Take a free practice interview

  • Practice answering questions and get real feedback to improve
  • Get job-specific questions at the company you want
  • 95% say this improved their performance

Mastering the Interview Question: Navigating Dissatisfied Customers and Clients

An employer’s question “Tell me about a time you dealt with a challenging customer” is not just a formality. Learn why this question matters and how to structure a compelling response.

What is the hiring manager looking for?

Hiring managers ask this question to assess a candidate’s customer service skills, problem-solving abilities, and conflict resolution techniques. They want to know how you handle pressure, maintain professionalism, and find solutions that satisfy customers.

How to structure your answer

Structure your answer using the STAR method:

– Situation: Briefly describe the situation where you encountered a dissatisfied client or customer.

– Task: Explain your role and responsibilities in resolving the issue.

– Action: Detail the steps you took to address the customer’s concerns, resolve the situation, and achieve a positive outcome.

– Result: Highlight the successful resolution and any positive feedback or appreciation you received from the customer.

Tips to answer this interview question


– Be honest: Don’t fabricate a story. It’s okay to admit that you’ve never handled a difficult customer before, but emphasize your willingness to learn and grow.

– Focus on the solution: Don’t dwell on the problem. Instead, concentrate on the steps you took to resolve the situation and the positive outcome you achieved.

– Quantify your results: If possible, provide specific examples of how you resolved the issue quickly and efficiently. This demonstrates your problem-solving abilities.

– Things to avoid:

– Don’t blame the customer: Even if the customer was difficult or unreasonable, avoid placing blame. Focus on how you handled the situation professionally.

– Don’t be defensive: Don’t take the customer’s dissatisfaction personally. Instead, approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

Example interview answers to this question

Strong Sample Answers:

Question: Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a dissatisfied customer.

Answer: In my previous role as a customer service representative, I encountered a customer who was extremely upset because their order had been delayed. I listened attentively to their concerns and apologized for the inconvenience. I then worked with the shipping department to expedite the delivery and provided the customer with a discount on their next purchase. The customer was very grateful for my efforts and expressed their satisfaction with the resolution.

Reason for Strength: This answer demonstrates the candidate’s ability to remain calm under pressure, listen actively to customer concerns, and take proactive steps to resolve the situation. The candidate also went above and beyond by offering a discount, which shows their commitment to customer satisfaction.

Question: Describe a situation where you successfully resolved a conflict with a customer.

Answer: I once had a customer who was unhappy with the quality of a product they had purchased. I immediately acknowledged their concerns and offered to replace the product or issue a refund. However, the customer was still upset and began to raise their voice. I remained calm and professional, and I actively listened to their concerns. Eventually, the customer calmed down and we were able to find a mutually agreeable solution.

Reason for Strength: This answer demonstrates the candidate’s ability to stay composed in the face of an angry customer, actively listen to their concerns, and find a solution that satisfied both parties. The candidate’s professionalism and ability to de-escalate the situation are valuable assets in any customer-facing role.

Like a phone call interview – with your own AI interview coach.

Enter job title and company

Practice effectively for your dream job.

Get asked job-specific questions

Your AI interview coach will speak and ask you questions.

Speak back and view private feedback

Your coach will listen to you speak and reply with follow-up questions and private feedback.

Interview Feedback

Improve from real feedback

Frustrated by never hearing feedback from your interviews? We get it. Interview Smile is your way to get real feedback on how you did and to help you answer questions better. Come into your next job interview empowered with superhuman interview readiness.

Go from nervous to confident

Practice with your AI coach as much as you want to calm your interview nerves. Hone your pitch and boost your confidence with Interview Smile.

Interview Practice