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Tell Me About a Time You Had to Deal With a Difficult Customer

difficult customer

When you’re interviewing for a customer service position it’s likely that you will be asked questions about dealing with difficult customers. Customer service representatives have a diverse job that requires them to possess a couple of important skills to be able to deal with different types of customers, including difficult ones. For employers, it’s important to have the right people in the customer service departments. The sole reason for this is the impact of customers on the growth of a company.


Customer service representatives are the first point of contact and are, therefore, the face of the company. They are the ones who can drive loyalty, customer retention, and also acquisition. Employers value engaged and productive team members when it comes to customer service. Therefore, interviewers will ask different kinds of interview questions to find and hire top customer service talents.

Example customer service questions:

  1. Give me an example of a time when you resolved a difficult customer issue.
  2. Tell me about a time when you ensured that a customer was pleased with your service.

Your answers should explain how you approach challenging situations with difficult customers, how you would deal with hypothetical customer service situations, and how you have dealt with difficult customers in the past. Interview questions about how you dealt with situations at work in the past are so-called behavioral interview questions. These questions require you to provide the interviewers with actual examples of your work experience.

In this blog, questions about dealing with difficult customers are discussed, and you can find out how you should answer them. If you want to learn more about customer service questions and answers, check our customer service Q&A page. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Other Ways Interviewers Ask About Your Experience Dealing With Difficult Customers

The interview question ‘how did you deal with a difficult customer to come to a successful resolution‘ belongs to the behavioral category of interview questions. But interviewers can also ask you the same question in a different way.

The interviewer may ask this conflict-related question in plenty of variations. A couple of them are listed below:

  • What actions did you take during your past jobs to handle challenging situations?
  • Give us an example where you solved a complicated problem at work.
  • Describe a situation with a difficult task at the workplace and how you handled that.
  • Can you tell us about a situation from your past experiences when you made a certain mistake and what you did to fix that?
  • Tell us about the time you led a project where there was conflict within a team.
  • Have you had any experience responding to unhappy customers?
  • Tell us about a time you had difficulty assisting a customer to understand what you were telling them. how did you handle this, what was the outcome?

These questions are closely related to adaptability job interview questions.

Why Are Interviewers Interested In How You Deal With Difficult Customers?

Every question in the job interview has a different purpose. The experts do not add random questions, small talks, or fillers to the interviews; they are just interested to know more about you. Their prime goal is to test your abilities to work on a specific profile. Therefore, you should know how to answer this question in the most effective manner.

Your answer will help the interviewer understand what kind of person you are and how you behave in complicated situations. You never know what kind of problem you may face during your job, especially when you have to deal with the customers in the market. Interviewers try to predict your behavior to angry or unhappy customers.

Learn everything you need to know about customer service interview questions and how to answer them.

Tips For Answering: ‘Tell Me About a Time You Had to Deal With a Difficult Customer’

When addressing the question, “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer,” applicants can follow several effective tips. These include emphasizing strong communication skills, showcasing empathy and understanding, detailing specific actions taken to resolve the issue, highlighting problem-solving abilities, and underscoring the importance of maintaining a positive customer experience.

While answering this question, you need to highlight three important things, such as your:

  • Behavior when under work pressure and your strategy to deal with tough situations.
  • Ability to respond to difficult customers in the right way.
  • Communication skills and your abilities to fit into the work environment.

It is smart to follow the STAR format to answer behavioral interview questions. STAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This interview technique helps you to structure logical and concise answers that include all the relevant details to impress the interviewer the right way. Below we discuss the STAR interview technique in more detail.

STAR Interview Technique

Behavioral job interview questions are best answered by providing example situations according to the STAR method. This way, you can give interviewers exactly what they are looking for. Also, it allows you to provide a concise and to-the-point answer about how you acted in previous work situations.

Below, the STAR acronym is broken down into each step.


When you give your answer to the interviewer, start by setting the stage. Provide context around the situation or challenge you were facing. Also, make sure to provide relevant details.


After you describe the situation, talk about your specific responsibilities and what your role was. It’s important that the interviewer gets an understanding of your task during that specific stressful situation.


Then, talk about the actions you took to resolve the challenges you were facing while under stress. Provide the interviewer with a step-by-step description of what actions you took.


Finally, talk about the outcomes of your actions. Make sure to take credit for your behavior that led to the result. Here you answer questions such as What happened? And What results did you get? Also, provide the interviewer with information about what you learned from the situation. Make sure to focus on positive results and positive learning experiences.


Sample Answers To ‘Tell Me About a Time You Had to Deal With a Difficult Customer’

Below we discuss a couple of frequently asked customer service interview questions and how to answer them. However, these answers are just examples. Make sure that you tailor your answers to the specific position and company where you’re applying for a job.

Question 1: How Do You Deal With Difficult Customers?

‘At my previous job, once a customer came yelling due to some trouble with her order. I knew she was frustrated, and instead of taking her words personally, I tried to ensure her that the issues would be processed by the team. I listened to all her problems patiently and apologized. She was basically making efforts to return an item without any receipt for the same.

I explained to her that we could not process the cash refund without getting the original receipt, but it is possible to give store credit of an equivalent amount. In this way, the problem ended in a win-win situation. After this, she became a loyal customer of the brand, and we also received a positive review from her online.’

Click here to learn how to answer job interview questions about the most popular job interview topics.

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The answer is honest, short, and concise. It gives the interviewer insights into a real-life situation about how you dealt with a difficult customer and more importantly, how you solved the situation.
  2. This answer demonstrates that you’re determined to help customers while still following company protocol. It shows that you think in terms of solving customer service problems effectively and efficiently.
  3. The answer has a positive outcome, which is great for making a good impression on an interviewer.

Question 2: What Does Great Customer Service Mean To You?

‘To me, great customer service means going above and beyond in order to meet and exceed customer expectations. It starts with identifying the issues of a customer through active listening and using in-depth knowledge of a company’s products or services to find effective and efficient solutions.

Excellent customer service is a top priority for any company, and it is essential to create loyal and returning customers. The ultimate goal is to give customers the best possible user experience with a product or service and build a positive reputation for the company.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The answer is short and concise. It gives the interviewer insights into your views on customer service.
  2. Also, the answer gives the interviewer room to ask follow-up questions about why you think certain things are stated. Make sure to prepare for logical follow-up questions such as ‘tell me about a time you went above and beyond in order to meet and exceed customer expectations.
  3. The answer shows that you understand customer service, that you’re determined to help customers, and that you think in terms of solving problems efficiently.

Question 3: Tell Me About A Time When You Turned An Unsatisfied Customer Into A Happy One

‘In my previous position, where I worked as a customer service representative, I had to solve a situation with an angry customer. The customer wanted to return an item bought in the store without a receipt. He demanded a full return but company policy only allowed me to offer him store credit or let him exchange the product.

The first important step I took in this situation was staying calm and making sure that he felt heard. I listened carefully to the customer and apologized for the inconvenience. By empathizing and reassuring them that I was there to support him and resolve the matter, the tensions calmed. I assisted him in the store in finding a similar product which he really appreciated. He told me he understood my position and was happy with the new product.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. The answer demonstrates your creativity and conflict resolution skills to help solve an issue with a customer.
  2. Also, the answer shows that you abide by the policies set by the company, which is very important in such situations.
  3. The answer has a positive outcome, which is great for making a good impression on an interviewer.

Question 4: Tell Me About a Time You Had to Deal With a Difficult Customer

‘During my previous job as a customer service representative, I dealt with a difficult customer. He was extremely rude and demanding, and I knew he wasn’t satisfied with the service he was receiving. I knew I had to remain professional and polite, so I took a few deep breaths before responding.

As soon as I explained our policy and apologized for any inconvenience he had experienced, I asked him what specifically he did not like. While he continued to be aggressive, I kept calm to listen to his grievances. After getting a better understanding why he was upset, I apologized again and offered a solution.

Once the customer calmed down and accepted my offer, I thanked him for his patience and time and for giving me this opportunity. My confidence in handling the situation calmly and professionally was heightened after the call ended. Even though the situation  with that customer was difficult, I was proud of myself for not getting influenced negatively by the customer’s attitude.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  1. This answer demonstrates that you can perform under pressure in a difficult situation. Furthermore, it shows you can keep cool when dealing with difficult customers.
  2. The answer shows conflict resolution skills to help solve issues with difficult customers.
  3. The answer has a positive outcome, which is great to emphasize when answering these types of interview questions.

Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic

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