Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (2023)

Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (1)

quick shot:Dealing with difficult clients is a daunting task, but you can greatly increase your chances of a successful outcome by taking a few important steps. In this post you will learn:

  • The Mindset You Need to Adapt to Dealing with Less Pleasant Customers
  • Words (including fast hyphens) to use when interacting with angry shoppers
  • That way, you prevent difficult customer situations from arising in the first place.

Dealing with difficult customers can be... well,difficult,but it doesn't have to be. With the right mindset and action steps, you can efficiently navigate these difficult customer situations and (hopefully) emerge unscathed.

This post offers tips and ideas to help you do just that. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you and your team will be better prepared to deal with difficult buyers.

let's dive

1. Have the right mental attitude

Before engaging with the customer, take a few seconds to breathe and find the right attitude. Remember that the buyer is not necessarily bad.Is it over there, on the contrary, they are upset about the situation.

The correct setup will help keep your buttons from being pressed and allow you to respond calmly and professionally.

Ricky Marton, founder ofSor Robin Hoodsays that when dealing with problem shoppers, the most important thing is not to let them know they are approaching you. "As soon as they realize they're not in charge, they either walk away or calm down and apologize (hopefully).

2. Unwrap the thick skin

In addition to having the right mindset, you'll develop resilient skin and empower yourself and your team to stay in tough retail situations.

“As a retailer, I've had some strange encounters with retail customers. In the beginning, dealing with these customers was a difficult task, but over time I learned how to deal with them”, says Robin Luo, fromlightning handle

He continues, “The most effective tip that has helped me so far is to build thick skin. It means letting go of fear. I started to see difficult clients as a new challenge instead of a condemnation. Trust that these clients will prepare you for a better future.”

3. Listen to the customer and empathize with him

Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (2)

People who are upset need to be heard, so let your customers speak and don't interrupt.

"If possible, let the customer vent about the situation," advises Carrie Thompson, Facilities Managerhandy mini storage🇧🇷 "Don't allow physical violence or threats (it's time to call the police!). There is value in allowing a customer to fully verbalize their complaint or anger. Many issues arise or escalate because the customer feels they have not been heard."

Here are some things to keep in mind when listening to customers:

Practice active listening

At this stage it is importantactively listening, which is the practice of consciously absorbing what the other party has to say, rather than being silent in front of it.

This way you make a good impression and can really understand what the customer is saying in order to be able (if possible) to solve his problem efficiently.

Active listening also involves listening with the whole body. This means using positive body language, e.g. B. adopting an open posture and nodding to show the other person that you are listening.

Make them feel taken seriously.

Gary Johnson, Senior Advisor forPrevention Advisor, encourages you to show your customers that you take their concerns seriously. According to him, this can be achieved by maintaining eye contact and demonstrating the correct non-verbal behaviors (e.g., not smiling, nodding your head excessively, or rolling your eyes - more on that below).

"Whenever possible, call your customer by name," he adds. This makes people feel heard and can help them calm down.

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respond with empathy

"When someone yells at us, our natural response is often to get angry or defensive. Avoid them at all costs," says Fiona Adler, founder

“Whether or not you believe there's a real problem, it's real from the customer's perspective, so the appropriate emotion to respond with is 'empathy.' Say things like; 'I can understand why you're disappointed' or 'My God, this is not what you expected' or 'I can understand why you're upset'.”

4. Pay Attention to Your Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues

The things you say—and the things you don't say—can significantly affect the outcome of any customer interaction. Signs of boredom, impatience or aggression only make the situation worse. So be very careful with your words and the body language you project.

Here are some tips to help you:


Use “education phrases”. According to Renee Evenson, author ofPower Phrases for Effective Customer Service, "Customers like to be treated with courtesy, so show your customers how much you respect them by inserting polite words and phrases appropriately into your conversations."

Evenson provides a helpful list of courtesies to refer to. Check them out below and be sure to incorporate them into your customer service vocabulary:

  • "I apologize. I didn't hear/understand what you said."
  • "Do you want?" instead of "You will."
  • "E" Instead of "E".
  • "Sir."
  • "I have."
  • "I'll check and be right back."
  • "Could you wait a moment while I check this out?"
  • "Thank you for waiting."
  • "Mr. / Mrs. / Mrs. _____." (First name only if you know it's appropriate)

To see the complete list and learn how to incorporate courtesy phrases into your service, check out the bookhere.


Be careful with the non-verbal signals you send.

"Body language is an important way to show the customer that you're serious about solving the problem," he says.Gast, author, trainer, and speaker with a focus on customer service.

“Nodding, making eye contact, and taking notes are all excellent forms of silent communication. The most important thing is to be quiet. If you interrupt, the person will feel that you are not listening and will often feel the need to start over. Listen to the whole story patiently.”

Also, avoid defensive or hostile gestures, such as clenched fists or crossed arms, as these can irritate the customer.

For reference, here's a chart to refer to when it comes to the dos and don'ts of retail body language:

Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (3)

5. Be discreet

Discretion and discretion are key when dealing with difficult clients. Remember, other people are watching and some even pull out their smartphones to record the conflict. The last thing you want is for the incident to hit social media.

Johnson recommends that managers and employees speak slowly and softly. Strong emotions are contagious, so control your feelings and avoid anything that could make the situation worse.

And, if possible, don't worry about the situation on the sales floor. John Moss, CEO ofenglish shutters,recommends that you "discreetly remove the customer in question from an area where other customers can see/hear them to minimize disruption and the potential for the interaction to affect brand perception by other shoppers."

“This can be done by inviting the customer into an office or someplace quieter for a proper conversation, which also has the dual purpose of making the customer feel important and that their complaint or issue is dealt with appropriately. seriousness. " he adds.

6. Communicate what you can and cannot do about their situation

After listening to what the customer has to say, you need to talk to him about what he can and cannot do. Anne Bergman the Dunvegan grouprecommends clarifying and apologizing first.

"After listening to the story, ask questions for clarification if necessary. Then apologize: Tell the customer you're sorry they had that experience, feel that way, or whatever is appropriate."

From there, keep sharing what you can and can't do about your problem. But whatever you say, make sure that's the something.

“Never say, 'I can't do anything.' That statement is like gasoline on a fire. While it could range from simply gathering facts to solving the problem, there is ALWAYS something you can do. When you're a member of the team, all the work done for the customer reflects in the overall quality,” says Guest.

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Miner agrees with this advice. "Tell the customer what you CAN do for them: refund, store credit, or contact the manufacturer."

What happens if you can't fulfill your customer's wishes?

It's better to be honest. Miner recommends saying something like:I wish I could do this for you. It is beyond my authority at this time, but I am asking for ______. Can you give me your phone number so I can call you back?

Here's a bonus tip: if possible, let the customer know about the changes you're about to makebecause of your complaint.

"Make the customer feel like they've made a difference," advises Adler. “The last thing customers want is to feel like their feedback is going nowhere. Make sure they know you are very grateful that they brought this issue to your attention. Then let them know what steps are being taken to ensure the same doesn’t happen to other customers.”

7. Act quickly

If you can resolve the customer's issue immediately, do so. This has several advantages:

On the one hand, being able to quickly resolve a customer's concerns can turn their negative experience into a positive one. If you can get things under control and keep the buyer happy, you could become a loyal customer who will buy from you regularly and tell their friends about it.

Resolving a customer issue as quickly as possible also prevents the situation from escalating. This is especially true if someone in your store is complaining loudly.

As Nicole Reylewrote in his Forbes column, "If a customer makes a scene in front of other customers, they should try to resolve it as quickly and quietly as possible... One of the main reasons for this is that every customer who gets upset and upset about this at your company is probably the same." Kind of person to talk to friends, family and other potential customers about this experience."

8. Compensate for your discomfort (if necessary)

This step is not always necessary and depends on the situation. For example, if the issue is due to an error on your part, you may need to take additional action for the customer.

Jason Perkins asSan Diego SEO Companyproposes to provide additional compensation to compensate for errors or problems.

"Give them something to make up for the discomfort. When customers complain about something, it has to do with your service or the people who work for you. If they feel they are not being taken care of, you have to give it to them." something to make up for the mistake,” he says.

"Since I've been a manager, it's been my mission to give these customers a coupon or a discount or maybe give them the item for free or replace it."

Alberto Navarrete, CEO ofFrisco virgins, says this tactic works well for his company. “Once people discover a free service or something that capitalizes on their 'heartbreak,' things will improve. At Frisco Maids, instead of leaving a customer with a bad taste in their mouth, we decided to lose some money on some jobs,” he says.

Magic Mind, the brand that sells the popular productivity drink, serves as a prime example of how to properly (and quickly) compensate struggling customers.

Here's what happened: When my last delivery was late, the Magic Mind team immediately apologized and corrected the situation by investigating the delivery issues while sending an additional order free of charge.

While the client (i.e. your server) wasn't particularly difficult, the Magic Mind team handled the situation exceptionally well.

Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (4)

9. Make a judgment call: will you tolerate someone who is downright mean or unfair?

When the situation gets to the point where the customer crosses the line and becomes downright rude and unfair, you must make the decision to give him what he wants rather than "firing" him.

Yes, the latter means they will never buy from you again, but retaining a problem customer can be just as bad.

As customer service and speakerShep HykenHe says, “If the customer crosses the line, it may be time to fire them and politely send them to the competition. A bad customer can hurt morale and make the work environment uncomfortable. Likewise, a manager who does not stand up to the customer or support his employees can also have negative repercussions.”

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Here are some steps you can take when asking customers to leave:

  1. The first is to give them a chance to settle down.In a calm but firm voice, tell him that he needs to tone down his obscene language or behavior and that if his behavior persists, you won't be able to help him.
  2. If they refuse to settle down, politely ask them to leave.According to Johnson, you can say things like:
  • Mr. Jones, I wasn't rude to you, so there's no need to be rude to me. If you calm down I can help you, but if you keep threatening me I'll have to call the authorities.
  • I apologize, but if you continue to use this language, I am forced to ask you to leave the store.
  1. Call the authorities if things get worse.Depending on your store's procedures, you may be able to notify mall security (if applicable) or call the police.

10. Practice releasing anger

Staying calm and empathizing with frustrated and emotional buyers can be difficult, but with practice it is possible. That's why Johnson advises retailers to hold regular training sessions on how to reduce anger.

“To better prepare your employees, a good strategy is to use interactive role-playing games. Organize training sessions so team members can practice dealing with angry and dissatisfied customers,” he says.

Johnson, who personally facilitated these sessions, says that after going through different scenarios, employees feel increasingly empowered and comfortable. "It's one thing to think about what you would do or say in your head, but it's another thing when you actually have to say it out loud and practice what you have to do."

11. Don't Forget Your Employees

Make sure you have a strong team that can support your customer service efforts. Part of that means rewarding your employees for the hard work they've done.

“Dealing with difficult customers in retail is never easy, especially when you've learned that the customer is always right. De-escalating a stressful situation requires a lot of patience and empathy and can even affect job satisfaction or overall happiness,” said Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder offinancial friend.

“Encouraging employees to deal effectively with difficult or angry customers increases overall morale and leads to higher standards of customer service. You can do this by implementing reward systems, offering benefits, raising salaries, or just praising them.”

Bonus: Realize that it's best not to let problems arise in the first place

The best way to handle difficult customer situations? Prevent them from happening in the first place. This is like:

Keep your store tidy and properly stocked

Keeping your store organized makes it easy for shoppers to navigate your location and get their hands on the things they need. This gives them a faster, more convenient shopping experience and makes them less likely to request (or require) support.

Also, make sure your shelves and accessories are properly stocked. Instruct your staff to regularly check your shelves for low items so they can be restocked immediately. This makes it quick and easy for customers to find what they're looking for, making them (and you) less uncomfortable.

Accelerate customer service

Make sure your employees understand the importance of speed when serving customers. Many buyers are too busy and don't have time to wait.

How can you serve customers in a timely manner without sacrificing quality?

Hire additional employees- Having extra help can keep your business running smoothly during the busy holiday season. Make sure you have a good relationship between employees and customers so you don't keep anyone waiting. Remember that slow service is a problem for consumers. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches just by being on time.

Remember that hiring more employees is just the first step. It is equally important that your staff is well trained. Spend more time educating your employees (especially seasonal workers) about the ins and outs of your business. They must know their sales area and warehouse like the back of their hand, so they can easily find the right products for shoppers.

Knowledge of retail technology is also very helpful, so make sure your employees know how to operate your retail equipment and software quickly.

expedite the payment

Many customer issues can also arise in the payment area. From long lines to less-than-perfect payment technologies, retailers need to anticipate and prevent potential problems that can arise when it's time to close the sale. Here are some steps you can take to improve your payment experience over the holidays (and beyond):

use shortcut keys- The majoritymodern checkout systemsProvide product links or on-screen buttons that make it quick to add items to a sale at checkout. If your system has this feature, be sure to turn it on and add your most popular items. That way, if a customer buys a product that's already in your hotkey layout, they can bookmark it with the click of a button instead of having to search for the item.

sales tip

On Vend, these shortcuts are called "Hotkeys" and can significantly reduce your checkout time. If you use Vend and want more information about hotkeys, clickhere.

To know more

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Use integrated payments– Using a payment solution that integrates with your POS makes checkout much faster. Integrated payments allow sales to flow directly from your POS to your card reader. This means you don't have to manually enter transaction information into the card reader, so sales are processed much faster. In addition, integrated payments prevent human errors and are more secure.

Talk to your POS provider about the payment processors they integrate with and see if you can use them for your business.(Pssst... With Vend? Take a lookthis postfor more information on integrated payments).

Enable contactless payment- While contactless payments like Apple Pay aren't as widespread as credit cards, a growing number of consumers have embraced them.

If you serve a lot of these shoppers, start accepting contactless payments in your store. That way, people don't have to fiddle with cards or cash. All they need is their phone and they are good to go.

Add records and unlock the checkout experience- Always be ready to open new records when you are busy. For example, if your POS can run on a laptop or iPad, you'll need additional devices in your store so you can quickly open a register when lines get too long.

That's what home improvement store Borough Kitchen does in their store. "At peak times...we can instantly add a new cash register by plugging in another iPad," share founders David Caldana and Justin Kowbel.

Consider doing the same in your stores. Equip extra iPads or laptops with your POS so you can quickly retrieve them when your stores are busy. And if you're using a tablet, you can even unlock the checkout experience and mark sales from anywhere in the store, instead of being trapped behind the checkout shell.

final result

Dealing with difficult customers isn't easy, but it's part of the retail store business. Also remember that something positive can also come out of these situations.

As Adler says, “Angry customers are one of the biggest challenges of running a business, but when managed properly, these people can actually become some of your biggest advocates. I've seen many cases where a bug was fixed and the customer became extremely loyal to the company and also recommended many of their friends.”

Do you have any other tips for dealing with difficult customers? Share your opinion in the comments.

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Dealing with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers - Vend Retail Blog (9)

OneFrancesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is a retail specialist and content strategist at Vend. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool stuff that helps retailers increase sales, serve customers better, and be better overall. She is also the author ofSurvival of the fittest in retail, a free e-book to help retailers future-proof their businesses. Connect with her atLinkedIn,blood, ÖGoogle+.

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