If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve probably dealt with more than a few rude customers. For many people, dealing with rude customers is one of the most stressful parts of their job.
Handling rude customers is not just a problem for customer service reps. It’s also a major issue for managers and business owners who want to maintain good customer relationships.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal effectively with rude customers and even turn them into happy customers in the process.
Be friendly and professional.
No matter how rude a customer is, avoid being rude back. Instead, demonstrate good listening skills and willingness to help resolve the problem. Those who can’t do this will have a hard time working with the public. Be patient, kind, and calm. You may be dealing with a customer who is tired from their journey, frustrated by having their expectations unmet, or just feeling negative because they have their own issues unrelated to anything you’ve done or said. Remember that customers have bad days, just like we all do. Don’t take it personally when someone is rude to you. Rather than becoming angry in response, try showing kindness and compassion toward that person without compromising your ability to be professional.
Don’t let their rudeness get to you.
In the face of a rude customer, you can choose to look at the situation in one of two ways. You could see it as a personal attack on your character or treat it like what it is: just another case of someone needing help. If you take the former approach, you’ll be aggravated and angry every time this happens to you, but if you take the latter approach, your day will go much smoother.
Remind yourself that you are the professional and they are not. In other words, they aren’t qualified to critique how you do your job. When someone has a bad day and takes it out on others around them (and let’s face it: when people are irate with others at work, it’s usually because something bad happened in their personal life), don’t let them make their problems yours.
Instead of letting their rudeness get to you personally, turn things around by seeing how far your positivity can stretch!
Set boundaries for yourself.
When choosing to set boundaries with a rude customer, it’s important that you stick to your decision. That doesn’t mean being rude back, just clear and firm.
It’s also helpful not to feel responsible for the customer’s behavior. You are not a mind reader and cannot predict or control their behavior. Sometimes customers don’t even know they’re being rude, or they’re just having a bad day. It’s up to them to manage their stress level appropriately and focus on what is essential for the situation at hand, which is resolving whatever issue brought them into contact with you in the first place. Everyone should be aware that managing interactions with others in a professional environment is part of having a job.
Check with coworkers about handling rude customers.
When you’re dealing with a rude customer, always remember: You are not alone. You can ask for help from other coworkers in your department, especially if they have more experience. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, it helps to get advice and tips from people who’ve dealt with a similar situation before. Just be sure not to give away too much information about the customer if you’re going to talk to other people about it–or avoid gossip altogether by asking them for advice on how to approach the specific interaction in question.
Don’t talk about the customer with other customers.
There is usually a company policy against badmouthing customers. In practice, however, it’s a slippery slope when one customer is rude to you or others in the workplace. It can be cathartic to vent and get things off your chest. If anything, it’s a time-honored tradition in the service industry to talk badly about people who have been disrespectful or unpleasant. The problem? What if those customers come back?
This is the reason employees should never discuss customers among themselves with other customers within earshot–and why retail settings are usually designed with designated break areas for precisely this purpose, so that employees can let off steam away from their workstations without worrying about being overheard by customers.
Likewise, when checking out clients at the front end of a store and disposing of their receipts (which may contain personal information), make sure sensitive data is immediately discarded into secure garbage cans or shredded on-site and not left lying around for anyone else to see.
Remind yourself that you’re doing your job to the best of your ability.
It’s easy to take a rude customer’s comments personally, especially if they’re saying something deeply offensive. But remember, you are doing your job as best you can, and the customer is being unreasonable. If you are particularly upset about the customer’s comments, it might help to take a short break so that you can cool down before talking to them again. Return to the situation when you feel calmer and in control.
If you’re having trouble dealing with a rude customer and need a break, try this three-step plan:
Step 1: Remove yourself from the situation until your emotions settle. Take a minute in a back room or bathroom, if necessary, but take time to calm down before returning to the customer. Avoid taking their comments personally. Remember, they are trying to be difficult because something has upset them (or because they are just rude).
Step 2: Return when you’re ready (try not to take too long–waiting will likely make the customer angrier). Approach the situation with renewed energy and focus on resolving whatever issue is at hand for this person as quickly as possible, so that you can move on from it. While remaining firm in your boundaries, attempt to find out what has upset this person so much and what would help remedy the situation for them.
Step 3: If there’s nothing more you can do than apologize (if appropriate), then don’t worry about it! Apologize and move on, referring the customer to someone who is able to help them if possible. Sometimes all you can do is your best.
When you’re working closely with people, customer service or otherwise, it’s inevitable that someone will be rude to you, and the things they say may hurt. The stress of running into such a customer and dealing with them can cause your whole day to feel ruined. However, keeping a cool head and keeping the interaction brief and under control is key to maintaining professional relationships with customers. If you still need more motivation, remember that by keeping your cool and remaining calm, you can stay positive and help ensure everyone else around you has a better experience at work too.
Also remember that if you are a store owner or manager, there is an additional responsibility on your shoulders: dealing with rude customers is often harder when you have employees who look to you for guidance. Your actions set an example for others. Letting customers get under your skin makes it harder for other employees to stand up for themselves when they encounter rudeness from customers.