The 15-Point Checklist on How to Handle Difficult Callers

Master the art of handling difficult calls with our comprehensive 15-point checklist.

The 15-Point Checklist on How to Handle Difficult Callers

As a representative of your business, when you answer the telephone, evaluating the nature of the call and the characteristics of the caller you're dealing with can typically be assessed within the first minute of the conversation. This will depend on the caller's initial approach and how they express their query or concern. Effective listening is key. Paying attention to their tone of voice, pace of speech, and initial statements can provide significant clues to what will follow. Callers often reveal their state of mind early in the conversation through their urgency, frustration levels, or the complexity of their issue.

Customers have varying expectations regarding product quality, service speed, and overall experience. The vast majority will be delighted with the products or services you provide. Still, when these expectations are not met, it can lead to dissatisfaction and difficult interactions. For this reason, evaluating and identifying the type of difficult or angry caller in those first moments of the call can help significantly in addressing their concerns more effectively. 

Here are some common types of callers:

Difficult Callers

Closeup portrait of a young businesswoman having a difficult conversation with a business on her mobile phone. Negative emotions and facial expressions.

Handling difficult callers is a critical skill in customer service, as it helps maintain professionalism and resolve conflicts effectively. Here are some common types of difficult callers and insights into their behaviours:

1. The Talkative Caller: This caller loves to talk, often going off-topic and making it hard to get to the point. They require gentle guidance to keep the conversation focused on the issue at hand. 

2. The Demanding Caller: This caller has high expectations and often demands more than what might be standard or feasible. Setting realistic expectations and clear boundaries is vital. 
3. The Indecisive Caller: They struggle to make decisions or provide the information necessary to move forward. In these situations, patience is your greatest ally. By maintaining a calm and composed demeanor, and asking targeted questions, you can help guide them to a resolution. 
4. The Complainer: This caller has complaints, whether they are valid or not. Listening actively, acknowledging their feelings, and working towards a solution can turn the situation around. 
5. The Silent Caller: They provide minimal feedback or verbal responses, making diagnosing and resolving their issues challenging. Encouraging them to open up with open-ended questions can help gather needed information. 
6. The Skeptical Caller: They doubt the solutions or information provided and are generally mistrustful. Building trust through clear, consistent information and ensuring they understand the steps being taken is crucial. 
Understanding these caller types and adapting communication strategies can lead to more effective and positive interactions, enhancing customer satisfaction and reducing stress for the caller and the service provider.

Angry Callers

An angry businesswoman is shouting on the phone. She is unhappy with the service she has received and wants to complain aggressively.

Dealing with angry callers is a common challenge in customer service. Identifying the type of angry caller can help address their concerns more effectively. 

1. The Venter: This caller needs to express their frustrations more than they seek a solution. They may not be immediately receptive to suggestions or help because their primary need is to be heard.

2. The Impatient Caller: Quick to anger due to time sensitivity or urgent issues; this caller wants rapid responses and solutions. They often feel that their time is being wasted and can be highly demanding.

3. The Aggrieved Customer: This caller has experienced an actual or perceived injustice at your company's hands. They seek acknowledgement and rectification of what they see as wrong.

4. The Misinformed Caller: Sometimes, anger stems from misunderstandings or incorrect information. This caller's frustration grows from their confusion about products, services, or policies.

5. The Threat Maker: This caller uses threats of public negativity, legal action, or discontinuing business as a strategy to get what they want. Handling them requires careful balancing of firmness and tact.

6. The Aggressive Caller: Characterised by raised voices or rude behaviour, these callers can be challenging. Staying calm, not taking things personally, and using a steady, reassuring tone can help defuse the situation. 

Understanding the underlying type of anger can guide the approach to calming the caller and resolving the situation effectively. Each type requires a slightly different strategy but always involves empathy, patience, and effective communication.

How to Handle Difficult or Angry Callers

Handling difficult or angry callers is common in customer service, and your role in dealing with these situations is crucial. But rest assured, with the right strategies and approaches, you can turn even the most challenging call into a positive experience.

Here's our comprehensive checklist on how to manage difficult calls:

1. Stay Calm and Professional

Maintain a calm and professional tone, regardless of the caller's behaviour. This will set a positive tone for the interaction and help de-escalate tension.

Keeping your composure is crucial on difficult calls. Remaining calm helps defuse the caller's anger and makes the conversation easier to manage. A professional demeanour reassures the caller that their issue will be taken seriously and handled efficiently.

2. Active Listening

Listen attentively to the caller's concerns without interrupting. By reflecting back on what you've heard, you can show that you understand their issue. 

Active listening involves fully concentrating, understanding, responding, and remembering what is being said. It shows the caller that you genuinely care about their concerns. Reflecting on their words, like "I understand that you are upset about..." ensures they feel heard.

3. Show Empathy

Show empathy by acknowledging the caller's feelings. Empathy means putting yourself in the caller's shoes and showing that you understand their feelings. Using empathetic language like, "I understand how frustrating this must be," can help to build rapport and soothe the caller's emotions.

4. Clarify the Issue

Ask questions to clarify the caller's concerns and ensure you fully understand the problem before attempting to resolve it. Asking clarifying questions helps you to understand the root of the caller's problem. Questions like, "Can you tell me more about the issue you're facing?" or "What exactly is the problem?" ensure you have all the necessary information to provide a solution.

5. Stay Positive

Use positive language and avoid negative phrases. Positive language can turn a potentially negative interaction into a constructive one. Instead of saying, "I can't do that," try saying, "What I can do is..." This approach focuses on solutions rather than limitations.

6. Apologise Sincerely

If the caller has a legitimate grievance, offer a sincere apology. This can go a long way in soothing an upset customer. Phrases like "I'm really sorry this has happened" show that you acknowledge their inconvenience and are committed to resolving the issue.

7. Take Responsibility

Take ownership of the issue, even if it wasn't your fault. This shows the caller that you are committed to resolving their problem. Taking responsibility, even if you didn't cause the problem, shows the caller that you are willing to help. Saying, "Let me see how I can help you with this," reassures them that their problem will be addressed.

Provide practical solutions to the caller's issue. Where possible, offer multiple options and let the caller choose the one that suits them best. Providing realistic solutions shows the caller that you are proactive. Offering multiple options where possible empowers the caller and restores their confidence in your service.

8. Remain Patient

Patience is key when dealing with difficult callers. Give them time to express their concerns, and don't rush the conversation. Patience helps in dealing with emotional or frustrated callers. Allowing the caller to express their concerns without interruption can make them feel valued and understood, defusing anger and frustration.

9. Set Boundaries

If the caller becomes abusive, setting boundaries politely but firmly is essential. Calmly state that while you are there to help, abusive language or behaviour is unacceptable. This helps to maintain a respectful and productive conversation.

10. Escalate ‘Problem Calls’

As a frontline staff member, your role in recognising when to escalate a 'problem call' to a supervisor, manager, or specialist within your business is crucial. In certain circumstances, it's necessary to ensure the effective resolution of an issue and maintain a positive customer experience.

Remember, supervisors and managers are there to provide support, guidance, or approval to frontline staff when handling customer calls. If you require additional assistance to address the customer's concern effectively, they should be there to help.

11. Document the call

Keep detailed notes of the call, including the caller's issue and the steps taken to resolve it. This information can be invaluable if the problem needs to be revisited.

12. Follow-Up

After resolving the issue, follow up with the caller to ensure they are satisfied with the solution. This demonstrates your commitment to excellent customer service. It helps to build trust and can turn a previously negative experience into a positive one, reinforcing your dedication to exceptional service.

13. Don’t Lose Your Temper

You may encounter agitated, frustrated, or angry callers. Keep your temper, and try to remember that it's not personal.

Take deep breaths to maintain your composure, even if the customer is upset or confrontational. Remember that remaining composed can help de-escalate the situation, putting you in control of the interaction.

If you find it challenging to control your temper, remember that you're not alone. Consider seeking support from a supervisor or colleague. They can provide guidance and assistance, reinforcing that you're part of a supportive team handling difficult customer interactions.

14. Self-Care

Handling difficult callers can be stressful. If you have just taken a problematic call and feel your temper rising, consider taking a short break to collect your thoughts and regain composure before making yourself available to talk to other customers.

15. Continuous Improvement

After a difficult call, reflect on the interaction with a colleague or supervisor. Identify triggers that led to you losing your temper, such as a customer's tone of voice, and consider strategies for handling similar situations better in the future.

Use this information to improve your skills and approach in future interactions. This continuous learning approach ensures that you develop better strategies for managing difficult calls in the future.


Handling difficult callers is an integral part of delivering exceptional customer service. By maintaining a calm and professional demeanour, actively listening, showing empathy, and employing effective problem-solving techniques, you can transform challenging interactions into opportunities for building customer trust and loyalty. Each point in this checklist is crucial to ensuring a positive customer experience, even in the face of adversity.

At Answer4u, we understand the complexities of customer service and are here to support your business with professional and reliable call handling solutions. Our team is trained to handle every call with the utmost care, ensuring your customers always receive the attention and service they deserve.