Want to know how to address conflicts with customers and clients?

Two parties addressing differences looking at each other with two computer screens in the background

At times conflicts can arise with customers or clients . As a mediation and conflict specialist I want to present you with  ideas on how to apply conflict analysis and resolution techniques to minimize negative impacts. To help with defining terms customers are people who pay for goods and services from companies or stores and clients are people who purchase professional services from a business or company to address a specific need or to solve a problem. When working with the public both require capabilities of how to address conflicts with customers and clients. This is the focus of the commentary that follows.




As you know, in the business world conflicts are unavoidable. However, they do not have to have negative effects on you or your business. By viewing these as an opportunity you may be surprised at the results. Your attitude and approach are critical to these situations. This will have a direct impact on your firm.

By letting the other person share their concern, focusing on what they are saying, and recognizing their issues this sets you up for being able to respond with de-escalation techniques and conflict management.

The key is listening actively.

By training employees to pay attention to tone, facial expressions, and body language it is possible to recognize harsh or rude behavior and respond in a manner that will diffuse the situation and promote better results. Ideas presented here may help you and your team going forward.


People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them[i]


Knowing this is especially important to keep your cool. Be calm, be competent, and be confident in what you can bring to help with the situation. You may be an expert with what you know and how to address the situation. That will come later.

First, it is important to demonstrate that you care about them.

Yes, you care about their situation and what you can do to address their concern, but inwardly they want to know that you care not only about the situation, but that you care about them too.


Pay attention


You may feel that you are in a hurry to provide a solution and move on. Temper that thought. Your focus right now needs to be on them, their concerns and be empathetic. Focus on the words, tone, body language, and facial expressions of the other person. Read their perspective. Don’t be distracted by anything else. Concentrate. Apply all of your energies on them. Put aside all other distractions.


Demonstrate empathy and concern


Demonstrate and show that you care. Demonstrate empathy wherever possible. Put yourself mentally in their situation. Realize that for them this may be extremely stressful and upsetting.

You can demonstrate authentic, genuine, caring concern for them and for their problem.

This will help de-escalate the situation and demonstrate your interest in helping them fix the problem. Your focus and empathy will demonstrate that you will work on this problem as soon as possible. By taking this approach your customer or client will want to stay with you longer and appreciate your response by possibly even sharing it with others.


Explore concerns to find common interests


At times it may initially be perceived as there is nothing you can do. That may even be the case. When this is the case, look for common ground for whatever that may be. Explore their problem more broadly and instead of focusing on being a problem solver, become a solution provider.

That is to think creatively. Where else can you refer them? What are other alternatives?

See whatever it is you can do to help.

You may need to refer them to a competitor. What a novel idea? They will remember this and likely reward you with additional work in the future because of your thoughtfulness and honesty. You want to demonstrate your real desire to help them resolve their issue.


Be clear on what you can do to address the situation


Understand that the other party may not be thinking clearly right now because they are upset. State your commentary in a clear, calm, and short sentence commentary that anyone can understand. You may need to present commentary at an elementary level to make sure the other party is correctly receiving your concepts. Speak with the other party in a way you are sure they will understand. Be transparent with what you can or cannot do. Being open and honest is a requirement. The other party should be able to understand what you are saying without you having to repeat anything.


Bringing it all together


Not addressing conflicts with customers and clients is detrimental to your business. Taking the time to ensure that everyone on your team has the proper training, attitude and insight related to customer service is imperative to your survival as a firm.

Being able to address conflicts with customers and clients will have a positive impact on your brand.

Your customers and clients have many choices today to buy their products or services. Being known as the party that is pleasant to work with, can address conflicts timely, professionally, empathetically, and effectively will go a long way towards the sustainability of your firm.

Let me know what you think. What are other insights that you have that may help address these types of concerns or conflicts?




[i] This quote or elements of this quote have been attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, Earl Nightingale, and others.


About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]