June 25, 2024
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How to Manage Toxic Customers or Clients

In my last article, I shared anecdotes and attributes of toxic customers and clients. Below, I will share strategies on how to deal with them to protect yourself, your people and your business.

Handling toxic customers and clients can be challenging, but it’s important to address their concerns while also protecting yourself and your team. Here are some tips for handling toxic customers and clients effectively:

  1. Stay calm and composed: It’s crucial to maintain your composure and not let the customer’s toxicity affect your emotions. Take deep breaths, remain patient and focus on finding a solution.
  2. Active listening: Listen carefully to the customer’s concerns and allow them to express their frustrations. Show empathy and try to understand their perspective, even if they are being difficult or unreasonable.
  3. Set clear boundaries: While it’s important to listen, you should also establish boundaries for acceptable behavior. Firmly but politely communicate that abusive or disrespectful language and behavior will not be tolerated.
  4. Don’t take it personally: Remember that the customer’s toxic behavior is not a reflection of your worth or abilities. Maintain a professional mindset and don’t let their negativity affect your self-esteem.
  5. Offer solutions: Explore possible solutions to the customer’s problem. Offer alternatives, provide information, or suggest ways to resolve the issue. Focus on finding common ground and working towards a mutually beneficial outcome.
  6. Involve a supervisor or manager if necessary: If the toxic behavior persists or escalates, involve a supervisor or manager who can provide additional support or address the situation appropriately. They may have experience in dealing with difficult customers and can offer guidance.
  7. Document incidents: Keep a record of any abusive or toxic interactions with the customer. Document dates, times and details of the incidents. This documentation can be helpful if further action needs to be taken or if you need to involve higher management.
  8. Know when to disengage: In some cases, despite your best efforts, it may not be possible to reach a satisfactory resolution. If the customer continues to be toxic, disrespectful or abusive despite your attempts to address the issue, it may be necessary to disengage from the interaction. Inform them that you are unable to assist further and offer alternative avenues for them to pursue.
  9. Take care of yourself: Dealing with toxic customers can be emotionally draining. Make sure to prioritize self-care and seek support from colleagues or supervisors. Engage in stress-relieving activities outside of work to help maintain your well-being.

Remember, it’s important to treat all customers with respect and professionalism, but you also have the right to be treated the same way.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting (ImpactfulCoaching.com). He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at [email protected].

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