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How To Handle A Difficult Customer Over The Phone

9 min read
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With all businesses settling into a virtual work environment during COVID-19, it is now more necessary than ever to keep in touch with your customers and prospects over the phone. While reaching out to them over social media and email keeps you on top of their mind, communicating with them over a call every once in a while adds a more personal touch.

Whether it is to take the next sales step with a prospect or attending to customer care calls, speaking on the phone allows prospects and customers a chance to ask their questions and finalize terms quicker than they would do over emails. While most physical stores remain closed, customers may also need after sales services, which is why being available on the phone is very critical at this point in time.

No need to get yourself down over these difficult customers who are nothing but a small hiccup in your journey as a sales or marketing rep. We've put together some simple to follow steps to deal with a customer who isn't understanding you. Stay calm, follow these steps, and try to resolve the problem positively!

Key Takeaways:

  1. Effective Strategies for Handling Difficult Customers Over the Phone: Discover practical tips and techniques for managing challenging customer interactions on the phone. Learn how to maintain composure, actively listen, and empathize with customers to defuse tension and find mutually satisfactory solutions.

  2. Importance of Communication Skills in Customer Service: Effective communication is key to resolving conflicts and satisfying customers. Explore the essential communication skills, such as clear articulation, active listening, and positive language, that can help you navigate difficult conversations with customers and ensure a positive outcome.

  3. Emotional Intelligence in Customer Interactions: Developing emotional intelligence is crucial when dealing with difficult customers. Understand how to regulate your emotions, recognize customer emotions, and respond appropriately to diffuse conflicts and build rapport, ultimately fostering customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  4. Problem-Solving Techniques for Difficult Situations: Discover proven problem-solving techniques to address customer complaints and concerns. Learn how to analyze issues, propose solutions, and effectively communicate resolutions to leave customers feeling heard and satisfied.

  5. De-escalation and Conflict Resolution Strategies: Explore strategies for de-escalating tense situations and resolving conflicts with customers. From offering sincere apologies to finding common ground, these techniques can help you turn a challenging interaction into a positive customer experience.

  6. Importance of Self-Care in Customer Service: Providing exceptional customer service can be emotionally demanding. Learn the significance of self-care and stress management techniques to maintain your well-being, handle difficult customers more effectively, and ensure consistent high-quality service.

Table of Contents:

Listen closely and find out where the problem stems from

Make sure you listen to everything the caller has to say and not talk over them even if you have something important to say. After all, they just want their complaint or question to be heard and resolved. Listening closely can also increase the chances of you actually finding a solution for their problem and subside the whole situation. By gathering more and more information about what the problem is, you can fit the pieces in place and get to a resolution quicker.

Validate their feelings and empathize 

Always acknowledge the fault at your end and apologize, saying you will ensure such a thing doesn't happen again. Validating their concern and empathizing with them is a much simpler way to calm the caller than actually telling them to "calm down!"

Stay calm, composed, and pleasant

There will be times when you want to shout back or even be sarcastic, but fight that urge because it just isn't worth it. Over the course of your career, train yourself to be calm and pleasant on the phone no matter what the situation is. There is no need to lose your cool and make matters worse.

Be direct and don't make unattainable promises

While an irate customer may confuse or scare you into making empty promises just to get them off your back at the moment, that is never a good idea to do. It will only lead to even angrier calls in the near future! Always be honest and direct, without using vague terms that are undecipherable.

Don't get emotional

A certain customer may really be pulling at your strings and making you angry, but this is not the time to get emotional. Always try and separate yourself from the situation and think about it in practical terms instead of with anger or annoyance. Think about the most logical thing to do or say to help the caller and take it from there.

Try not to put them on hold

An already irritated caller is never going to be happy about being put on hold! They hate nothing more than hearing the (supposed to be soothing) hold music when all they want to do is be heard by a company representative. If you need to call another department, try to have that conversation with the caller on the line as well.

Provide more than one solution

While some problems may be resolved easily with a simple solution, there are times when you have the option of providing your caller with more than one solution. Giving numerous options can lead to an overall more positive resolution and help you earn the customer's trust back by resolving the problem completely!

In the end, if you truly don't have anything to offer the caller, then instead of wasting time with them over the phone, simply tell them you don't have a solution for them at this moment, but will get back to them as soon as you do!

Making sure you have all the necessary details about the caller at hand plays an important role in determining how much you will be able to help them over the phone. An agitated customer will only get more annoyed if you keep asking them to repeat the information they have already given you. Using a Customer Relationship Management Software for your company can play a very big hand in providing you with all of the insight needed quickly. It is a seamless and all-inclusive platform that helps everyone on the team stay updated, whether you are working from office or home.


In conclusion, effectively handling difficult customers over the phone is a vital skill for customer service professionals. By mastering communication techniques, practicing emotional intelligence, and employing problem-solving strategies, you can navigate challenging interactions and turn them into positive outcomes. Remember to prioritize self-care to maintain your well-being in this demanding role.

At FiveCRM, we understand the importance of exceptional customer service. Our CRM software empowers businesses to streamline customer interactions, enhance communication, and build stronger relationships. Book a free demo with FiveCRM today and discover how our solution can revolutionize your customer service experience, leading to improved customer satisfaction and business success.


Q: How can I handle a customer who is angry and upset over the phone?

A: When faced with an angry and upset customer over the phone, it's essential to remain calm and composed. Active listening, showing empathy, and acknowledging their concerns can help defuse tension. Offer sincere apologies, take ownership of the situation, and propose solutions to address their issues. By maintaining a professional and empathetic approach, you can work towards finding a resolution and leaving the customer feeling heard and satisfied.

Q: What are the key communication skills needed to handle difficult customers over the phone?

A: Effective communication skills play a crucial role in managing difficult customers over the phone. Clear articulation, active listening, and the use of positive language are essential. It's important to speak clearly and concisely, actively engage with the customer by listening attentively, and choose words that convey understanding and empathy. These communication skills help in establishing rapport, defusing tension, and finding mutually satisfactory solutions.

Q: How can emotional intelligence help in handling difficult customer interactions?

A: Emotional intelligence is vital when dealing with difficult customer interactions. It involves understanding and managing your own emotions while also recognizing and empathizing with the emotions of the customer. By regulating your emotions, staying calm, and demonstrating empathy, you can defuse conflicts, build rapport, and effectively address customer concerns. Emotional intelligence helps create a positive atmosphere and fosters customer satisfaction.

Q: What problem-solving techniques can be used to address customer complaints over the phone?

A: When addressing customer complaints over the phone, employing effective problem-solving techniques is crucial. Start by actively listening to the customer's concerns, asking clarifying questions, and gathering all necessary information. Analyze the issue at hand and propose practical solutions that align with the customer's needs and expectations. Clearly communicate the proposed resolutions, including any necessary actions or follow-ups. By involving the customer in the problem-solving process and ensuring clear communication, you can resolve complaints and enhance customer satisfaction.

Q: How can I de-escalate tense situations and resolve conflicts with difficult customers?

A: De-escalating tense situations and resolving conflicts with difficult customers requires a diplomatic approach. Stay calm, actively listen to the customer, and validate their feelings and concerns. Offer sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused and seek common ground by finding areas of agreement. Propose practical solutions or alternatives to address their needs. By demonstrating a willingness to resolve conflicts and maintaining a respectful demeanor, you can work towards resolving the issue and improving the customer's experience.

Q: Why is self-care important when dealing with difficult customers over the phone?

A: Self-care is essential when dealing with difficult customers over the phone. Providing customer service can be emotionally demanding, and it's important to prioritize your well-being. Engaging in self-care activities, such as practicing mindfulness, taking breaks, and seeking support when needed, helps maintain a positive mindset and resilience. By taking care of yourself, you can handle difficult customer interactions more effectively and consistently deliver exceptional service.

Michael King says...

"I can’t think of a time where a client has requested something that we weren’t able to do with FiveCRM. Unlike most systems, it has a lot of flexibility."

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Managing Director, Senior Response


“Each client, and each of their campaigns, has its own unique specifications. We essentially needed to set up mini CRMs on one platform to meet those requirements.”

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Operations Director, Team Telemarketing

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