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How to manage toxic customers

When dealing with toxic customers, set boundaries on acceptable behavior and take care of your own mental health, writes Naphtali Hoff.

3 min read


toxic customers

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Handling toxic customers and clients can be challenging, but addressing their concerns is important while protecting yourself and your team. Here are some tips for handling toxic customers and clients effectively:

  1. Stay calm and composed. Maintaining your composure and not letting the customer’s toxicity affect your emotions is crucial. 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 does not reflect 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 toward 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 abusive or toxic customer interactions. 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 cannot 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, treating all customers with respect and professionalism is important, but you also have the right to be treated the same way.


Naphtali Hoff, Psy.D., is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting. He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at [email protected]. 

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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