How to answer "Can you give me an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client?" (with sample answers)

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This post is part of our series on behavioral interview questions.

Why employers ask this:

One of the critical aspects of any job is the ability to interact with clients and customers in a professional and diplomatic manner. Hiring managers want to know how you manage difficult customers and whether you can handle challenging situations without losing control. They are looking for evidence that you can handle difficult situations and work collaboratively to find solutions that satisfy both parties.

Also, this question can help employers determine how you handle stress and pressure. If you can remain calm and level-headed while dealing with a challenging customer, you are more likely to be able to work efficiently and positively in a fast-paced and stressful work environment.

How to answer the question:

The key to answering this question is to be prepared. Before you attend the interview, think about a couple of instances where you had to deal with difficult customers or clients and how you handled the situation. Choose examples that demonstrate your problem-solving skills, your ability to stay calm under pressure, and your willingness to collaborate with others.

When answering the question, remember to focus on your approach and your actions. Be honest about the situation, and describe your thought process as you worked to resolve the issue. Avoid placing blame on the customer or the company, and focus on how you responded to the situation in a constructive and professional way.

Also, try to highlight the positive outcomes of the situation and explain how you learned from the experience. Employers want to hire candidates who can learn from their experiences and use them to improve their performance in the future.

Sample Answers

Answer 1: Bad Example

There was a customer who was really angry and shouting at me. I stayed calm and apologized, and I was eventually able to resolve their issue.

This answer is too vague and lacks details. It also doesn't show how you specifically dealt with the difficult customer or what the outcome was. It's best to provide a specific example with clear actions and results to show how you handled a difficult customer.

Answer 2: Good Example

I once had a customer who was extremely upset about an issue with their order. I listened attentively to their concerns and apologized for the inconvenience. I then offered them a discount on their next purchase and worked with our team to resolve the issue promptly. As a result, the customer left satisfied and even left a positive review on our website.

This answer provides concrete details about how the candidate handled a difficult customer, including how they actively listened to the customer, apologized, and offered a solution. It also shows a positive outcome that reflects well on the candidate's ability to handle difficult situations with grace.

Answer 3: Good Example

I once had a client who was upset about the level of service they were receiving. I took the time to sit down with them and go over our service offerings in detail. I also gathered feedback from other team members to identify areas where we could improve. After implementing the suggested changes, the client was much happier with our services and even recommended us to other businesses in their network.

This answer shows how the candidate proactively addressed a customer's concerns and worked with their team to find solutions. It also highlights the positive outcome of the situation, which speaks to the candidate's ability to build strong relationships with clients.

Answer 4: Bad Example

Dealing with difficult customers is no problem for me. I just stay calm and listen to their concerns. I've never had any complaints from customers before.

This answer is too generic and lacks any specific example to back up the candidate's claim. It also comes across as overconfident and could be off-putting to the interviewer. It's important to be honest about your experiences and provide specific examples to show your skills in action.

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