Yep, Holiday Returns Will Make Customers More Difficult!

how to handle difficult customers retail customer service

After the busy Christmas and Boxing Day shopping season, returns start. And if you’ve ever worked in retail or a contact center, you know how challenging this time of year can be.

Returns and exchanges complicate things because customers making returns are more likely to be unhappy.

So, we need to have a strategy for handling these situations. Here’s a simple 2-step process.


Some may become difficult when customers can’t get exactly what they want with refunds or returns because of your policy. Reduce the chance of things escalating by acknowledging how the issue impacts the customer. 

You might say something like, “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.” Or, “We realize this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but we may have options for you.”

In my example, the employee could have acknowledged the impact by saying something like, “I know it’s frustrating not to get the full refund, but we do have a couple of options for you.”

Acknowledging the impact is you conveying empathy, which can help you create calm.



An optometry office I work with can’t refill contact lens prescriptions without an annual eye exam. Some patients whose eyes haven’t changed get frustrated when they can’t just renew their contacts over the phone. Here’s how I helped them explain how this policy benefits the customer. 

“The FDA mandates our prescription process. We must see patients every 12 months before writing a prescription. This is to ensure the health of your eyes through regular examinations.”

Sometimes you can’t genuinely explain how the policy benefits the customer. In these cases, explain why you have the policy in place. With our duvet experience, I can’t think of a benefit to customers. So, an explanation of why the policy is in place might be offered like this:

 “When an item is discounted by sale or clearance, we refund the lowest sales price because we can’t verify the actual paid amount. But if you can get the receipt, we’ll honor the purchase price.”

Expect some customers to be upset with your refund policies. But, using these two steps, you should appease most customers. 

If you need more help navigating challenging customer interactions, check out my LinkedIn Learning course, Creating Positive Conversations with Challenging Customers.

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