How to Handle 5 Challenging Customer Support Scenarios

Posted by: Gráinne Forde /

Even when providing exceptional customer support is your top priority, difficult situations still happen. Here are some tricky customer support scenarios you may come across and our best advice for handling them with ease.


You and your customers have the same goals. They want the best possible experience with your company, and you want to give it to them.

But any customer support agent is bound to run into trouble delivering that experience sometimes.

That’s why we put together this guide–we want to equip you with the best strategies for managing difficult support scenarios with ease

When you have systems in place to deal with common support problems, you’ll be ready to turn any situation into an awesome support experience.

1. Vague support queries

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While you spend all day thinking and talking about your company, your customer doesn’t necessarily have the same insider knowledge or jargon. You know every use case, every feature and every Easter egg, but your customers just want your product to work.

This means that you may have to ask some strategic questions and do a little translating to determine what problem they’re having, especially if you have a technical product. 

Their version of the bug report might pinpoint a couple of possible problems, but it’s very likely that you won’t have enough information to resolve the issue in 3 minutes.   

The best way to deal with vague support queries is to ask a clarifying question, like “Are you experiencing the bug on desktop or mobile?” Otherwise, you risk giving your customer the wrong answer and increasing their frustration without solving their problem.

Check out their screen

Asking clarifying questions is always helpful, but sometimes it’s still difficult to determine the issue a customer is experiencing. If a bug is hidden within multi-step processes, your customer could get exhausted with all the back-and-forth and decide to give up.

Using a screen-sharing service allows you to see the exact issue your customer is experiencing, helping you solve the problem–with minimal explanation.

Customer experience tool FullStory gives you a live window into your user’s sessions so you can see exactly what individual users are seeing without making them go through the extra effort of taking multiple screenshots.

Your trained eye can tell them exactly where to click or you can gather the information needed to report a bug to your development team.

Customer experience tool FullStory

With screen-sharing services such as FullStory, you can see what each of your customers is individually seeing.

One Fintech company saw their tickets solved with a single response jump from 50% to 88% once they had the ability to see their customers’ screens. The clarity of a visual representation eliminates blind guesswork and decreases the amount of effort your customers have to put in to take advantage of your support services.

2. Negative feedback on social media

Just because someone dashes off an angry tweet doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, it’s a natural reaction. When people are frustrated they tend to lose their filters, increasing the likelihood that they might leave a less than friendly response. 

But trying to explain the situation to a frustrated customer by getting defensive will just make them angrier. Ensure that they know you’re listening to their frustration with a positive, swift, and understanding response.

Whole Foods Market respond to this viral customer complaint by letting everyone know “We hear you” and promising to remedy the problem.

Whole Foods Market Twitter Response

Whole Foods Market respond to this viral tweet by letting everyone know “We hear you” and promising to remedy the problem.

If you find yourself in a similar situation don’t delete the negative comments–as this will make the customer even more frustrated.

Take the conversation offline

If you can’t reply to a customer complaint with a quick “We fixed it! Sorry for the inconvenience!” message you should begin by acknowledging the issue publicly and then moving the conversation to an email or phone call. This will show the customer that resolving the issue is a top priority and you’re willing to go out of your way to help them.

You want to hear the details of your customers’ complaint so that you can fix the issue, but you also don’t want to broadcast those details to your entire Facebook following either.

Once you move the conversation over to an email or phonecall try and offer a solution that exceeds their expectations. Even the most difficult situations can have a positive ending. In fact, many companies have several stories about enraged customers becoming loyal fans because a customer support agent went the extra mile to help solve a problem.

3. A long wait for service

Waiting in a long queue or being on hold for a while might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re helping customers all day, it’s easy to forget that the customer might feel like help isn’t available at all.

Customers who want quick support aren’t demanding–they’re just human. They want their problem resolved so they have a product that works and continue on with their day. The shared email platform Front uses this diagram to explain why customers become impatient

Why customers become impatient - Diagram from Front

Shared email platform Front uses this diagram to explain why customers become impatient.

While you see every step you take to try and help a customer, they only see whether their issue is resolved–and how long it took you to get back to them. Your customers don’t know that you’re working hard not only to fix the issue but also to accurately diagnose the problem so they don’t need to contact support a second time.

As the diagram from Front clearly demonstrates, not every problem can be solved in 5 minutes–some issues may take days or weeks. In those situations, it’s important to keep the customer in the loop with frequent updates. Even a two-sentence email and thanking them for their patience lets them know they’re a priority and you’re not giving up on them.

Offer self-service support options

Cut down on the number of customers in your queue by offering a knowledge base, to help customers help themselves. The goal of this resource is to answer every question your customers might have so they have instant access to a solution without having to contact your help desk.

Several studies indicate that many customers actually prefer doing self-service support over calling a help desk. A Nuance Enterprise survey found that 67% of respondents “preferred self-service to speaking to a company representative,” and 91% of people who took a survey with Coleman Parkes for Amdocs said they would use self-service if it were available and “tailored to their needs.” When customers have this resource,  your support team can spend their time troubleshooting the more demanding or complicated queries. 

The Teamwork Projects Knowledge Base empowers customers to quickly and easily find the answers they need no matter what time of day–without contacting customer support. The content covers features for beginners all the way through API information.

Teamwork Projects Knowledge Base

Create a Knowledge Base similar to this for your customers using Teamwork Desk’s Help Docs feature.

It’s clearly sorted and easily searchable to make finding the information you need frictionless. You can create a knowledge base like this for your own customers by using Teamwork Desk’s Help Docs feature

4. A happy customer just won’t hang up

A customer who wants to tell you how great your team is doesn’t seem like a difficult customer. They’re cheerful. They love talking about your product, how helpful you are, even what they ate for lunch today–and it can be a welcome respite from a stressful day.

But this customer comes with a surprising challenge–getting them to wrap up the conversation. Every customer support agent has at least one story of a customer who kept them on the phone with a long list of suggestions that would definitely improve their product. It’s exciting to hear customers’ recommendations, but those conversations can take away resources from other customers if they take too long or happen too often.

The trick to navigating a talkative customer is closing the conversation politely and warmly. Seasoned customer support agents have their own ways of ending these conversations, but here’s one reliable way to close a phone call.

Continue the conversation online

When you need to end the call, ask the customer to confirm their email address so that you can continue the conversation online. Saying something as simple as, “I have another call coming through, but I’d love to get more of your feedback. Let me just confirm your email address so I can follow up with you soon.”

This lets the customer know that you value their time–and their enthusiasm–and it gives you the opportunity to gain additional feedback and maybe even a site testimonial. Confirming their email address ensures that your records are up to date, and from there, you can ask for a testimonial for your website.

Being willing to continue the conversation with an enthusiastic customer will help your company improve, build a product that’s customer-driven and create an experience that exceeds expectations.

5. You need to say “no” or  “I can’t do that”

Sometimes customers have difficult requests. As much as you would like to wave a magic wand and meet every customer’s needs, there are certain requests you can’t fulfil.

Whether it’s a “special” discount they’re requesting that you can’t offer or a feature that doesn’t remotely align with your product roadmap, sometimes you can’t always deliver every customer’s wishes.

You should always try to give your customers what they need, but occasionally you run into some hard limits. When you have to say “no,” sometimes the way you phrase your response can soften the potential disappointment.

Use customer-centric language

It’s easy to add “customer-centricity” to your support policies, but following through on this when you have to say “no” to a customer is difficult. It’s stressful when you really can’t give a customer what they want–and easy for anyone to freeze up when they’re put on the spot. 

Changing your language can emphasize that the customer is your priority, even when you can’t give them exactly what they’re asking for. Using customer-focused language can help, because it keeps the focus on customer needs, rather than company guidelines.

Here’s now to incorporate customer-focused language in difficult situations.

  • Listen closely to customers, even when you can’t give them what they want.

Sometimes customers have fantastic ideas that aren’t possible today or next week, but they might provide valuable insight for future improvements. Start taking every customer suggestion seriously by creating a process for any feedback that comes through your support team.  

  • Say “let me find out” instead of “I don’t know.”

Making this switch signals to the customer that you’re doing everything possible to help them instead of relying on canned responses. It’s also important to spend extra time informing them about specifics, like the anticipated release date for a new feature (if that information is available).

  • Avoid words like “can’t,” “won’t,” or “don’t.”

These words signal that customer service agents aren’t willing to solve problems or really listen to customer concerns. Instead, focus on what you can give them. Walk them through alternative solutions, ask a team lead for advice or leave the customer with a promise that you will follow up with them in an hour or a day.  Refusing to say “can’t” reduces the Customer Effort Score–a metric from the Harvard Business Review that predicts customer churn based on customer support reviews–by 18.5%. 

Prepare for Anything

Your customers are your company’s lifeblood. You all want the same thing–they want a high-quality product, and you want them to be happy with it. But among the hundreds of queries you see every week, you’re bound to run into some that can’t be solved immediately.  

When you run into those scenarios, you need to be prepared. There are a million things that could go wrong on a day-to-day basis, and it’s important to have systems in place for the common problems that consume most of your time–which is why we’ve given you these tactics.

All of these solutions have one thing in common: they’re proven strategies that can help you provide exceptional support for your customers.

When customer satisfaction is your North Star, you can offer top-notch support at all times, even in the most difficult situations.

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Grainne Forde
Marketing specialist