More than 30% of clients, after a conflict is resolved by a customer service manager or a supervisor, return and become regular customers. Sometimes, this proportion increases to 50%. How can you benefit from conflict situations in online business and calm a difficult client?

What will be discussed:

What is conflict?

A conflict is a disagreement between two parties, a lack of consensus due to the clash of opposing opinions and interests. When it comes to dealing with clients in a company, conflicts most often arise due to complaints from problematic clients, that is, those prone to expressing dissatisfaction.

How to properly work with problematic clients

Communicating with clients should be based on cooperation or compromise. If neither of these options is possible due to the emotional behavior of the interlocutor, it is advisable to use an approach that primarily takes into account his interests. And although the judgment “the customer is always right” is greatly exaggerated, a call center operator or company manager cannot directly tell an indignant interlocutor about his mistakes. The ability to smooth over sharp corners, guided by the rules of behavior in conflict, is important.

How to work with problem customers correctly

Behavioral Rules in Conflict

#1. Understand the Reasons

Try to put yourself in the client’s shoes and express your understanding to them. Often, people conflict because anger is a defensive reaction to the real cause of irritation. Imagine what could have so angered the person.

#2. Apologize

Apologize for any inconvenience on behalf of the company.

“It is necessary to apologize, because it immediately extinguishes the conflict. 

Or even better: ‘Accept my apologies!’ It disarms the person so much that the conflict immediately turns into a constructive direction”.

#3. Listen Patiently

Listen attentively without interrupting. Allow them to express all their feelings and only then summarize what you have heard briefly.

#4. Ask, but Carefully

Ask short questions that will push the client to logical conclusions and help you solve the problem. Ask questions carefully, one after another; if the client starts getting nervous from the questions, move to the next point.

#5. Care

Show optimism and care. At the same time, it is important to consider the mood of the interlocutor. A too cheerful tone for an angry client will seem inappropriate.

#6. Thank

Express gratitude, emphasizing that the interlocutor is helping the company to develop. And it is really so because any conflict is a crash test of business processes, a test of stress resistance. If you handle the conflict correctly, you will undoubtedly become stronger.

#7. Invite Your Boss’s Help

React quickly. It is better to involve a more competent specialist or management in a specific question rather than delay the response. Do not force the client to repeat their complaints to every new specialist; better relay their grievances yourself so your boss is already aware of the problem.

#8. Adapt to the Communication Style

Consider the possible negative experience of the client who might have previously dealt with inattentive managers or consultants. Let them know that your company has a special attitude towards clients. Adapt to the style of communication of the interlocutor, repeat their phrases (if they are within the bounds of censorship and those without explicit negativity).

#9. Maintain an Even Tone of Communication

Set certain boundaries and do not allow them to be crossed. You do not have to tolerate the use of foul language or the claims of a person in a state of alcohol intoxication. Also, make sure that the interlocutor does not jump from one question to another. Identify the main problems and look for solutions together with the client.

#10. Look for an Individual Approach

Show flexibility in the communication process. Having a good script is mandatory, but there are situations when it is necessary to find an individual solution and formulate it, adapting to the needs of the client. If you have a strict script that you cannot deviate from, then invite your boss; almost certainly, they have more leeway and can offer a discount or other “perks” to a difficult dissatisfied client.

The customer is always right humor

How to Calm a Confrontational Client

To calm a confrontational client, it’s essential to first apologize to reduce psychological tension in communication. Even if the company is not at fault, apologizing to the client for any inconvenience caused, time spent, etc., is always a good approach. Once the client’s emotions have subsided, try to engage them in solving the problem. 

Offer several solutions to the unpleasant situation and organize a small “brainstorming” session in which the client participates directly. This allows them to feel responsible for the outcome of the conversation.

How to Advise Difficult Clients, Motivating Them to Independently Change Their Behavior? In some situations, the best approach is farewell. It sounds odd, but a soft and well-reasoned refusal to continue cooperation, or rather, its imitation, can switch roles between the manager and the dissatisfied client.

“Such clients are like children who couldn’t grow up. They need rules; if you don’t articulate them, they won’t trust you and will be anxious”.

“The customer is always right: myth or reality?”, by Lyudmyla Kalabukha, Ukrainian business coach.

The customer is always right humor

If it’s not about exchanging or returning a genuinely defective product, and you clearly understand that the client’s claim is unfounded, politely suggest they find an alternative to your company’s offer. If you formulate this solution correctly, explaining that you aim to save your interlocutor’s time, it’s likely that they will stop “attacking” and reconsider their complaint, assuming they are indeed “your” client.

Capybara is an example from the animal kingdom of how to find ways to find common ground with different animals, from predators to herbivores
The capybara is an example from the animal kingdom of how to find ways to get along with different animals: from predators to herbivores.

The basic model of nonviolent communication according to Rosenberg

A company that respects itself and its employees will invariably also respect its clients and potential buyers. The foundation of communication with customers should be based on the theory of nonviolent communication (NVC).

“NVC is the ‘language of life’ that helps us transform old patterns of defense and aggression into compassion and empathy, as well as improve the quality of all our relationships”.

“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

What is Marshall Rosenberg’s theory of nonviolent communication?

Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication theory is a communication model based on empathy and acceptance of the interlocutor. It is universal, suitable for building relationships in the family, among friends, in the workplace, and for forming political relations. The customer is not always right, but in any case, they deserve empathy and honesty. These concepts represent the two parts of the basic NVC model.

What is NVC (theory of nonviolent communication) by Marshall Rosenberg
Rosenberg is remembered for demonstrating two dolls in his lectures: a predator wolf and a herbivorous giraffe.

Empathy is defined as the compassion, awareness, and acceptance of another person’s emotional states, as well as the ability to respond to them appropriately. Empathy and respect are interrelated concepts. If a manager or company executive can sincerely put themselves in the shoes of a problematic client during a phone call, the latter will feel respected. Naturally, this will steer the conversation in a completely different direction.

Honesty means truthfulness and the ability to assess a situation objectively. Understanding that company representatives can make mistakes, or that a product or service may indeed not satisfy a user, minimizes formality in communication between staff and customers.

Your task during the resolution of a conflict situation is to break the barrier between the two parties and come to a mutual decision. This can be achieved through the use of the nonviolent communication model.

The four main components of nonviolent communication are

  • observation without evaluation, separating judgments and biases from the actual situation;
  • differentiation between feelings and thoughts, the ability to control what goes on in our mind when a conflict arises;
  • awareness of the client’s desires, values, and expectations;
  • requests, meaning the clear formulation of an action plan to meet the client’s needs.

The last point is key in finding the optimal way to solve the problem. A client who complains about anything to an employee practicing NVC will never feel ignored, and therefore will not leave a negative review. Moreover, they will want to return to the company and recommend it to their acquaintances.

Marshall Rosenberg's theory of nonviolent communication books
“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg.

What phrases should not be used during conflict resolution?

Phrases that can provoke outrage or anger in the interlocutor are called conflict triggers.

Stop words in communication with conflict-prone clients:

  • “It’s not my fault”.
  • “I don’t know”.
  • “Go to another department”.
  • “Calm down”.

The last one is the worst. If during a conflict the angry party hears a direct request to calm down, they do the opposite, and the conflict escalates.

What phrases should not be used during the resolution of conflict situations? Below are examples of such conflict triggers.

  • “I advise you not to skimp on [customer need]”.

Before approaching your company, a person could have received a myriad of advice, including from specialists. In the midst of a conflict, advice is superfluous. Except when reasoned recommendations pave the way to solving the problem.

  • “I want to offer you a new service”.

The client has paid money (or planned to pay), so satisfying their own needs is most important to them. The manager’s expressed desire shifts the focus from the customer’s problem, hence provoking further claims.

  • “I will try to contact the management/another department and find out the reason”.

This indicates that interaction between specialists is not well-established, and processes within the team are poorly controlled. Moreover, the word “try” conveys doubt, whereas confidence in the company’s representative is very important for the client.

  • “I will call you back as soon as possible”.

A disappointed client seeks specificity. Hence, phrases like “as soon as I can” or similar expressions create an impression of the manager’s inaction.

  • “To be honest, this product is very popular”.

It gives the impression that before this phrase, you were not sincere with them. Or that the manager is sharing something in secret, which tarnishes the company’s image.

Scripts for conflict situations typically do not include professional jargon. Complex marketing terms, ingredient names, technical words — all these are superfluous in conversations even with non-conflict clients.

It’s also advisable to avoid overt advertising and diminutive-affectionate words. However, phrases like “I will do everything within my power”, “We will find a way out of this situation”, “I understand what you mean”, and other positive formulations will highlight the manager’s competence and can calm the client.

What phrases should not be used in conflict resolution

Scripts for conflict situations

Sales scripts are conversation blueprints for managers interacting with clients. An essential part of such a template is “Handling objections”. This is a set of algorithms for finding agreement with a speaker who, for some reason, refuses cooperation or to make a purchase.

If it concerns a client who has already made a purchase but remains dissatisfied, a sales script that includes objection handling is also necessary. It’s important that this document anticipates as many types of client conflict triggers as possible. To achieve this, one should constantly monitor feedback and record all client complaints.

The first thing you need to inform the client about is the scope of your work and competencies. If a client complains that your services are not up to standard, you can refer back to the description of the scope of your work and competencies and explain that you did what the client agreed to.

You can also set goals with the client and report on the progress you have made in achieving these goals. This will help you have something concrete to refer to if your client is dissatisfied.

If your client continues to behave unprofessionally despite your explanations of the scope of your work and project goals, you can also set expectations for the client’s behavior. This allows you to remain professional by setting boundaries, so you don’t have to work with people who try to take advantage of you.

Quote from “4 Expert Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients”.

For convenient formatting of conversations with clients, it is advisable to use CRM systems. In specialized programs, you can create scripts with branching responses, adapting to any development of events during communication.

Scripts for dealing with conflict clients should contain an apology, explanation, and a specific solution.

Example of a script in a conflict situation:

— Why has a week passed and I still haven’t received my order? How do you even operate?

— Good day! Thank you for informing us about the delivery delay. Please accept our company’s apologies. The package has not arrived due to unforeseen problems at the production level. However, these issues have now been resolved, so your order will be with you in 1–2 days. For the inconvenience caused, we would like to offer you free delivery.

Resolving conflicts with clients using scripts does not always happen. However, in most cases, conversation templates dictate the rules of behavior in a conflict and help managers respond to common questions.

Lukashuk Nick

A businessman’s view on conflict-prone clients

I am generally a confrontational person, I appreciate good service, and I am an expert in conflicts, but there was once a client who even surprised me.

My company provided contextual advertising services to a client in 2021. The client requested a discount on our services from the proposal price for the first few months, arguing that his project was going through tough times, so I agreed.

After the third month of cooperation, when the results of the advertising campaigns had significantly improved — I planned a gradual return to the original price from the proposal.

Unexpectedly, my manager received swear words to convey to me in response to such a proposal. I teach employees to professionally handle various situations and to promptly report problems.

I immediately called the client myself, and the conversation was surprisingly restrained, nothing was personally directed at me anymore, and we immediately discussed how to terminate the cooperation peacefully and parted ways.

I concluded for myself that discounts are provided only for our mistakes and on a one-time basis.

Mykola Lukashuk, CEO

Algorithm for dealing with a conflict-prone client

To understand how to calm a conflict-prone client, one needs to act step by step. The general algorithm for communicating with a difficult interlocutor is as follows:

  • allow them to express their thoughts;
  • show your empathy and sincerity;
  • offer several options for solving the problem;
  • together with the client, choose the optimal way;
  • thank them for reaching out and emphasize the importance of their opinion.

After that, immediate action should be taken to meet the customer’s needs. It’s important to ensure client support after the conversation. Ask for feedback on the product and service, offer a discount on the next order, or a loyalty card.

Algorithm for working with a conflict client
Anna Ovchinnikova, account manager at

An account manager’s opinion on client communication

It’s hard for me to recall any truly conflictual communication; I guess I’m not a confrontational person. If there’s a problem, it’s not a conflict but a matter that needs to be resolved.

There was a misunderstanding with a client once.

We received a request. The potential client described his issues and provided access for website analysis. We prepared a proposal for him and answered his questions. The next day, I asked if he had a chance to review the document. Politely and without aggression, but tersely, he replied that while the proposal was excellent and one of the best, he chose other contractors because they paid more attention to his questions.

At that moment, it felt like the ground was swept from under my feet.

It was a stress test. I concluded that besides the proposal, it’s essential to discuss problem-solving in Telegram or a phone call to establish a closer connection. And conversation scripts need to be continuously improved.

Anna Ovchinnikova, Account Manager at

Example of resolving conflict situations

Dealing with negative feedback from clients is primarily essential for representatives of companies in modern sectors, such as marketing, IT, consulting, etc. Let’s consider an example of resolving a conflict situation in an internet marketing agency.

It’s been exactly a month since the full prepayment for your services, but you haven’t completed even half of the tasks. The number of new orders is almost three times less than what your marketers promised!

Which tasks are currently a priority for you?

—Promoting the new website, of course.

I understand that this is the most important. I have a list of tasks in front of me that are currently in progress. Website advertising is at the top of the list.

— But today we were supposed to start working on a new action plan. What am I paying for if you haven’t met the deadlines?

Please accept my apologies on behalf of our company. The delay occurred due to an unexpected delay in achieving the desired results of the first advertising campaign. Usually, we do not proceed to the next steps until we achieve the necessary metrics. However, the advertising campaign is now working very well, and we are moving forward.

— Why should I believe you?

Our contract includes guarantees. Therefore, we are confident that this month we will be able to complete both the new tasks and those left over from the previous one.

— Well, we’ll see.

Thank you for your inquiry. I will remind the project manager to update the working data for your project.

Reason for customer dissatisfaction

Where do conflict customers come from?

Customers become problematic for certain reasons. The exception is people who conflict every day and with everyone. Typically, a reasonable client becomes upset for two reasons:

  • no one informed him, did not explain the features of the product or the terms of cooperation, in particular, there is no deadline map;
  • the company’s employees are not competent, there are no sales scripts, and training for managers is not conducted, so communication with the company’s representatives does not satisfy the client and causes distrust.

Of course, poor quality of services or goods can also provoke conflicts. In such a case, it is necessary to hire a quality control specialist and first and foremost focus on improving the product.

Julia Sotnikova

The marketer’s opinion on difficult clients

It’s better to prevent a conflict situation than to solve a problem already within it. Remote work itself is very nerve-wracking because people in correspondence tend to perceive arguments more aggressively than in live communication.

In our company, there’s a rule: all possible conflict conversations must be conducted by voice or voice with video.

I haven’t had a single case where a complex problem, solved over the phone, turned into a conflict, but there are examples of arguments in correspondence.

Conflict situations are a process that can only be learned through practice. The more conflict situations you encounter, the easier it becomes to handle them. The main thing is to understand why they occurred and to gain experience that makes you stronger.

Experience should always make a person stronger. If experience makes a person more cautious, that’s bad. A cautious person avoids conflicts and may, along with this, miss out on great opportunities.

Where do conflict clients come from
The inscription on the picture: “I’m in defense mode. I’m in attack mode”

I am a demanding person, which is probably why someone once left a review about me as the “worst HR ever,” because I did not want to consult a girl over the phone about the company, and asked her to ask something more specific about the vacancy. There were no specific questions, and the offended child in her made her give me such a title. It saddened me for a few minutes, but I am a marketer, not an HR, so now I use it as an advantage when meeting newcomers in the team and justify my demanding nature.

Resolving conflicts was helped by the book “Psychological Aikido”. If you resolve the conflict within yourself, you can resolve it with the other party as well.

An interesting example of conflict resolution using the method of psychological aikido occurred to me at work. Our director was receiving a lot of phone spam from various credit organizations. Extremely infuriated, he found the phone number of the director of one of the credit institutions in a business directory and immediately dialed it.

— “I found your number on Yellow Pages. How do I make your employees stop bothering me?!” he almost shouted into the phone, very angrily.

— “You won’t believe it, but I have the same problem!” replied the director of the credit organization, and there was a half-minute pause. The intensity of the situation decreased, and the conversation proceeded calmly afterward.

This is a classic of psychological aikido, which I also use.

Do not be afraid to apologize: in the end, you are truly sorry that the conflict occurred and that it hurt the feelings of the other person. If your apologies are accepted, that’s great, but if not, do not impose them, instead, offer a solution.

Julia Sotnikova, marketer in

Types of Problematic Clients

There are 10 types of conflict-prone clients.

  1. The Uninformed. Hesitates in making choices, doubts, does not understand the terminology and the process of work execution (if it’s about a complex service, for example, website optimization). It’s important to explain the essence of tasks in simple terms, inform about intermediate results, and prepare small manuals, checklists, and “white papers” for such clients.
  2. The Pessimistic. A client who is meticulous about details and has a critical attitude also requires constant explanations, informational, and even a bit of psychological support.
  3. The Unreliable. Delays payments and quickly changes decisions. With such a client, it’s best to work with a prepayment, providing guarantees.
  4. The Lazy. It will be useful to motivate them with case studies, positive reviews, and descriptions of results from other clients in a similar niche. They are too lazy to read much, so prepare for them information only about the necessary product.
  5. The Greedy. They choose the cheapest offers and then complain about low quality. Offer discounts on service packages or gift sets, focusing on the consequences of excessive savings and the benefits of discounts on high-quality products.
  6. The Impulsive. Talk about the benefits of long-term cooperation, for example, when paying a subscription for services.
  7. The Conservative. These are either elderly people or individuals who are conservative by nature. Describe the advantages of new products, a modern approach to solving various problems, without criticizing what the client is accustomed to.
  8. The Quarrelsome. Maintain calm and do not succumb to provocations.
  9. The Narcissist. Such people are self-loving in life, work, or business. A manager should communicate with such a client. The advantage is that you can confidently offer them exclusives at high prices.
  10. Separately, it is important to highlight the category of clients with negative experiences about your company. Share information about the efforts your specialists have made to improve the situation and what will be done in the future.

If managers and the company’s leadership know how to find an approach to problem customers of different types, conflict resolution will take a minimum of time, and each customer will feel important and valuable.

Types of problem customers

Conclusions: How to Resolve a Conflict Situation with a Client

Let’s summarize the advice on how to resolve a conflict situation with a client.

  1. Identify the client’s mood and their behavior strategy. This could be rivalry or compromise. Aim to persuade the conversation partner to cooperate (Win-Win).
  2. Calm yourself with slow deep breaths, changing body positions, etc. Show respect and patience, don’t show your annoyance, fatigue, or confusion.
  3. Speak less than the client, but always give clear answers to questions. Listen carefully, remembering that any negativity is caused by the situation, not you personally.
  4. After listening to the client, summarize and choose the optimal script. If necessary, improvise, consult a more knowledgeable colleague or manager. Always inform the client about redirection or waiting.

To ensure that potential clients always remain satisfied, ask for feedback from customers. This could be through email surveys, automatic notifications with short questions on messengers.

Don’t be afraid of complaints and don’t avoid problem customers. In fact, they help the company grow and stress-test business processes.

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