ATI-Mirage Blog  

Dissatisfied-young-woman11 Possible reasons for difficult customers 


Posted by Wendy Wilson | Learning & Development Consultant on 13-Sep-2018



It is easy to work with people you like, and it is even easier to work with people who like you in return. We also know that sooner or later, you'll need to deal with a difficult customer. This can be stressful, and time consuming.

Difficult customers come in a wide variety. There are those whose personality rubs you the wrong way. Or maybe it was the way they spoke to you, the fact they rejected your help or they just ignored you.

If we use our empathy and consider the reasons why customers may be perceived as difficult, it can be much easier to resolve issues, and not take things personally.

When faced with a difficult customer, it is important to think about the root causes of why they act that way.The way you deal with them may reinforce that behavior, or may help a customer to see your way of thinking.

Here are eleven reasons customers are difficult and some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Their expectations have not been met – Was this your fault or a previous colleague’s fault? What can you do to ensure that a customer’s expectations are not just met but exceeded?
  2. Cultural difference – What expectations, traditions, values could be explored to improve the relationship?
  3. They are confused or overwhelmed – Did you just flood your customer with too much information? Was your proposal clear? Did you provide them what they needed or e-mail them multiple documents?
  4. They are tired or frustrated – Has your customer been working long hours recently? Have they been tied up on a difficult project? Are they covering for someone who is out of town or simply not pulling their weight?
  5. They have been treated badly in the past – Was the person they spoke to from your organisation unhelpul? Does your industry have a poor reputation? Is this person very sensitive?
  6. They are in a bad mood and you are in their sights – Is today the day you simply say, “not a problem… I’ll call you back tomorrow”? Is it best to walk away from the conflict and regroup for another day?
  7. They don’t speak or understand the language well – Do they have a hard to understand accent? Are you speaking too quickly or using difficult language?
  8. They have not been in this situation before – Are they new to their role and don’t know how to proceed? Are they in a difficult situation and can’t handle the pressure? Are you putting too much pressure on them?
  9. They are defending their ego – Are they playing power games? Are they defensive of their position in the situation?
  10. They are in a hurry or are tired of waiting – Are you asking too many questions? Do they have a tight deadline?
  11. They have been ignored and not listened to – Do they feel alienated? Have you not returned their calls? Are their comments and/or ideas falling on deaf ears?


Reflect on your difficult customer interactions, and how you can use the above information to be more effective in your responses.


Remember, Customer Service Excellence starts with seeing the service experience through the eyes of your customer. Enhancing your emotional intelligence skills by learning how to understand others (and yourself of course), building empathy and reducing reactive responses will go a long way towards constructive interactions!


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