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Tips for Resolving Customer Disputes

Tips for Resolving Customer Disputes

Learn how to handle customer disputes calmly and effectively. Find step-by-step guidance on resolving conflicts for small businesses.

You put a lot of effort into making sure that every job you take on runs smoothly and that your clients are satisfied with your service.

However, there are times when a job doesn’t go to plan, resulting in an unhappy customer or worse, an ongoing dispute and unsolved conflict.

As a small business, it's in your interest to get a dispute resolved. If left unresolved, disputes can cost you money, time, and your reputation.


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Tips for resolving a dispute

When an issue or dispute does arise with a customer, the way you handle it is going to be critical to its resolution.
Here is a step-by-step guide to resolving a customer dispute.


  • Stop and step back; remain calm.
    • It may sound pointless, but a few deep breaths can make a big difference to how you respond.
  • Don’t take it personally.
    • This can be challenging, but if you can separate yourself from your customer's comments and rise above them, you will avoid defending yourself and escalating the conflict.
  • Note your emotions.
    • If your first reaction is to prove to your customer that you are right – crush these emotions, so they don’t start speaking on your behalf.
  • Think about an outcome that will work in your favour.
    • Consider thinking beyond the current disagreement. You might need to consider all aspects of the customer’s issue or issues before responding. Asking for time is a reasonable request. Don’t feel pressured to respond immediately.
  • Tell your customer what outcome you want.
    • This solution needs to be good for you both. Propose something fair that resolves the situation. Ask your customer to accept this proposal so you can both move on.

Focus on a solution 

The broader goal is not about backing down or allowing a customer to walk all over you in their rage and upset. However, validating emotions is essential and will help to de-escalate someone's upset.
The goal is to get back to when you accepted the job – to deliver a successful project. The only way you will get a project back on track once a dispute has happened is to find a solution that has a good outcome for both parties.
It will also be helpful to remind your customer that their goal is also a successful project. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and collaborate with them to find the right solution.
Of course, be mindful of your communication. Note the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Avoid being forceful. Be kind but firm, and use compassion to set an expectation.
When emotions are high, you can easily get stuck in a dispute. But, if both parties are reasonable, it will be easier to find a resolution.
If one party will not shift, then it is a loose-loose situation. You will not get more work, or at worst, you may not get paid, and the customer does not get their project completed, possibly having to spend more money.
Therefore, resolving a dispute amicably is the best option for all concerned.
Even though it doesn't happen often, our service department occasionally gets notified of a disagreement between a tradesperson and their client. 

As a standards-based service, we try to keep tradespeople accountable, but we also recognise that there are two sides to every story, and not all customers are reasonable players.
Therefore, when required, we will endeavour to explore all issues that are reported to us in a transparent way that is fair to both parties.
The good news is that 93% of our members are rated with 4 or 5 stars; potential clients continue to enjoy a great experience and trust the Onlinetradesman brand to find qualified trade professionals. 

To discover how you can join this exclusive network of top-rated tradespeople, simply sign up today or schedule a call with our team to learn more.

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