8 Types of Difficult Customers and How to Deal with Them [Guide]
Your online store receives different types of customers every day. Some are amazing to work with. While others are impossible to please and can be a nightmare! And there are many types of difficult customers out there.
These challenging customers will find fault with anything and everything you have and do. And it's likely you'll find that while some of these hard-to-please customers can be good opportunities to build a customer-business relationship, some of them will also are not worth your time or ad spend.
In other words, there are many types of difficult customers and you should know how and when to deal with each of them. Some customers are not only difficult but also aren't willing to complete a purchase, while others maybe high-ticket customers but challenging ones.
In this article, we're going to take a look at the different types of difficult customers and how to deal with each type in-store and online.
What is a difficult customer?
The exact definition for who or what a difficult customer is will differ from one person to another, from one industry to another, from one business to another.
This entire piece is about the different types of difficult customers. But if we had to define them, we’d say:
Difficult customers are customers who are not easy to deal with and usually require extra effort on the part of your customer support or customer success team.
Whether they have encountered bad service, received a faulty product, or are just the type to always-raise-their-voice type of customers, there are many reasons why customers become difficult.
Sometimes customers are justified in their anger towards your brand. With e-commerce, customers would often click an ad on social media and continue to make a purchase only to receive a product that’s quite different from the one advertised. Are they justified in their anger then? Quite so!
In this article, we’ll do our best to cover as many types of difficult customers along with how to handle them.
Types of difficult customers and how to deal with them
If you’ve ever wondered why some customers can be a breath of fresh air, while others drive you insane, then you’ve come to the right place.
However, it’s important to remember that as a business, you can’t please all customers who walk into your store, whether physically or virtually.
And while customer satisfaction is an important element in the e-commerce customer experience, you cannot satisfy everyone. Simply because you don’t serve or cater to everyone.
Let’s look at these 8 types of difficult customers and show you how to handle them.
The demanding customer
Some customers are justified in their anger, while others aren’t.
The demanding or aggressive customer is the type that’s easily-angered, rude, arrogant, and often highly-critical. The reason is: They believe that you’re there to serve them and that their needs are above everyone else. (Talk about an oversized ego!)
How to handle demanding customers
The first step in dealing with demanding and aggressive customers is getting them to calm down. If they’re inside your physical store, you or your sales team will have to take a deep breath, weather their anger, and then work on calming them down (without saying ‘calm down’).
You can start by apologizing to them for the inconvenience they’ve encountered (even if you’re right and they’re wrong). Explain that you’d like to get all the details so you can resolve their problem ASAP.
In in-person situations, it’s important that you do not retort back. Talk to them politely and focus on absorbing their anger and frustration. This will help them calm down and share their problems.
If you have an e-commerce store, or offer an omnichannel customer experience, then see if you can get them on the phone or have one of your lead customer support agents talk to them in a polite neutral manner.
Mr./Mrs./Ms. Complainer aka The dissatisfied customer
There’s no shortage of dissatisfied or constantly-complaining customers. In fact, they are a common type of difficult customer you’re likely encounter as a retail e-commerce business.
The main problem with complainers is that they exaggerate their problem, which makes it harder to please them.
How to handle dissatisfied customers?
Similar to angry customers, the best way to deal with complainer-type customers is by being calm and considerate. Show them that you’re attentive to their problem and that you’ll do your best to resolve their issue(s).
It’s important that you don’t view customer complaints as an attack on your store or brand. Often times, complaints will arise from a misunderstanding or unmet expectations. The latter is especially common among e-commerce businesses where online stores paint vivid pictures of their products and when customers order them, they get something else entirely.
How many of those online vs reality pictures of people ordering products from clothing to bicycles that turn out to be miniatures have you seen? Probably plenty.
Apologize to your customer for the inconvenience they have had, be attentive to their problem, and tell them you’ll work on improving the service or product.
Ask them what they want, do they prefer a refund, money added to their digital wallet, or if they’d like to buy something else.
If you offer a rewards program, don’t hesitate to offer them something like additional points or a cashback voucher. You can even add money to their wallet that they can use inside your store with their next purchase.
The indecisive customer
Not all difficult customers are angry or dissatisfied. A common but challenging customer type is the indecisive customer. They’re the ones who cannot make up their mind about what they want.
Customers can be indecisive for many reasons. Whether it’s because you have too many products with not-so-distinctive differences or features. Or because the information provided with each product isn’t clear.
In some cases, customers can be indecisive because they’re buying a product for someone else and don’t know what to buy or how to go about the purchase.
Indecisive customers are usually indecisive for a reason. There’s something that’s holding them back. It could be price, features, quality, quantity, or even fear of making a mistake when buying a product (especially one that they’ll have for a long time).
Though indecisive customers are generally harmless, in an in-person experience, they can easily drain your energy and team’s energy.
How to handle indecisive customers?
The best way to handle an indecisive customer is to know what makes them indecisive.
Are they price-focused or do they have a specific budget in mind? Knowing this can help you exclude high-value items or offer them products that are closer to their budget-range.
If a customer has a budget of $50 for a gift they want to buy but your lowest product is $55, you can still offer it to them and highlight the benefits.
Is your customer indecisive because they’re looking for specific features in a new laptop? Get their list of features and use them as an elimination option. This will help you help them find what they need or the best option for them.
But a question remains: How can you handle an indecisive customer in an online setting?
The best way to do so is give them the means to find the answers for themselves along with a chatbot or customer support option.
The price-focused customer can filter products by adding their budget in the maximum price box. They won’t get the $55-item but they’ll be able to see what you have in your store.
For the features-focused customer, you can have an option to compare products, or they can use your filtering tool to filter based on the features they are looking for.
The vague customer
The indecisive customer is the one that can’t decide what they want, whereas the vague customer is the one that doesn’t know what they want.
They enter your store with no specific desire to make a purchase. They’re not looking for anything. They’re just browsing – whether through a screen or in-person – which makes them a very difficult type of customer to deal with.
How do you help someone who doesn’t know what they want?
How to deal with vague customers?
The best way to deal with vague customers is to let them be. Let them browse your store and just give them a heads-up that if they need anything you’re right there.
If it’s a physical store, don’t – I repeat DO NOT – hover! Customers in general don’t like sales people hovering about them. They feel uncomfortable and will often leave even if they’d found something they were considering.
An alternative is to use the same method as the indecisive customer: Ask them if they have a specific goal or need in mind. But don’t overdo it with the questions. If they refuse your help, then it’s a ‘No’ and you need to let them figure it out for themselves.
The Expert or the know-it-all customer
You’d be surprised but some customers think they know more than you do about your own products. Meet the know-it-all customer. They’re the ones who deem themselves experts on what you sell.
These are generally hard to deal with because nothing you know or say really matters. These customers put themselves at a higher rank than you and your sales associates.
Sure, some customers maybe familiar with certain products, especially electronics, or products they’ve tried in the past, but…. They can be quite exhausting and annoying.
How to deal with a know-it-all customer?
Customers who view themselves as experts tend to be quite talkative. They are more about hearing their own voice and downplaying your knowledge and expertise. So let them talk it out.
Be sure not to get impatient because know-it-all customers can get rude or angry very quickly. Offer ideas and suggestions, compliment them on their knowledge, but don’t appear self-absorbed or patronizing. Don’t try to be the bigger show-off.
You’re more likely to meet know-it-all customers in in-person experiences. In some cases, you may even meet them if you have a messaging option on your website.
The impatient customer
Have you ever met a customer who wanted things done yesterday? (And, no, I’m not talking about your boss!) That’s the impatient customer and they’re one of the hardest and most difficult customer types to deal with.
We all have lives and want to finish our shopping to move on to the next thing. But then there are customers who are – possibly – born impatient. To express themselves, they often resort to anger, and in some cases may be offensive towards you or your team.
You’ll often meet impatient customers if you have an offline store because your interactions are face-to-face. If they’re standing in line, they’re probably huffing and puffing and making your other customers impatient too or simply uncomfortable.
How to deal with impatient customers?
Impatient customers are harder to deal with because impatience can easily turn into anger and dissatisfaction. They switch between emotions quickly and not meeting their needs and expectations can quickly swirl into a much bigger problem.
In an in-person situation, it’s best to call more people to the cash register to speed up the queue. Take this opportunity to explain why it’s taking a while to process their order, resolve their problem, or move the line.
Tell them you appreciate their patience and that you’ll get to them or resolve their issue as soon as you can.
In e-commerce, make sure your customer support team is responsive. If they are messaging or emailing you outside your business owners, having a chatbot can go a long way in getting this sorted out for you.
A simple notification that your team concludes business hours at a certain time and that they’ll get back to them when they log in again can help reduce their anxiety and impatience.
Your Uncle Scrooge aka The Penny-Pincher
As a business owner, you need to remember that not all customers who walk into your store, whether in-person or virtually, are your ideal customers or even your target audience.
People enter stores out of curiosity or visit a website from an ad. Some of these customers may be tempted by discounted prices but when they come in, their true colors show. And beneath the smile, there’s your Uncle Scrooge.
This type of customer is known as the Penny-Pincher or the bargain customer. If it’s not cheap – or within their definition of cheap – they’re unlikely to buy it.
How to deal with penny-pinching customers?
To deal with this type of customer, you need to be aware of and remember two things above all others:
- Not everyone is your customer
- You can’t please everyone
If you sell high-end jewelry or watches or even if you’re a café that serves high-end consumers, penny pinchers aren’t your customers. And it’s highly unlikely you’ll make a sale from them.
Be respectful and but not proud and don’t be upset that they’re not buying from you.
However, if you’re running ads and all those coming to you are penny pinchers, then you should review your ad quality and ad copy. Something is wrong with your online ads that’s bringing the wrong type of customers to your business.
In this case, you’re badly-directed ad is costing you a lower return on ad spent (ROAS) and you need to get to the bottom of it.
Mr./Mrs./Ms. Entitled aka The entitled customer
Whether you have a physical store, a website, or both and offer an omnichannel customer experience, you’re bound to meet the entitled customer.
And with the rise in e-commerce and the large availability of products, there is no shortage of entitled customers today.
Entitled customers deem themselves above everyone else, including your sales people and you, the store owner. They also demand special treatment and act as if they are the bread-and-butter of your business, and that without them your business would fail. Talk about a tough bunch!
How to deal with entitled customers?
Entitled customers are haughty and extremely hard to please. They can also be aggressive. This means that the best way to deal with this type of challenging customer is to exercise a high level of patience.
In other words, the best way to play to their egos is by making them feel special. Make sure you or your customer support team informs them that they are your top priority, thank them for their patience, thank them for their business, and use their names when addressing them.
More tips for deal with difficult customers
The above are broad types of difficult customers. So, you’re likely to encounter more types as you work in commerce, online and offline.
As the e-commerce scene grows, so are the types, experiences, and encounters you’re likely to come across.
Here are a few more tips to help you manage difficult customer types whether they fall in the above segments or have different attitudes.
Be empathetic by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes
Whether you’re a store owner or salesperson, you’re a customer to someone else. You’ve probably even encountered your customer’s problem somewhere where you’re the customer. Put yourself in their position and be empathetic towards them. Empathy goes a long way in building an understanding.
Walk your customer through their problem
This is a great opportunity to build a relationship between your business and customers in an online setting, while also showing customers how much you care.
This situation often takes place when a customer buys from you for the first time, has a problem with online payment, returns or refunds, just to name a few.
Walking your customers through the steps they need to follow, especially walking them through till the problem is resolved, can create unique opportunities for you and your customers.
Let them vent if they need to
Sometimes customers know there’s really no one-and-done solution for their problem and sometimes they just need to vent. So let them. Whether it’s over the phone or via your chat messaging option on your website, let your customer vent their frustration.
Moreover, you can use this venting and opportunity to uncover ways to make the shopping experience better for your customers. It may not be a solution to be carried out today but it could be a long-term plan for you.
Be understanding and don’t argue
One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make when dealing with difficult or challenging customers is arguing back or losing their temper.
Avoid being these people. Even if the customer is 1000% wrong, be understanding, be thoughtful, and exercise patience.
Even if the customer doesn’t buy from you, they will at least not harm you with a bad or negative review.
With new experiences come new reactions and emotions and subsequently new customer types that may or may not fall within the abovementioned 8 types of difficult customers.
As you can see, there are many types of challenging customers, with some being justified and others not so much. However, the best and most common way to absorb customer dissatisfaction is to absorb their anger.
Make them feel heard and then use the abovementioned methods to ease their anger and resolve their issues – if possible.
Patience is an important virtue to have when working with customers, whether in-person or online. In an online setting, it’s even more important because written text and conversation often lose the sense of connection achieved in-person.
Moreover, take any customer complaint as an opportunity to learn more about your customers and to help them. In doing so, you’ll be able to build customer loyalty and retention, which in turn will translate to future sales.
You may not achieve the sale today but giving customers a good experience entices them to stay and do business with you.
Want to learn more about customers, check out these articles from the Convertedin Blog:
13+ Types of Retail Customers and How to Deal with Them [Guide]
How to Create a Customer Segmentation Strategy and Boost Sales
eCommerce Customer Segmentation Strategy: How to Know Which Customers to Target
A detailed guide on customer segmentation in retail e-commerce business
For E-Commerce Businesses: What You Need to Know About Loss Leader Pricing