspected of doing something wrong, that he or she is responsible for the situation that the seller or manager accepting the complaint won’t be interested in this case (because the complaint costs). He is prepared to fight. Every behavior of the seller that will be read as such, which confirms the above assumptions, may trigger a mode of fight.

That is why a person who is dealing with a complaint should deal with customer’s psychology and not the subject of the case. All questions about details related to the situation, although they are asked with good intention, can give rise to the impression of looking for guilt of the customer.

The reaction that perfectly fits into this assumption is the formula of the acceptance of the complaint described by Janelle Barlow, Claus Moller in the book “A complaint is a gift” (see the frame below).

The frame: The formula of the acceptance of the complaint

The first reaction involves relieving the tension of the customer. The customer fears that we will stand in opposition to his claims and that his case is a problem for us and that is why we should immediately take that feeling away and show that it is different. Hence, our first words will be a form of thanks and information why his complaint is important for us:

– In the case of complaint: Thank you for returning to us, it is very important for our customers to react when something disturbs them.

– In the case of a plaint (for example, when you are the manager and the complaint concerns the operation of the company): Thank you for having come to me with this, it is very important for us to have information from customers.

The customer, seeing the positive response of the operator, gets rid of his initial assumptions and shows positive emotions.

At this point you still do not know if the complaint is justified, so it is difficult to determine whether it is apologetic, but you can certainly sympathize with the customer because after all he is in a problematic situation related to your company. So, you should say:

– I’m sorry that you were in such a situation

One of the most annoying customer aspects, in such a situation, is the lack of responsible person. It is often the case that the matter is passed on to other people and it is not known what is going on with them. The customer expects that his case will be prioritized and will be resolved as soon as possible. Therefore, you should fulfill this expectation by the words:

“I will take care of this myself, this matter will be my priority’

Regardless of how the procedure will proceed further, the customer after these words simply feels calmer.

Only at this stage are you going to determine the details needed to settle the whole case. Any substantive questions gain a different context at this time, the answers are given to a “friend” who has a good will to resolve the problem.

– I just need some more information to be able to everything resolve as soon as possible.

Then, you should resolve the matter, pass the customer’s response, check his satisfaction and possibly make sure the system may changed so that the type of mistake does not repeat itself.

The whole lasts probably five seconds and nothing cost but shows the customer that he is important for you not only at the time of purchase but also after it. You also work for your image of your business and your customers, and even if you continue to face a customer complaint in the course of resolving your complaint, it will be much more acceptable to you than if he suspect that we are not interested in his problem.

Difficult situations either attach the customer to the company making him a loyal follower, and it happens when he has known our good behavior also in a crisis situation, or makes that he is the biggest hater on the internet posting unflattering opinions.

Refusal / How to effectively refuse

Well, what if we have to refuse something? How should we do it?

Here again you have to break the natural tendencies for the good of customer psychology. We have two goals:

• Firstly, to refuse in a clear way

• Secondly, maximize the likelihood that the customer will consider our decision as right.

When a customer asks for something he believes it is possible to do so. When the seller says words like:

• Unfortunately, I cannot do it

• I would like to do it, but..

Then, the customer knows that you are refusing him and starting to get nervous and combining over the other arguments he wants to convince you. The effect is that the conversation is unnecessarily long, less pleasant and the customer does not understand your decision.

The problem is that after your “no” usually there is some explanation, but the customer does not listen too much because he is upset and thinks to further ways to convince you to his right. A man cannot devote two logical processes of thought at the same time – as he thinks about his arguments he does not listen to you.

In order to optimize the refusal process, it is necessary to ensure the complete focus of the customer on the reasons for refusal. To make it possible, you have to roll over the whole process and start just for these reasons and when giving them you should make a statement so that it is not clear whether it is refusal or not.


If the client complained about the spa treatment that he was misconstrued and the manager checked that everything was ok, he could say:

“I have already investigated this problem. The beautician Mrs Zosia took you to the office at x o’clock and left it at y o’clock,  the procedure took these activities and it was made on these cosmetics, all of these activities are in accordance with the treatment guidelines collected and detailed in the package leaflet.

As you told only about facts, the customer is fully focused on them because he cannot judge whether you say it to follow his concern or not. Then, he should understood that he is not right.

Next, it must be clearly stated that this is a refusal. You can optimize this and that part by appealing to customer’s intelligence. You can say:

– … so as you understand I have to reject your complaint / I have to refuse.

After all such facts the customer should understand.

At this stage, however, is a delicate distaste of the whole thing, so at the end you should always seek opportunities to show good intentions and pass something positive to the customer.

Example: There may be some business decision, for example, a discount for further shopping. It may also be a mere declaration that in the future if he will need other help then there will be no obstacles to help him and you should say:

– This situation is difficult for both parties because we care about your satisfaction, so I made a business decision to issue a voucher for 20% discount for further purchases.

If the customer, after our refusal optimized in this way, returns to hisoriginal request then you must repeat your answer only by paraphrasing it and so on. And, although it would be better not to use it, unfortunately this is the best way to protect your business at this stage.

Customer’s scream

The last situation that may be difficult for you is the customer’s scream. I immediately want to be sensitive to the fact that we respond to a scream only when it makes it impossible to handle the matter. I have already encountered situations where the service threatened customers that they will end the call and the customer just loudly and emotionally said what in principle did not prevent them from settling their case.

People tend to react by pointing the client what he is not supposed to do and because of this he gets annoying even more because no one likes what he’s told him to do, and in addition in an upset situation. Therefore, the words “please do not shout at me” are not the best solution.

First thing to do is to keep quiet. The customer, who screams has to get out everything off his chest and when we try to break it too quickly it can have unpleasant consequences. Let’s wait until the client says first sentences and then we can go to the second point. Or maybe he will recreate and go to normal tone.

When we talk on the phone this silence may precipitate the customer out of his scream, because at some point he will have to check whether you are still there.

Next, say the words: “You are screaming at me”.  This causes the customer usually starts to excuse himself by saying “I’m screaming, because…”.The simple fact reverses the situation in which we were guilty and that is why it was a scream and now the customer is guilty. The most important thing is that the customer will change his behavior so that we can settle his matter. In 90% of cases, our intervention will end in this moment. If the customer continues to behave in extreme ways, then we can go to the border and continue to implement the announced sanction.

“If you keep screaming at me, I’ll be forced to finish our conversation and tell about this case to my supervisor.”

By the way, you show the customer that you are sure what you are doing because you are going to tell to your supervisor about this problem. Of course, if you do not have a supervisor then you’re talking only about the sanction.

In most of these demanding situations, I was met with silence of the servants, the transfer of responsibility to another person, instruction and ill-treatment. Meanwhile, such situations have happened and will happen. Do not forget, though, that they are a chance to gain a truly loyal and grateful customer, you should only practice a few simple reactions.


The speaker can crash and the customer has the right to be upset. And in that case, you have a chance to turn this client into an ambassador for your service. You should only focus on taking care of his emotions by thanking him, keeping calm and being able to take care of the conversation and by cutting down on extreme behavior saying about the facts, and if necessary, you should expain this in that way so the client understand that you have important reasons for doing so.


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