10 Steps to Handle a Tough Customer on the Phone


1. Listen.

This has to be one of the most crucial aspects of handling difficult callers, and customers in general. When you really listen to what they are trying to tell you, you are simultaneously showing concern and gaining insight into the issue they are having, which helps you to find a solution. Also avoid the impulse to talk over them, even if you have good news.

business woman on phone

2. Provide validation to the caller.

Many times, the person screaming at you on the phone just you to recognize that they are upset for a good reason. Many customer service professionals have a tendency to talk down to the customer because they don’t understand what is happening, and this is wrong. Instead of just telling them to “calm down”, try saying, “You’re right—this is a problem, and we are going to find a solution.”

worried business owner

3. Don’t react emotionally.

Anyone who works at a call center will tell you that this is the cardinal rule of customer phone support: Do not react to the caller emotionally. At times, callers can test your patience to the limit, but the trick is to separate yourself from their emotion and treat them objectively, as a problem to be solved. If you react in anger, this will only exacerbate the situation.


4. Train yourself to be pleasant.

You can actually practice your tone of voice, and of course the more experience you have with handling callers, the more proficient you will become. Train yourself to maintain a pleasant and calm tone of voice, no matter what the person says to you.


5. Find the root of the problem.

Now, as you’re listening and gathering information, you can start to figure out what the root of the problem is, and this is key. Once you know the root cause, it’s only a matter of time before it’s solved and you can end the call on good terms.

talkroute business idea

6. Offer multiple solutions.

You should express an apology for the trouble the caller is having, but you can’t keep apologizing forever. Give this person a single, definite solution if you have one, but offering a variety of solutions for a difficult issue is helpful because they can decide for themselves how they would like to proceed. Everybody likes options.

talkroute on hold music

7. Avoid putting a caller back on hold.

If at all possible, you should avoid placing a customer back on hold because that will usually only irritate them further. If you need to check something or confer with another department to find a solution, then try to do so while they are still on the line, if possible.

bad voip

8. Be honest, avoid vague terms, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

It’s natural, when panicked, to tell someone exactly what they want to hear and get off the phone as quickly as possible. If you don’t figure out what’s wrong, however, the customer is either going to keep calling back, or take their business elsewhere. This person needs a real solution, so it’s better to tell them in definite terms what you know, and if you don’t, simply tell them that you don’t have a solution—but you will find the answer for them.

talkroute business phone

9. Express empathy.

Even though this person is a stranger to you, and you are not personally [motivated] by the issue they are having, you can still make a deliberate effort to show empathy. This can be very effective for calming someone down.

talkroute know when hang up phone

10. If all else fails, just hang up.

Sometimes, a caller simply refuses to calm down or is being downright mean. If they won’t listen to reason and continue to yell at you, then it’s probably time to hang up the phone.
The following post offers some advice for handling the worst callers:




Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

Stephanie10 Steps to Handle a Tough Customer on the Phone