25 Customer Service Scenarios (And How to Handle Them)

Customer Service Scenarios

Find yourself in a customer service scenario and aren’t sure how to handle it? We’ve got you covered.

This guide will serve as the ultimate customer service scenarios cheat sheet for you to refer to any time you need guidance.

Formilla has been in the customer service and live chat business for over seven years now, and we’ve dealt with handling difficult customers and fun customers alike.

Looking back on those seven years of experience helped us come up with this complete list of customer service questions and answers to help you deliver excellent customer service.

Pro Tip: You can also use many of these responses as live chat canned response examples! This would help by:

  • Saving you from having to proofread a response before you send it (they’re already spelled correctly!).
  • Allowing you to respond to customer questions without having to remember every detail or research the answer.
  • Training your new customer service reps quickly and easily, as they can get the answer right from the saved replies.

Note: No amount of pre-made scenarios will help you respond the best to every situation. Take time to master the most important customer service skills.

Jump around with this index of all the customer service scenarios:

  1. How to Greet Your Customer
  2. How to Tell Customers You Need Some Time to Resolve Their Issue
  3. How to Transfer a Customer to a Different Chat or Phone Call
  4. How to Admit Fault & What to Do About It
  5. What to Say When You Can’t Resolve the Issue
  6. Following Up With a Customer
  7. Responses for Dealing with Angry Customers
  8. Responses for Ending the Chat
  9. How to Handle a Customer Requesting a Refund
  10. How to Handle a Customer Asking for a Discount
  11. How to Respond to a Customer Asking for a Product or Feature You Don’t Currently Have
  12. What to Say to a Customer Asking to Cancel Their Subscription
  13. How to (Tactfully) Let a Customer Know It’s Their Mistake
  14. What to Do When a Customer Reaches You in Error (Contacted the Wrong Company)
  15. How to Respond to a Customer Asking How Your Product Differs From Other Products
  16. How to Respond to a Customer Asking How Secure Your Website or Service is
  17. How to Respond to a Customer that Forgot Their Password
  18. How to Request Feedback from a Customer
  19. How to Request a Review of Your Product or Service at the Right Time
  20. What to Say When You’re Too Busy to Respond Right Away
  21. How to Point a Customer to an Existing FAQ or Tutorial Without Sounding Rude or Dismissive
  22. How to Respond to a Customer That Speaks a Language You Don’t Understand
  23. How to Politely Tell Someone They Are in Violation of Your Terms of Use or Policies
  24. How to Tell a Customer Their Account is Overdue or Expired
  25. How to Respond to a Service Interruption Question


Without further ado, let’s get into these customer service scenarios and answers.

#1: How to Greet Your Customers via Live Chat

First impressions are formed in the first 7 seconds, and they’re hard to break. It’s important to make a good one!

When opening a conversation with someone, you should always introduce yourself. You wouldn’t answer a phone by saying, “How may I help you?” without telling the caller your name, would you? Treat live chat the same way!

Use this to greet your customers:

“Hey, [their name]! Thanks for contacting [your company]. I’m [your name]. How can I help you?”

#2: How to Tell Customers You Need Some Time to Resolve Their Issue

It’s not always possible to resolve an issue immediately. However, you also shouldn’t leave your customer hanging without explaining to them what’s going on.

In fact, if a customer has to say something like “are you still there?”, it hurts customer satisfaction rates.

Here’s how to let the customer know you need some time:

“I apologize, but I need a few moments to solve this issue. Do you mind holding on for a few minutes while I look up the solution?”

You can even ask the customer to leave their contact information with you in case they’re in a rush: “If you’re in a hurry, I’d be happy to call or email you back with an answer instead.”

#3: How to Transfer a Customer to a Different Chat or Phone Call

Sometimes you can’t solve your customer’s issue and need the help of another department. When that’s the case, it’s important to be tactful – most people hate being transferred!

Here’s a response you can use:

“[Their name], I’m going to connect you with the [related department] department. [Employee’s name] can help you with this, he/she’s awesome! I’ve also gone ahead and briefed them about your situation, so you won’t have to re-explain anything. Have a great day! 🙂”

#4: How to Admit Fault & What to Do About It

Let’s face it: Sometimes, we screw something up. It’s OK – we’re only human! However, you need to be transparent when making mistakes.

Here’s what to say to a customer when you’re at fault:

“I’m really sorry, [their name]. We made a mistake by [explain your mistake]. We will fix it immediately, and it may take up to [number] days/hours to fully resolve.  We’ll keep you posted as quickly as possible, and will [explain preventative steps] to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

#5: What to Say When You Can’t Resolve the Issue

Maybe they asked you to ship them some peanut butter (and you don’t sell peanut butter), or maybe they need a service you simply don’t offer. Either way, there will come a time when you simply can’t solve a customer’s issue.

(By the way, sending them the peanut butter anyway would be an awesomely creative customer service idea.)

Pro Tip: Use the “compliment sandwich” method – Give them a compliment, tell them the bad news, then end with another compliment.

Here’s a live chat canned response for customers you can’t help:

“Well, [their name], we really appreciate you telling us about this situation. Unfortunately, we tried to [explain the situation], however, there’s nothing we can do to resolve it. To make it up to you, here’s a coupon for X% off your next order! 🙂”

#6: Following Up With a Customer

As a rule of thumb, if you promised to get back to a customer, get back to them within 24 hours – even if you don’t have a solution yet! This will show them you didn’t forget about them and you’re working on the problem.

Here’s the best canned response for this situation:

If you didn’t solve their problem: “Hey, [their name]! [Your name] here, I just wanted to let you know we’re still working on resolving your situation. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s been fixed! 🙂”

If you did solve their problem: “Hey, [their name]! We’re all squared away – your problem has been solved. Let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you! 🙂”

#7: Responses for Dealing with Angry Customers

When it comes to an angry person, think of them as a soda bottle you just dropped. You wouldn’t shake it up more and take the cap off, would you?

Of course not! You have to slowly open and close. *Tss* *Tss* *Tss*

How do you do that? Be empathetic, apologize, show urgency, and use this as a guide:

“I’m really sorry you’re experiencing this problem. I’m sure we can figure this out, and I’ll work on finding a solution right away!”

#8: Responses for Ending the Chat

When it’s time to part ways, do so tactfully. A simple “goodbye” isn’t enough. You just helped them with their issue – this is an opportunity to go the extra mile!

Try this:

“Well, [their name], it’s been great chatting with you! I hope we resolved your issue thoroughly. Let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you! You can always reach me directly at [your email]. Have a wonderful day. 😁”

#9: How to Handle a Customer Requesting a Refund

In our case, handling a refund request requires pulling up the account or order and refunding a portion of the cost of the most recent month’s subscription.

As with any product or service, using the product or service for a prolonged period of time and eventually requesting a refund is like eating 90% of a cheeseburger then asking for a refund because you ordered a hamburger instead.

But, you know, it happens (I would know, I’ve worked at McDonald’s) – you just have to know how to deal with it. Try this:

“I’m sorry to hear you didn’t find a use for our product/service. We truly care about our customers getting the right product fit, so we’ll process your request for a refund right away.Keep in mind, however, it can take up to [number] days to process a refund request. I promise to personally keep you updated on the status of your request so you’re never left in the dark.

If your request is approved, you can expect the funds to hit your account within [number] days. If you have any other problems or requests, you can reach me at [your email]. Thanks for reaching out! 😁”

#10: How to Handle a Customer Asking for a Discount

Here at Formilla, we tend to take these requests case by case. For example, if an organization is a not-for-profit and on a tight budget, we’ll evaluate their needs and provide a discount to make it more affordable for them.

Other times, we use language such as “what’s your budget like?” and “maybe I can recommend the best package for you or let you know if we have an upcoming promotion soon”. Or, you can give them a discount on the spot.

Here’s a saved reply you can use:

“I understand you want the best deal possible on our product/software. We currently do not have a promotion running at this time, although perhaps I can recommend the best package for you based on your needs? Otherwise, I can let you know if we have an upcoming promotion soon if you give me your email address. How does that sound?”

#11: How to Respond to a Customer Asking for a Product or Feature You Don’t Currently Have

This is going to be different than the other examples we’ve given so far because your answer will vary widely based on your business and features. For this section, we’ll show you a direct example of what we’ve done at Formilla, and explain why, so you can tailor it for your own use.

Here’s what we say when a customer asks for a Mac desktop app that we haven’t built yet:

“Hi [their name],Thanks for reaching out! We currently only have a Windows Desktop app (replace this sentence with whatever you currently have), however we have plans to introduce a desktop app for Mac in the future (if you’re planning to build this feature at some point).

I’m not sure exactly when that might be just yet (no firm date b/c it’s not slotted yet), but I’d be happy to let you know once it’s launched (kindly offering to follow-up for convenience).

In the meantime, we recommend logging into the web dashboard at www.formilla.com/login to answer incoming chats, or use our mobile apps for iPhone and Android as an alternative.  You can also check ‘Keep me logged in’ so you don’t have to login each day as the system will remember you for 30 days. (Offer an alternative solution to help ease the pain in the meantime.)

Please let me know if you have any additional questions, and have a great day!”

#12. What to Say to a Customer Asking to Cancel Their Subscription

This is a perfect opportunity to get feedback by asking if there’s anything they were looking for that you don’t have! Was there a problem with the product? Is the price too high?

Customer feedback is one of the best ways to improve your customer service! Take advantage of every opportunity you have to get it. Try this response:

“I’m sorry to hear our product/service didn’t fit your needs, [their name]. I can certainly cancel your subscription. However, would you mind telling me why you’re canceling so we can improve for future customers?”

#13. How to (Tactfully) Let a Customer Know It’s Their Mistake

Let me start by saying: You should never make a customer feel like something is their fault or that they’re stupid (duh).

That said, sometimes things are the customer’s fault. If that’s the case, try an empathetic approach to make the customer feel it’s a common occurrence like this:

“Hello [their name],

We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention! The issue appears to be due to [explain the issue], which I’ve done quite a few times myself 😁. The good news is, I’ve already solved the problem for you by [explain how].

I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any further questions or issues, of course.


[Your name]”

#14. What to Do When a Customer Reaches You in Error (Contacted the Wrong Company)

Hey, it happens to the best of us – sometimes, we accidentally reach out to the wrong company somehow. When that happens (if?), it’s actually a chance for you to win their service!

Rather than simply saying, “Oh sorry, that’s not us”, point them in the right direction… but also ask if there’s anything you can help them with.

For example, if someone contacted us at Formilla thinking we were an art gallery or something (for some strange reason), we would respond like this:

“Sorry, [their name], it sounds like you may have reached us in error.  We’re a live chat software provider, although you may be better off visiting www.ugallery.com.  We can’t help you find art, but we may be able to help you artfully deliver great customer service!  Is that something you could find useful? 😃”

#15. How to Respond to a Customer Asking How Your Product Differs From Other Products

We get it all the time, especially in such a crowded marketplace as live chat software. What makes you different?

This is an excellent opportunity to get more customer feedback. Ask them if they currently have the service you offer (and what they like/dislike about it) or why they’re seeking out that service (to find out their pain points).

Also, rather than respond with a feature comparing ‘checklist’ to show the exact differences, we prefer to focus on our strengths. Most live chat software is the same – but the small extras we offer (like affordability, great customer service, simplicity, and reliability) help us stand out from the crowd.

If someone asks you how you’re different, focus on your strengths with a response like this:

“Hello, [their name]! Thanks for reaching out. What makes us different from our competitors is our absolute focus on customer service, reliability, and simplicity. We also happen to be more affordable than most of the other services out there.

Can I ask what it is you’re looking for in [service you offer]? Do you currently use [service you offer] on your website?”

#16. How to Respond to a Customer Asking How Secure Your Website or Service is

This question is another opportunity to focus on your strengths (particularly if you offer a service).

For example, our strengths in this situation include not storing credit card information, not logging sensitive information, changing admin passwords every 90 days, and limiting access based on role.

Try using a response like this:

“It’s great that you’re concerned for your online security! Many people today don’t realize how important that is. Here at [your company], our website is extremely secure. We [insert what you do – i.e. encryptions, changing passwords, etc.]. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

#17. How to Respond to a Customer that Forgot Their Password

You’ll likely encounter two types of customers asking this question:

  1. Someone simply asking.
  2. Someone who’s really upset or angry about the lost password.

Normally we send our customers to the ‘forgot password flow’ to teach them how to change it themselves, so we don’t have to keep manually resetting it and they don’t have to wait on us.  However, if we’re dealing with the second kind of customer – one who seems upset – we’ll do it for them.

You have to gauge what kind of mood they’re in by their tone and specific wording in their response. If they’re using profanities, saying things like ‘this is ridiculous’, or generally seem upset, be careful. Remember the soda bottle!

Try a response like this:

“No problem, [their name]! You can easily reset your password by going to [your forgot password link]. If you have any trouble, let me know and I can manually reset it for you!”

#18. How to Request Feedback from a Customer

While this isn’t a customer service scenario, per se, asking for feedback from your customers is extremely important! Feedback will help you improve everything about your business, from your service to your product and more.

We typically ask for feedback during ongoing conversations with our customers. If you spent a lot of time with them (and they seem fairly happy or at least satisfied), it’s a good opportunity to ask for feedback.

Try something like this:

“[Their name], it’s been great chatting with you! I see you’ve been a member with us for [number] days/weeks/months/years, so I wanted to take this opportunity to ask you about your experience with [your company]. I want to ensure our customers are having the best possible experience. Would you mind taking a few minutes to give me some feedback?”

#19. How to Request a Review of Your Product or Service at the Right Time

I know what you’re thinking – no, feedback and reviews are not the same thing.

Feedback is for your eyes only, to help you improve your product or service. A review (or testimonial), on the other hand, is a public statement of your customer’s experience, normally displayed on your website for all to see.

Reviews are incredibly important! They provide social proof for your brand. Don’t believe me? Check out these stats:

Oh, and the best time to get a user to submit a review? Right after they’ve interacted with your company! You’re still top of mind, and if they took action to reach out to you, they’re more likely to continue to take action and leave a review.

Bonus: If you gave them great service, they’re even more likely to give a great review. Win-win!

So, try something like this:

“[Their name], we’re really glad we were able to solve this problem for you. If you feel we were helpful, would you mind leaving [your product or service] a 5-star review? You can leave a review by going to [link to review].If you don’t feel we deserve a 5-star review, what can we do to better serve you?”

#20. What to Say When You’re Too Busy to Respond Right Away

We all have lives to live, and as business owners (or busy customer service reps), we can’t always answer our customers right away. Sometimes, we’re stuck elsewhere putting out a fire (Steve tried to cook in the company kitchen again).

Not solving a customer’s problem immediately is OK – as long as you at least let them know you can’t respond right away and tell them why.

This is most easily accomplished with an auto-response message, if your live chat service has this feature (Formilla live chat does!). Something like this should do:

“Hello, [their name]! Unfortunately, I am away from my desk at the moment. I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. If you require a faster response, please contact [employee name] by emailing [their email] or call [your support number]. Thanks, and have a great day! 😃”

#21. How to Point a Customer to an Existing FAQ or Tutorial Without Sounding Rude or Dismissive

You worked hard creating an amazing FAQ page, don’t let that go to waste! (You did create a great FAQ page, didn’t you?)

However, when sending a customer to another resource, you don’t want to be rude or sound like you don’t care. Avoid that with this saved reply:

“We worked really hard to create a thorough FAQ/tutorial for that exact problem. You can find it at [link]. If you find it doesn’t help solve your problem, please don’t hesitate to reach me again at [your email] or by opening another chat message!”

#22. How to Respond to a Customer That Speaks a Language You Don’t Understand

¡Osos de peluche mullidos! Sometimes, you’ll encounter customers who don’t speak your language. Don’t worry – you can still bridge the language barrier!

Open Google Translate in another browser and copy-paste whatever they’re saying. Google can decipher it. Then, type your response, and Google will spit out what you said in the language you need.

In other words, say this (in their language, of course):

“Sorry, I don’t speak [their language]. However, I will use Google Translate to try and solve your issue! 😃”

#23. How to Politely Tell Someone They Are in Violation of Your Terms of Use or Policies

You know what sucks? Telling someone they violated your terms of use (ToU) or policies. Don’t worry, though – we have a response for that situation, too! (And it’s tactful.)

In our case, sometimes our customers will install our live chat software to multiple different websites, however they’ve purchased only a single website package.

We’d say the following to determine what the customer really needs, rather than assigning any blame:

“Hello, [their name]. I’m reaching out to you because it seems you have our software installed on more than one website, although you’re currently using our single website package. Were you intending to upgrade to one of our multi-site packages instead?

Please let me know, and I can help you select the correct package for your needs. Thank you!


[Your name]”

#24. How to Tell a Customer Their Account is Overdue or Expired

We’ve all missed a payment on something. It’s not fun for any party involved. But, with a little tact (and some honey, instead of gaul, as Dale Carnegie would put it), you can get the majority of customers to make their payment.

We’d say something like this:

“Hello, [their name], I hope you’re having a good day so far!  I’m just writing to let you know your recent payment has failed to process for live chat service.

If you plan to continue your service, you can simply submit a new payment by logging in to your account. I have ensured it will remain active for another five days to give you extra time as well.

If you plan to cancel your service, I can handle that for you as well. Just let me know if you’re having any troubles with our platform or if you need anything else!

Thank you,

[Your name]”

#25. How to Respond to a Service Interruption Question

It happens to the best of us – sometimes a raccoon chews through the chords powering your server and your service goes down. Oh crap.

Ideally, when this happens, you should inform your customers of the outage before they ask you. This could take the form of an email blast and social media updates or even a simple message on your home page.

If a customer does ask about the outage, just be transparent about the issue. Let them know you’re working hard to resolve it and that you’ll continue to post status updates to your service uptime page every 60 minutes (or however often you choose).

Bonus points if you tell them to follow you on Twitter for real time updates (just make sure you actually post the updates and don’t forget).

Here’s the verbiage:

“Hello, [their name].  We’re currently having a server issue which has knocked out our service for the time being. We’re aware of the problem and are working hard to solve it.

We’ll be posting status updates every [number] minutes on this page: [link]. You can also follow us on Twitter at [link] for real time updates.

Thank you for your patience as we work through this issue!”


Customer service is nothing if not a daring adventure. There are many customer service scenarios that need to be treated delicately and with tact – and others that offer room for a little more fun.

I hope you’ve realized the importance of providing a great customer experience and have a better understanding of how to handle any situation.

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Read Next: 9 Brilliant Customer Service Examples

How to Add a Live Chat Plugin or App to Your Site

  • Bill,

    Thank you for inviting me to respond to this post. First of all, it’s quite comprehensive, engaging (in that it invites contributions from readers), and useful to customer service reps.

    I liked the periodic use of levity and emoticons throughout – which I think work in many (but not all) support environments (e.g., I have a different expectation when interacting with a rep at Zappos than I have of an employee at, say, Fidelity Investments). To me, these made the communications friendly, disarming, and approachable. I also liked the references to reducing customer effort (#2), encouraging customer feedback (#12), proactive communications (#25), transparency (#25), and follow-up (#25).

    There were several things that, if we were critiquing this article together over a beer, I would question:

    Too often customers who are not “fun” are described as “difficult.” That’s like saying that someone who is not extraverted is antisocial. That’s just not true. Whenever you describe a customer as “difficult,” you’re suggesting that he is hard to please or satisfy. In my experience, a more accurate description of this type of customer is “discerning” – meaning that he notes differences or distinctions between what he expected and what he received. A discerning customer exhibits keen insight and good judgment. He is perceptive, not hard to please.

    I worry whenever I see the word “canned” in an article offering customer service advice. To me, referring to customer responses as “canned” has the same effect as when professional speakers refer to their events as “gigs.” Calling them gigs, in my opinion, cheapens the job. I prefer “event’ or “engagement.” In the same way, a “canned” response doesn’t sound as thoughtful as saying, for instance, a “saved” or “prepared” response.

    I would replace the word “transfer” (in the context of transferring a customer to a different department representative, #3) with “connect” or “refer.” Most customers hate the word “transfer.”

    Eliminate the conjunction “but” from your customer communications (#4). As soon as customers hear or read that, they begin to brace themselves for bad news… Replace “but” with “and” whenever feasible or simply start a new sentence (e.g., “We will fix it immediately, and it may take up to five business days to fully resolve” or “We will fix it immediately. It may take up to five business days to fully resolve.”)

    To my earlier point, #7 was painful to read: “Be empathic, apologize, show urgency, and use this canned response:” The words “empathic” and “canned” do not belong in the same sentence. Have you ever tried to be empathetic with a loved one on an important issue by using a canned response? How did it go?

    Also in #7, the suggested response “I understand how frustrating it must be” should be avoided. Try it out with an upset customer (i.e., the soda bottle you just dropped) and tell me how it goes. Most upset customers will retort, “No, you don’t understand!” How could you? Everyone’s unique situation is singular to him or her. The best you could realistically do is imagine how frustrating it must be.

    I dislike the reference to “policy” (#13). Like “transfer”, most customers don’t like to hear the word “policy.” Instead of saying “due to our policy”, tell the customer exactly why you can’t do it. In other words, what is the rationale for the decision? Why does the policy exist (e.g., safety, legal, ethical, financial, etc.)?

    Telling a customer that she “forgot” something is unnecessarily inflammatory (#17). In place of “forgot”, I’d recommend substituting “can’t locate.”

    Others (who are better self-promoters than I am) may disagree with this, but I would never ask someone to give me a “5-star review.” I might ask for an honest review, but I would never tell someone what rating to give me. If there are five stars (options) and the reviewer is an adult, then she can choose for herself how many stars I deserve. If you ask for a 5-star review then, by definition, you’re tampering with the process and undermining the integrity of the results.

    I dislike the inflammatory language that riddles the #23 response. I would rewrite it, removing the following words: violated, Section (too formal), violate, comply (“Submit to us!”), and prompt (“Hurry it up!). These words may be necessary if you’re operating a prison, but most work environments can identify softer, less antagonistic words to convey the same message.

    When an account is overdue or expired (#24), why dismiss the customer without (as you emphasized in #12) taking advantage of the opportunity to obtain feedback from him? Why is the account overdue? Why did it lapse? Perhaps it’s an expired credit card or the customer has misplaced his login credentials? And if he willfully let the account expire, then why did he do so – and is there something that could be done to convince him to reinstate it?

    My two cents. Thanks again for sharing the post and inviting my feedback.



    • Bill Widmer

      Hey, Steve!

      Wow, excellent points! Thank you for taking so much time to thoroughly go through the entire post. I’m going to go back and update this based on your feedback. I’ll let you know when it’s updated – thanks again! 🙂


  • It is great article no doubt.Thanks for sharing.