How to Deal with Difficult Customers (They’re Not Crazy)


We’ve all been there, trying to figure out how to deal with difficult customers, sometimes saying things like “they’re just a crazy customer” Actually, that’s a myth. Learn why there’s no such thing as a “crazy customer.”


Customer service for companies who take orders online can feel overwhelmingly reactive. At the moment of contact with a ‘crazy’ customer, we can feel blind-sided. It’s like being tackled without anticipation.

Hi, I’m Patrick Pitman and let’s talk today about the myth that customers are crazy.

Do you know what I’m talking about? Crazy?

I mean, it kind of seems like a real thing. I’m using that word crazy for when we’re confronted by a customer who rants or raves in anger. Someone who writes in all caps or threatens over the phone. They make demands that go way beyond reasonable.

Sometimes it feels like blackmail, with threats spilling onto social media. Other times, it seems like stupidity is at the core of it, and we wonder how they ever made it in our virtual door.

The off-line world has an advantage.

There you get human contact before the sale, and this can soften the abruptness of encountering a ‘crazy’ customer afterwards. Off-line, we get clues about imminent crazy! But this is the exception as more pre-purchase interactions go online.

Companies these days may have no human interaction at all until after the purchase is made – something goes wrong, and a customer contacts us in anger. Service reps can feel attacked and respond with feelings of antagonism towards the customer.

Of course, we’re directed to never go ‘off-script’ and keep it positive. So we label customers as ‘crazy’ and we talk amongst ourselves in dismay.

But if we vent in this way, or laugh it off with our support team, each of us sharing ridiculous examples, then we’re sure to keep encountering more of the same…

This is something I’ve learned working in the auto transport industry.

It’s a complicated business. It involves a precious vehicle, a person’s most important possession besides their home. It’s a big ticket order! It often means thousands of miles and weeks of communication. A lot can go wrong. Sometimes it sends the customer into a state that seems crazy.

But each time this happens, there’s something that either frightened or alarmed them. The word ‘alarm’ in this case means to become fraught with anxiety, to fear a bad outcome, to feel remorse at making a mistake. It’s a sense that they may not be able to recover.

This is your company’s chance to listen, to reflect. If communication fails, there’s a flaw in the journey you are guiding for your customer. It’s your opportunity to not only fix this one problem, but fix the flawed process that birthed it.

Sure, sometimes it feels beyond our control. Maybe it’s just bad weather. Things get delayed. Even that presents an opportunity to initiate contact, to break the bad news, to be the one to bring reassurance.

The crazy happens most often, in my experience, when the customer feels like they need to exert control, like they’re adrift and afraid.

So, set the expectation among a customer service team that there’s no such thing as crazy. That instead your opportunity is to reassure, to rescue, to be first to make contact.

And then while you’re at it, set the expectation among marketing that their job is to better forecast this journey, and prevent surprises with better communication before the purchase.

Updated: May 3, 2024Array
Published: December 21, 2018

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