How do you turn down a difficult client?

Every once in a while we get a customer who calls in and is either rude or uncooperative. I’m sure everyone gets these people.

Some examples from this year:

  • Client gets a quote from us for roof cleaning. Client calls back and wastes 15 minutes on the phone with my wife complaining about how our quote wasn’t worded EXACTLY like “the other guy”. There was no way we were going to work with him, and it set a bad tone for the rest of the day.

  • Customer flat out refuses to give you any information (name, address etc.).

There’s a fine line between providing good customer service to someone who isn’t going to use your service and being a punching bag for some nimrod that doesn’t want to let you off the line.

What are your best “go-to” lines for getting somebody off the phone ASAP?

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I screen all calls. I know I lose out on some business by doing it, but I feel it weeds out mostly the more impatient or unreasonable types. Our ideal customer has already decided to use our company based on our reviews or a personal referral, and is willing to wait a couple hours for a call back.

This call screening has protected me from dealing with a couple nuts.

I did a power washing job this past summer, that was right on a lake. As I was finishing up, the next door neighbor came over saying that he would need to “see some documentation” of what I was using in my cleaning mix.

I ended up spending a good 5 minutes with the guy trying to allay his concerns. Then, maybe 30 minutes later, the wife comes over and just starts taking pics of the signage on my truck. “Can I help you?” I ask. She gives me the same story as the husband, about the concern for their muddy little stream that was 8’ from their neighbors house, and how it was a protected waterway, on their property.

I take a couple more minutes with her, and email her copies of the SDS’s. At this point, I feel I’ve gone 100x above and beyond what’s legally or ethically required of me.

Maybe 3 hours later, I get a voicemail from the lady, saying she never received the email that “my employee” sent, and to please mail the SDS’s to their PO box :rofl:

I did not return the call or mail them anything.

A week or so later, I get another voicemail from this lady, claiming to be interested in a house wash, and what do we use in our cleaning solution. My wife and I were just dying when we listened to it :joy:. She didn’t even bother to call from a different phone number. And she had the most distinctive voice, I don’t know who she thought she was going to fool. :thinking:

So I guess my question now is, how do you ‘screen’ people IRL?

One idea I have is to tell somebody that’s heckling me, “Let me text my boss and see if he’s available to talk.” Then get William Page, i.e., the Resident Grump of the PWRA forum, on the phone with them…


I’ve cone to the conclusion one customer , or one prospect isn’t going to make my business. I know we get afraid of bad reviews , but as long as your good reviews out weigh your bad I wouldn’t worry. I’ve not shown up at estimates , because I didn’t like the way the person csme offf. Some people are nasty !
So , I’m not saying be rude or offensive , but sometimes you have to step up to the plate ,an take a swing , an push back.
It’s doesn’t matter what you say …just fined a way to say jace a nice day use someone else. Maybe our company isn’t what your looking for. Use his with the fancy words.
For the one with the roof. That’s the way we word it , an he words it his way. If you like his wording better your fee to use him. Who cares at that point go away. Lol , but dam if he says ok I’ll use you. Then I’m afraid :scream:
The second one with no name an address. How can I give you an estimate with no address ?


I like presenting things as “company policy” which I have no control over. Even if it’s a new rule that I came up with on the spot in order to avoid working with someone, they don’t have to know that.

For instance:

“Our Company’s policy is to not give a price without a name and address” [more pushback/questioning]. “You’d have to ask my boss about his reason for that policy. I can ask him to call you back if you like?” [don’t call back- you said you’d ask, but you didn’t promise a call back] :wink:


“we don’t do quotes without a name and address to attach them to”


If they can’t leave a name, address and contact number for a mobile service that requires a name, address, and contact number then I inform that I am not the window cleaner for them - or any other cleaner for them for that matter.

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Yeah we can get that done for you in . . . A spot on your calendar 120 days from now. “Oh my god I can’t wait that long.” Oh we are terribly sorry you have a beautiful day


Also as Majestic pointed out it sucks because we are all terrified of negative reviews. I have not shown up to estimates returned calls before. I hate doing this because then you’re going to get word-of-mouth that you don’t show up to estimates or return calls but sometimes you just have to understand that your competitors are doing the same thing. For every customer you have trashing you saying I’m not going to use that company again your competitor has the same thing happening.


The other oldest trick in the book is to price it outragiously. However my favorite is just to give them a time so far out they cannot wait. What’s the worst they are going to do tell their neighbor, relative, friend you are really busy. That is a lot better than them trashing you for an outrageous bid or you telling them you are sensing tension and don’t want to work with them


We just tell them politely that “we’re going to pass at this time. You have some concerns that it seems we can’t address appropriately for you. Thank you for the opportunity and have a nice day”.


Best “go to” line to get someone off the phone ASAP…

“Hey Mrs Smith, my next opening to clean your windows is April 10th, 2023. Does that day work for you?”


Problem we have with pricing things way high and scheduling way out is that its still not an effective way to get them off the phone ASAP

I guess I would need more information from you as soon as I tell a customer it’s gonna be forever till I can get to them they are off the phone.

A person I know said they use to tell clients they could not do that job because their insurance didn’t cover that type of work.

Yeah, but that is dishonest.


Sorry, it’s not me it’s you.


I would not use the my insurance doesn’t cover thing but as far as being dishonest, are you wanting them off the phone or not

I gotta answer this call , can I call ya back.


I really like that. I’m a firm believer in avoiding all possibilities of a questionable “out” coming back to bite me later.