Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client
- 1 Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client
- 2 Other interview questions that are similar
- 3 What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
- 4 How Best To Structure Your Answer To This Question
- 5 What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
- 6 Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client – Example answers
- 7 Other Interview Question and Answers
Other interview questions that are similar
- Describe an instance where you effectively managed a challenging situation with a client.
- Can you share an experience where you successfully resolved a conflict with a customer?
- Tell me about a time when you turned a negative customer interaction into a positive outcome.
- How have you handled a situation where a client’s expectations were not met?
- Describe a scenario where you had to calm down an upset or angry customer.
- Can you recall a situation where you went above and beyond for a dissatisfied client?
- Share an experience where you had to use your communication skills to manage a difficult customer situation.
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
There are probably an infinite number of questions that the interviewer could ask you on the day. Some questions are incredibly common appearing in almost every interview you will have, while other questions you might hear once and never again regardless of how many jobs you apply for.
Fundamentally though all interview questions are really trying to find out one of 3 things:
1 – Can you do the job? (Do you have the skills/experience needed?)
2 – Will you do the job? (Do you have the drive/motivation to get the job done?)
3 – Will you fit in? (Does your personality match the workplace culture? Are you likeable?)
That’s it. Those are the 3 things that the interviewer is trying to ascertain. Every question that is asked of you will fundamentally be trying to resolve one (or more) of these 3 things.
When an interviewer asks you about a time you dealt with a difficult customer or client, they are tapping into more than just your work experience. This question primarily addresses the third point: Will you fit in? It assesses your interpersonal skills and adaptability, which are crucial in determining if you’ll mesh well with the company’s culture and team dynamics. Your response should showcase not only your problem-solving abilities but also how you handle stress, maintain professionalism, and work collaboratively in challenging situations.
This question might also touch on the first point, your ability to do the job. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate specific skills relevant to the position, like conflict resolution, customer service, and emotional intelligence. Employers are looking for evidence that you can apply your skills in real-world scenarios, proving that you are not just competent, but also capable of handling the unexpected challenges that any job might throw your way. Remember, your answer should provide a clear narrative that highlights your skills and aligns with the job requirements, all while demonstrating that you are a team player who can adapt to the company’s culture.
How Best To Structure Your Answer To This Question
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? In the context of dealing with a difficult customer or client, your beliefs about customer service, patience, and conflict resolution become crucial. They shape how effectively you can manage challenging interactions.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. For the interview question about handling a difficult customer, quickly set the stage with the key details of the challenging situation, allowing more time to focus on your actions and their impact.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter. In answering the interview question, emphasize your proactive role in addressing the customer’s concerns or issues, showcasing your responsibility and leadership in resolving the situation.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. This is the heart of your response to the interview question. Clearly articulate the specific actions you took to handle the difficult customer, demonstrating your problem-solving skills and ability to remain composed under pressure.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold etc.). In response to the interview question, conclude with the positive outcome of your actions, using quantifiable results if possible, to show the tangible impact of your approach to handling a difficult customer.
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should NOT Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.
Do not blame others excessively for the situation.
Do not leave out how you addressed the customer’s emotions or concerns.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or client – Example answers
Example Answer 1
I’ve always believed that every customer interaction, especially challenging ones, is an opportunity to strengthen the company’s relationship with its clientele. This belief guided my approach when I encountered a particularly difficult customer at my previous job in retail. The customer was upset about a product that didn’t meet his expectations. Understanding his frustration, as disappointment with a product can be quite disheartening, shaped my response to the situation.
The scenario unfolded during a busy weekend. The customer entered the store, visibly upset, and started to voice his concerns loudly. Recognizing the need for a delicate and efficient handling of the situation, I took the initiative to engage with him.
As the senior staff member present, my role was to manage the situation and ensure the customer felt heard and valued. I approached him calmly, acknowledging his dissatisfaction and assuring him that his concerns were important to us.
I listened attentively to his complaints, offering a sincere apology for the inconvenience. I then outlined the possible solutions, including a replacement or a refund, and suggested alternative products that might better meet his expectations. Maintaining a calm and professional demeanor was crucial, especially given the customer’s initial agitation.
The customer eventually opted for a replacement. I personally oversaw the exchange to guarantee his satisfaction. The outcome was more than just resolving the immediate issue; the customer left the store satisfied and later commended our customer service to my manager, resulting in a positive feedback review. This experience reinforced my belief that empathy, patience, and effective communication are key in turning challenging customer interactions into positive outcomes.
Example Answer 2
More Sample Answers…
The examples provided above can serve as a foundation for creating your unique answers. For additional inspiration, our new guide includes five sample responses to this question and over 250 answers to all of the most common interview queries.
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