10 Easy Ways To Excel With Difficult eCommerce Customers

10 Easy Ways To Excel With Difficult eCommerce Customers

Unfortunately dealing with difficult customers is part of running an eCommerce business. Challenging customers can be an enormous drain on a stores resources, bottom line and staff moral so coping with them effectively is incredibly important. Below you’ll find a number of top tips to help you handle difficult customers.

Dealing With Unhappy Customers

Even if you have the greatest website / product / service in the world at some point you will have to deal with an upset or disappointed customer. In the age of social media it’s more important than ever deal with complaints and issues swiftly before a negative review effects your companies reputation.

Take a Deep Breathe

As a small business owner, you have likely put your heart and soul into creating a brand that you cherish. When a customer is unhappy it can feel absolutely heartbreaking but it’s important to put your personal feelings to one side and deal with the issue in a professional manner.


Before you do anything make sure you have fully listened to the customers grievance and understand where they feel let down by your business. At this point you may not agree with their point of view but it is important to understand what has lead them to feeling this way.

Get Clarification

Sometimes there’s a little more to the issue than meets the eye so it’s worth popping on your detective hat and dig deeper. Get the customer to confirm details and ask for specifics to get the best understanding of the situation as possible.

Don't Drop The Ball

There’s nothing more frustrating than being ghosted. For an already unhappy customer not hearing back from a customer service team once a dialog has begun can destroy the customer relationship forever. 

Make sure you reply in a timely manner. If you need additional time to look into the issue give the customer an estimated timeframe for this – and stick to it!

Use Positive Language

Staying positive in the face of negativity can be hard, but by keeping your tone friendly and helpful you’ll help de-escalate a heated situation. Try to avoid using language that might make the customer feel defensive, and focus on the ways that you will fix the problem instead.  

Own Up

Sometimes mistakes happen. It’s always best to be honest, own up, apologies, make it right and learn from it. You’ll find that many customers appreciate being told the truth, and will be very forgiving of errors as long as they can see you are genuine about not letting it happen again.

Say Sorry

Just apologies. And not in a passive aggressive “sorry, not sorry” kind of way. Genuinely, from the bottom of your heart say sorry to the customer for the issues they have experienced while dealing with your company. Even if it doesn’t feel like your fault, saying sorry is an important way to heal the customer relationship.

Make It Personal

While copy and paste responses are a huge timesaver, make sure you are tailoring your replies to the customer and situation in question. There’s no better way to make a customer feel unimportant than sending them responses that don’t address the details of their issue.

Give Them The Why

Not all customers will be correct but instead of just saying no to their request or issue, it is important to share the clear reasoning behind your answer.  If they are given the chance to fully comprehend your company’s policy, they’re more likely to be understanding.

The Different Levels of Challenging Customers

The Constantly Worried Customer

This customer is generally the easiest to deal with and can often turn into a brand ambassador if dealt with correctly. The worrier can be identified by their constant need for reassurance and asking lots of questions.

While having to hand-hold this customer through the entire purchase journey can be a drain on your customer service resources and a little frustrating, this customer is actually a gift to your online store.

This customer can highlight where information such as shipping times and prices isn’t easy to find on your site, or that your post purchase emails don’t contain enough information to encourage your customers to trust that their order is en-route.

A little bit of patience goes a long way with the Worrier. Personally helping them with their order will likely build up trust leading to repeat purchases and great reviews.

The Never Satisfied Customer

No matter how much bending backwards you do to give this customer the amazing customer service you pride your business on, they will never be completely happy.

Firstly, it’s important not to take this customers quibbles to heart. It’s probably not personal, they just have incredibly high expectations and don’t understand the logistics that go into running an e-commerce business.

Many of these customers have previously shopped with the faceless giants of online shopping (Amazon I’m looking at you) and have got used to incredibly cheap shipping, thinking of the person at the other end of the customer service email as a robot and being given refunds and discount codes at the drop of a snarky twitter message. They subscribe to the “customer is always right” rhetoric, and will likely still give your online store a mediocre review even if you make all their wildest dreams come true.

The best way to deal with this customer is to manage expectations from the start of the customer journey. Be clear on how long you expect shipping to take, the process for returning items and when you give discounts. Making sure this information is easily viewable on your website makes it a lot easier to diffuse this customers grievances.

If the Never Satisfied customer doesn’t have a valid issue, it’s best just to thank them for taking the time to get in contact and repeat your policies in a clear manner that leaves little room for further discussion. Most of the time this customer just wants to feel listened to and will decide it’s not worth continuing to complain.

Of course if the issue is valid, I suggest you do your best to rectify the situation as quickly as possible!

The Cheeky Customer

These customers are all about getting extra discounts and claiming refunds for items that are no longer within your return guidelines. There’s no real harm in these customers, they’re just trying their luck.

However, as it’s going to effect your stores bottom line, I recommend sticking to your official policies as much of the time as possible. It’s worth taking into consideration this customers lifetime value, if it’s something they have tried more than once and how much it will cost you.

The Toxic Customer

I consider a toxic customer to be someone set on causing real damage to your business and reputation for no real reason.

Examples of Toxic Customer behaviour:

  • They leave bad reviews having never purchased a product or service, or ever contacted you.
  • Abuse your customer service and refund policy.
  • Aggressive and rude to yourself, your staff and other customers.
  • Constantly demand special treatment to the point at which they’re not profitable.

Breaking up with a toxic customer can be hard, however there are ways to do it while turning the experience into an overall positive for your company.

It may seem extreme but when it comes to toxic customers I believe it’s best to stop them ordering in future. I recently had to tell a toxic customer who has consistently caused issues that they would no longer be able to automatically order through our website. Over the course of a year this customer had ordered frequently, but almost always claimed some kind of issue – she alone made up 10% of all our refund requests!

If the toxic customer is leaving negative feedback across the web, you can use this as an opportunity to help future customers see your amazing customer service skills at work. It’s best to choose just one online location (even if they are writing all over the place) and write a full response setting out the timeline of events, every way that you have tried to help the customer and how you’d like to help them in future. Then, add a link to this response at all the additional locations they have bad-mouthed you.

If you can show that you have gone out of your way to help this customer, it will increase trust in your business. Most other people will understand the situation, and recognise the toxic customer for who they really are.

Is there anything else you’d like to know more about and wish was included in this article? Let us know in the comments below!

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

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Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew

Elizabeth Drew is a British e-commerce entrepreneur and coach. She is the owner of online scented candle retailer Osmology and is passionate about helping women realise their online business goals.

Recent Posts

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