Advanced Customer Service Skills: Drawing The Line with Customers

Face it. Sometimes the old adage, “the customer’s always right,” just doesn’t apply.
Clients or customers may abuse your trust or your people, and you have the right to speak up if they cross lines and engage in unacceptable behavior. Those “lines” are defined differently within each organization, but they generally include situations where a customer puts the well-being of your company or your employees at risk by:

  • breaking the law,
  • causing a disturbance or nuisance,
  • or being threatening.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and best practices, these uncomfortable interactions cannot always be prevented. We’ve trained and coached companies with top-notch service and communication skills. We’ve seen them navigate relationships meticulously, with attention to detail and clear communication with clients, only to have that client lie, manipulate and break the trust that existed in that relationship. Reaching that breaking point changes how we approach a situation or a client who has gone too far.

Top performers often follow this simple process to clearly communicate exactly where they stand to help them get the results they want. Take this example of an event space being abused by the client:

State the current situation.


“Our agreement clearly states that no ovens are allowed to operate on our premises. This is a violation of the fire code. However, you continue to operate three ovens in here despite the fact that we have talked about this twice already tonight.”

Set expectations.


“I need you to remove the ovens from the building within the next 30 minutes.”

Communicate consequences.


“If you don’t, your company will no longer be able to hold events here.”

Brainstorm solutions, (if necessary).


“How can I help you to get this done?”

Keep in mind, having a nasty voice tone is almost never acceptable, but even the savviest of customer service reps uses a firm tone now and then. It may be warranted in a situation like this – where a customer is disrespecting your company’s principles and livelihood.

Delivering a difficult message to anyone can be unsettling and stressful, but when executed well, delivering a difficult message can actually develop rapport and trust between both parties.

Whether it’s a client or a subordinate, certain communication skills need to be learned and practiced at a basic level to be effective.

Top performers:

  • plan their difficult messages ahead of time, if possible.
  • gather any records or documents they may need to reference.
  • decide on an action plan that imposes a consequence.
  • try to stay in a positive mindset.
  • keep the conversation quick; five to ten minutes tops.

These skills do not come easy to everyone, so it’s important that service organizations focus on maintaining a robust coaching culture to take the skills of their people to the next level. Consilio has the ability and experience to train reps to handle all kinds of customers – including the overly disrespectful ones – while still achieving a positive outcome. We do this not only by coaching reps, but by rigorously training their coaches and managers as well to carry on the coaching long after we are gone. Why not try us out and see what we can do to amp up your team’s service level?

Take the Next Step to Leadership and Sales Success

If you’re ready to take your team to the next level, let’s talk. Our affordable, customized solutions will enhance and elevate your leadership, sales, and communication performance.

Thank you for your interest in our “6-Step Disagreement Conversations Job Aid” downloadable. Please enter in your full name and email to download.

Thank you for your interest in our “Urgent vs. Important Matrix” downloadable. Please enter in your full name and email to download.

Thank you for your interest in our “The GSM Process: Pair” downloadable. Please enter in your full name and email to download.

Thank you for your interest in our “Product Specific Discovery Questions” downloadable. Please enter in your full name and email to download.