“The Customer is Always Right – Oh, Yeah?” 4 Quick Tips for Handling Difficult Customers


Just about everyone has heard the saying, “The customer is always right.”  And most of us believe it’s true – when we’re the person selling, and especially when we’re the customer.

But there’s another side to this proverbial coin.  Even the best intentioned business people may find themselves in situations where holding to this belief can come at too high a cost.

For instance, is the customer always right if they:

  • Keep expanding the scope of work beyond your original agreement?
  • Are taking advantage of you, or even being abusive?
  • Complain because you didn’t wave your magic wand and make them smarter, thinner, richer, more effective in their workplace?
  • Insist on your first born, or at least the donation of an egg (or sperm)?

Okay, maybe that last one is a little over the top – but you get my point.  Saying “the customer is always right” isn’t a license for customers or prospects to abuse or take advantage of the business relationship. 

So how can you begin to get a bead on whether your prospect or customer is stepping over the line (and getting out of line)?  If you’re at the end of your rope, here are 4 quick tips to help you get a handhold on handling difficult customers.

4 Quick Tips for Handling Difficult Customers

Handling difficult customers (and propects) begins by getting perspective.  You need to develop some guidelines to recognize when and where they begin crossing the line.  These three tips are a good start:

  1. First, customers get more rope than prospects.  They’ve passed your qualifying gauntlet, and you have at least some of their money, if not your entire fee.  You want them happy, content and singing your praises.  Ask what they need to be happy, and be very specific.
  2. Second, look at the agreement you made. Are they being unreasonable because they are going outside the boundaries and agreements you set together?  Or are they asking for things you never told them they couldn’t have?
  3. Third, ask yourself what expectations did you set?  Were you pretty non-specific on how the relationship was going to work, hoping the client would just read your mind?  Were you perhaps thinking that they might be scared off if you put firm expectations in place?  Good boundaries and strong expectations result in satisfied clients.  Don’t mind-read and don’t expect them to.  Trouble results almost every time.
  4. Fourth, recognize some people are just never satisfied.  Your job is to qualify those people out early and often.  There are some clients you can’t afford to have, and people like this are part of that herd.  Even if you are not sure how you’re going to pay the rent this month, step away from these people.  You will be so glad you did.

Take Action – Make This Your Own

The best tip for handling difficult customers is to do your best to avoid getting them in the first place. That means that you need to be more aware while you’re talking with prospects – before they become customers.

Start by putting some straightforward check-steps in place:

  • Review: after each conversation with a new prospect think about the nuts and bolts of the conversation.
  • Ask yourself: were you crisp and clear, not making assumptions or expecting mindreading?
  • Check yourself: what words do you need to use in order to set clear boundaries and expectations?
  • Share a comment below – let me know how it went for you.

You can also check out our related post:

Are Prospects Mistaking You for a Non-Profit? How to Stand Your Ground and Demonstrate Value

Share a comment – what else have you found that helps you deal with difficult customers?


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