The Support Line to Life – How to and Why to Deal with Difficult Customers

~ 6 min read | December 14

Support is indeed an inevitable part of all the customer-facing teams. They bridge the gap between the intended and the expected.

The resourcefulness that one needs to bring to the table to repurpose the design for a different function, or sometimes streamline the workflow for what works best for a customer, is what sets you apart.

It’s a balance of being product-centric and service-oriented, and trust me, it’s not easy. Especially if your product is complicated. And, let’s call a spade a spade, it mostly is!

Customers are usually happy with the answers you provide, your call goes smoothly, and you build this amazing rapport with someone on the other side of the phone/laptop and address those pain points appropriately and fill the void that your product has intended to in the first place.

Sadly, that’s not an everyday case.

The Tech Expert, the Perfectionist, and the Insatiable

Once in a while, you have a customer who is really tech savvy. THE TECH EXPERT. Your conversation involves a lot of coding and questions linked to the core of software engineering. You are in a fix now, unless you are a hardcore coder. Which is hardly the case because otherwise, you would be building the product, right?

The best way to deal with this is, to be honest. Do not gamble with questionable knowledge or information.

If the nature of the problem goes beyond your scope of understanding, get a developer from your organization to look at the problem for you. This may seem like Greek and Latin to you, but to them, this might simply be a single letter in a language they are fluent in.

A few customers may be impatient, easily angered, frustrated, and entitled – THE PERFECTIONISTS. They have their reasons to be so. There is no leeway for an error (even the seemingly trivial ones) in these cases. You know for a fact there is an explosion waiting to happen if you don’t tread carefully.

Here’s where you put all your people skills to the ultimate test.

Remember, you represent far more than yourself when you face a customer – you represent a company, a culture, a people.

This doesn’t mean that you should conform to the etiquette of the Victorian era and Jane Austen novels. You should just know when to thank them, when to be sorry, and how to become a master of social and formal cues.

You should know what words can pacify and how to accept compliments gracefully (yes, a lot of people today don’t know how to deal with compliments the right way).

And a heartfelt apology can pacify a lot of customers and restructure the equation you have with them.

Now the big one! How you say NO when you have to say it. This is an art. Your support instincts have to kick in to know how to break the news. It’s no longer a play with words, it’s you denying a customer request, while still keeping them interested in what you have to offer. Not Easy!

This last kind of customer is a familiar one for most support folks. Try going above and beyond to help someone and solve their problem and then, (drumroll please) have this teeny-tiny thing that was far from the original problem, become the main issue. Meet THE INSATIABLE.

Empathy plays a pivotal role in these cases.

Be patient. Patience plays a key role in a support agent’s life.

Code that patience into your system and run it in a loop to infinity! I am kidding, of course.

Most people are under the delusion that empathy is an inexhaustible resource, it isn’t.

It is renewable, but there is a threshold after which your patience will get critically low. This is when you go get some fresh air and do what you have to do make yourself feel better. This is important! if you are not in the right state of mind, it shows in the interaction you have with customers.

It is hard to gauge social cues, what is even harder is to instinctively feel for someone who shares no real relationship with you. If you are a support agent you would know how much you have fought for a stranger and their problems.

Finding a problem and addressing it may be the initial step, but doing no matter what to make sure that problem is solved needs empathy. You will need to have a certain amount of tenacity in you to go the extra mile and feel for the customer.

The best thing part of being a support agent that translates into your life is that you lose the meaning of the word/letter “I”.

You are in someone else’s shoes, helping them achieve their goal. You will break your head trying to make the product fit best for a customer. Their needs become yours and their goals become yours. “How can I make it all better?” – this little question can do wonders in the industry, and the answer becomes the core of what lies ahead.

Personally, I believe that the support team is the voice of the customer in the company. Look at it this way, support becomes the critic and the box-office of a performance. You get to know what works best, whether the intended meets the expected, and whether the beholder really sees the beauty that you’d built.

Herein lies the key to the next door in the trajectory of what serves to be the future of the service/product that you offer

This might not always be a popular opinion, but let’s just call the other points of view parochial.

There is a lot that one can learn while being in support. You may wear many hats and will be dealing with numerous use-cases that you know at least a little bit about the many industries/companies/arenas that your service/product caters to in the market.

In short, there are a lot of benefits to being a support agent, both personal and professional.

So remember, every time you ask, “How may I help you?“, you are helping yourself too. Just a little bit. Every day.


Aneesh Krishnan

Customer Solutions Analyst