8 Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers

By Carolyn Edlund

Artists who have been in business for any length of time have run into difficult customers. Dealing with these people doesn’t have to be a disastrous experience. Here’s how to turn those problems around.





What is the definition of difficult?  It could be our own perception. Perhaps we’ve had a very long, tough day and we are overly sensitive to anyone who demands extra attention. Making it a priority to maintain a professional atmosphere with all visitors will help you fend off the urge to be short or unresponsive to prospective customers who are demanding, time-consuming or unhappy. Here are some other ways to smooth the way with the most difficult customers:

  1. Listen. Whatever the problem or complaint, it is important to your customer. Give them your full attention and allow them a reasonable time to explain their frustration.
  2. Acknowledge. Whether you agree or not, tell them that you hear what they are saying. Active listening involves voicing their concerns back to them, letting them know “I understand how you feel”. Then calmly explain how you can either resolve their issue or seek more information from them.
  3. Don’t take it personally.  When a customer becomes difficult, they are venting their emotions. It’s all about them, not you. Allowing them to express their anger might just take some steam out of their argument. Not becoming caught up in their drama lets you keep a cool head.
  4. Respect yourself – and them.  You don’t have to be subjected to rude comments or insults. If a customer becomes abusive, explain that you will be happy to discuss the issue when they calm down. This might involve taking a break from your conversation and speaking with them later.
  5. Respond with kindness.  It’s amazing how a situation can be defused when we respond with a kind word instead of fueling the fire. Let them know you will do everything possible to find a suitable resolution. This allows your customer to relax and become less defensive.
  6. Seek resolution.  Even though you believe your difficult customer is being unreasonable, try to find a compromise if possible. They will feel better knowing that you have taken their concerns seriously. Deal with the situation as calmly as you can, and put the issue to rest so that you can focus on your business.
  7. Forgive.  Everybody gets difficult at times. There could be a hundred reasons they are frustrated that has nothing to do with you. Let go of your own anger and hurt from the situation, and try to move on. Holding a grudge against other people only hurts us. Be kind to yourself.
  8. Keep it in Perspective. It could always be worse. Consider the worst possible scenario, and then count your blessings!

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  1. All very good suggestions Carolyn – and it does happen once in a while – a little humility & honesty can go along way. Thanks for the good reminders:)


  2. In my experience buying art can be really emotional – both highs and lows… it’s not surprising that a few frustrations can come out along the way for some people! Great advice to stay calm and focus on keeping a cool head.

  3. Thanks for your input! Lynne, I checked out your well-written article and it definitely offers a great perspective. Thanks for sharing this!

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