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How to Work Well With — and Keep a Difficult Customer Happy

While it can be stressful to face a "difficult" customer, most often than not, you can find a way to work through the situation or frustration and keep the client.

Difficult customers are a necessary part of doing business, says a blog by Ignition.

According to the client engagement, and commerce platform for the professional services industry, the "difficulty" may have a variety of causes, but you usually have to deal with a customer who isn't happy with your service or goods.

They may just have a personality that conflicts with the principles of your business, or they may have unrealistic expectations, the Ignition blog adds.

Here's how to work with demanding customers, including those whose business you'd rather not lose.

Keep in Mind The End-Game

While your primary intention is to resolve any issue, remember that how you handle the situation will impact what happens in the future with this customer. 

What occurs next depends on how you react at first and what you do after that.

Even though you might occasionally desire to let them go, keeping them around is by far preferable, says a Trends and Insights blog by Mike Michalowicz, founder of Profit First, a membership organization for accountants, bookkeepers & business experts.

You run the danger of losing the customer to a rival if they are not pleased with your response.

Even worse, they might disparage your business or post a poor review online. Don't let your ego cost you a client or damage the reputation or brand of your company, says a post by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN).

Show Patience Even If They Don't 

An impatient customer — perhaps someone who's waited in line longer than they expected or frustrated that a concern is not resolved quickly — can be difficult. 

But don't be dismissive of their demeanor. Instead, acknowledge their predicament by showing your patience.

"Make sure an impatient customer knows that effort is being invested in resolving the situation," writes Skye Schooley in a Business News Daily article.

If applicable, address the issue by expressing the proposed solution in your response. 

For instance, suppose your customer questions why a particular item is not on your shelves per usual or delivered as promised. A solution is identifying an anticipated date when the product will be restocked before sharing that in the initial conversation with the client.

Express Empathy

Be sure to let the customer know you care — about the issue and their business. Show empathy for their predicament.

Think about how you might feel if the circumstances were different. You'd probably want the business you're working with to take note of your worries.

Sometimes, all a client needs to hear to feel better about the circumstance is that. It's a declaration of your interest and listening skills, says a post by the Atlanta Small Business Network (ASBN).

The compassion you show demonstrates how important you find your customers' experiences to be, the article adds.

Avoid Defensiveness

An initial reaction to a customer's issue with an experience, product, or even employee at your business may be to get defensive. But that won't be a helpful response.

Kim Angeli, CEO of Grateful Box, offers this recommendation in the Business News Daily article: Instead, realize that this client is taking the time to communicate their issues with you, and thank them for providing feedback.

When dealing with a dissatisfied client, our natural reaction is to become defensive and adopt a negative attitude, Angeli says in the article.

"Once you flip the switch and start with 'thank you,' the response is out of the ordinary for them."

Ask For More

This is difficult since, in truth, you probably don't want to take in any more criticism. However, this blog by Indeed explains why it's the correct thing to do.

Inquire if they have any further worries.

It's possible that they were so preoccupied with the first issue that they overlooked a different one, the post says. Additionally, it shows the client how much you still value and respect them as a client.