Customer service is a demanding job requiring patience and understanding. There will be individuals that don’t follow instructions, treat you unjustly, or simply treat the employees poorly.
Even if this is a reality that most of us have to face, rude customers can really let us down when they occur often.
Here are how professionals handle these difficult situations so that they don’t lose out on potential customers:
Lead Customer Happiness Engineer, ApproveMe
Every complaint can turn into a compliment when handled with care
The number one reason a customer submits a complaint is that they want to be heard. This is the case across all industries and types of businesses. Making the customer feel heard is the most important thing we can do in this interaction, even above giving them a great solution.
Make use of active listening
Use active listening to show that you are engaged. You can even do this through email by acknowledging and restating some of what the customer mentioned to you.
Customer empathy is important
Empathize with them. Let your customer know that you’re sorry about the situation with genuine words. “I’m really sorry about the confusion here. Let’s get things back on track together!” instead of “I apologize. Here’s your refund.“
Be a mirror for your customers
Be positive, but match their tone. Monitor the style of their speech. If they are more formal, stay on the formal side. If they are more casual, be a little more casual. You can be positive in either scenario and mirroring the customer’s tone/speech style helps the customer receive what you are saying.
Propose a solution
Once the customer feels heard, it’s our job to do one of the following:
- Give them a solution
- Tell them about an alternative
- Be honest that what they want can’t be done
If you don’t have a viable solution, propose an alternative. Say no while saying yes. “We don’t have that item in stock, but another one comes in at the end of the month, or you can check out the store down the block that also offers great products.“
If the request is out of your scope of service, be honest with them. “We don’t have any plans to add a free valet service to our drive-through, but thank you for the suggestion. I’ll be sure to let the owner know.“
Express gratitude to the customer
Rude or friendly, the customers that patronize your business pay your paycheck.
They deserve to be thanked for something, whether it be for purchasing your product or service, for their great suggestions for improvement, or for taking the time to reach out and provide their feedback. All of it is valuable in some way and should be recognized.
Often, customers who take the initiative to complain (because they are unhappy with something) are nervous and eager for an immediate response. This can make things difficult for us if we don’t know how to handle the situation.
Complaints are valuable opportunities
On average, it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to keep a current one. Without a doubt, keeping customers happy is much more advantageous for the company than losing them.
If we keep our customers happy, they will say nice things about us to other potential customers, for free. If we fail to respond to their complaints, they will say very bad things about us to many others. This greatly harms our business.
Customers who complain to our company are giving us the opportunity to satisfy them and keep them as customers.
About 54% to 70% of customers who complain will return and do business with our company again if their complaints are answered. And 95% of customers who complain will return to doing business with our company if their complaints are dealt with quickly.
Complaints are a huge opportunity to correct the company’s mistakes and prevent the same problems from happening to other customers. Complaints are a great opportunity to delight customers and make them loyal. On average, customers who have their complaints answered quickly talk about this positive experience to five other people.
And now, pay attention to 10 steps when dealing with rude or even irritated customers:
- Listen carefully to the customers, showing interest and that you care about what they are saying.
- Put yourself in the customers’ shoes (empathy). Try to understand each customer’s position and say things that show you care about what they are feeling, such as:
- “I can understand how this is bothering you..”
- “I understand this has caused you problems, and let’s do something about it immediately.”
- Ask questions politely and with interest, listening carefully to responses to get more specific details of how the problem occurred.
- Suggest one or more alternatives to solve the problem and respond to the complaint.
- Apologize on behalf of the company, even if it wasn’t your fault. And never blame anyone else. The customer doesn’t want to know who made a mistake. He wants to see the problem resolved.
- Fix the problem or find someone who can. Know your work and your company well enough to know if you can solve it yourself or if you need to ask someone for help or permission. But whatever the case, solve the customer’s problem.
- Assure good feelings are in place. After the problem is solved or, at least, a solution has been presented, ask the customer how they feel about it, and make sure a feeling of relief – and even satisfaction – has been established.
- Express gratitude. Smile and thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. And reassure your satisfaction in helping them.
- “Anything else?” Finally, ask the customer if there is anything else you could do for them today. This proves that you are not in a hurry to get rid of the situation and that you are willing to go the extra mile to guarantee their satisfaction. That puts the customers at ease and builds more trust in the relationship.
- Follow-up. A couple of days after your interaction with the customer, try to get in contact and ask if everything is according to their expectations. This gesture will surprise them positively and give them another proof of your dedication to keep them as customers. Greater chances for loyalty right there.
Always remember two things:
- When the customer loses, everyone loses.
- When the customer is loyal, relationships are better, and profits are higher. It means more growth opportunities for everybody, and more quality of life too.
Director of Customer Success, We are Working
Customers, like the rest of us, are at the end of their rope. After two years of dealing with COVID and all its implications – changes to how they work, how the kids are taught, isolation and loss, shortages in stores, closures, cancellations, and more, their patience is worn thin.
If your customer service team reports an uptick in customer rudeness, they’re not alone, and it’s really no surprise. In the age of instant gratification, we were unprepared to deal with delays, and most businesses are struggling against increased resignations and sick workers.
Remind yourself that every action is the result of something else
The step to effectively deal with a rude customer is to remind yourself that all behavior is caused. There’s a reason your customer is upset. If you’re lucky, their discontent stems from something external, not from your product or service. Either way, your job is to listen, acknowledge and validate their concerns, and provide a timely resolution.
Assuming your customer-facing employees know how to do their jobs, the next most important tip for dealing with rudeness is actionable empathy.
The key is to take action
People don’t want to hear platitudes. They want their feelings acknowledged, and they want something to be done. So, instead of saying things like “I’m sorry” or “I understand” instead say, “I can hear the pain this is causing you, and here is what I’m going to do to make this better.“
As you speak, keep a smile on your face
Emotional Intelligence is a required skill for dealing with customers. I tell my teams to smile when they talk because smiling literally changes your tone. To this end, consider sticking a small mirror to your computer so you can see your facial expressions while you engage with customers.
Imagine you are speaking to your grandparent
It may sound silly, but sometimes elderly people say wild stuff, but we afford them respect anyway because they are elders and we love them. Take this approach with customers and you will be more successful disarming them.
Take care of those who are responsible for your customers
Check-in with your customer-facing employees. They are also not ok. They are dealing with all the same things your customers are dealing with, plus the rude customers. Take care of the people who are tasked with taking care of your customers.
Operations Manager, Patchboyz
Keep your cool when someone is rude to you
I think that the important thing is to know oneself to be able to deal with another, and this definitely relates to dealing with rude or unruly customers. All the strategies and tactics in the world are useless if you can’t keep your cool when someone is rude to you.
If you have a claims form for unhappy customers:
- Ask the client what the problem is.
- Repeat the situation to them to make sure you understand the problem.
- Let them know you’re sorry they are not having the [insert company name] experience they deserve.
- Direct them to your claims form so that the matter can be dealt with properly.
If you don’t have a claims form:
- Ask the client what the problem is.
- Repeat the situation to them to make sure you understand the problem.
- Let them know you’re sorry they are not having the [insert company name] experience they deserve.
- Ask them what they feel should be done / Ask them what they feel is fair. Agree on a way to make things right that pleases both of you.
Using an example that’s related to our work: It is surprising how many people with a scratched floor will simply accept a $30 area rug to cover the scratch. By asking this question (my 4th point), you are allowing them to put the first offer on the table and you’re starting the process of solving the issue.
Inform the costumer that you will contact them again if necessary
At any point, if needed, let the client know you have to call them back if you feel as though you might lash back or that a few moments away from the situation could benefit both sides. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, and either side reacts with emotion. A few moments away can help you figure out a plan (and calm down) and might also help them cool down.
If a client is being rude to you, you can also direct the conversation to that fact directly. Say something like, “I understand you are frustrated, but I’m just trying to help. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak to me like that again. Can you do that for me?“
Founder, SEO Design Chicago
Let’s face it; a business is only as good as its customer’s reviews. Unfortunately, virtually any location or business can be harmed with bad reviews. An upset customer can mar a number of great responses.
There are steps to take when a negative rude review is left online like Google or Yelp, such as verifying its validity and ownership.
Aside from responding to negative reviews in a professional manner, there is not much one can do to get those bad reviews removed. Personal online reputation repair includes increasing positive content, improving your online presence, and highlighting your customer service.
Cool down first
It can be tempting to run with your emotions and jump at the chance to defend your business when dealing with rude customers. However, it is crucial to take the time to cool down before developing and positing a direct response to a customer.
Attempt to look at the issue and situation from the customer’s perspective.
Develop a response
Make sure to keep your response both short and professional. While it is important to address your customer’s concerns, you also want to consider how your response will look to others.
Try to impress any potential future customers who are watching your response while they decide whether or not to do business with your company.
Simple tips for drafting a response to a rude customer response:
- Pay attention to the tone of your response. Remain polite. Empathize with the customer.
- Focus on making your response useful and practical.
- Thank your customer for taking the time to bring the problems of your business to your attention.
- If applicable, show that you have taken the necessary steps to resolve the issue.
- Consider asking for a second chance. Invite them to come back to your business. This will help establish your confidence in your ability to make things right.
Customer Care Supervisor, SERVPRO
We do get our share of upset customers, as in any customer service industry.
Tips we share with our customer care specialists to help deescalate situations include:
- Let the caller talk through the situation while using active listening. Let them finish, as interrupting may make it worse.
- Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and repeat key phrases to let them know they are heard.
- Apologize to the customer for the problem they are having.
- Help the caller work through the issue to see what can be done.
- Empathize, showing you understand their frustration and it is not unfounded.
- Assure you will work to solve their problem or get them in touch with someone who can.
- Work for a single call resolution. Provide a warm transfer to the correct person.
- Help the caller work through the issue to see what can be done.
- Use phrases that let them know you are trying to help.
- Speak in a calm tone of voice.
- Use the caller’s name to bring the conversation to a personal level.
Stay neutral and steer the conversation back to the facts
If a caller is rude, we encourage our specialists to maintain their professionalism and not to engage. It is important to stay neutral and steer the conversation back to the facts.
If a specialist does not know the answer, we encourage them to ensure the caller they will find out or get them to someone who can provide an answer. A specialist must remain patient with callers and make it their goal to turn the experience around.
A caller who is being rude is often frustrated by their situation and acting out to escalate situations because they are feeling helpless. Ensuring callers you will be able to assist them while remaining professional will help bring them back to a normal level.
Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition®
Don’t get drawn into the customers’ anger
Although I have had many management positions across various industries, customer service is the common factor that bridges all over my time. I have dealt with many rude and angry customers.
The most important thing when dealing with a rude and angry customer is to:
- Keep calm and remain professional.
- Don’t get drawn into the customers’ anger. Don’t take their verbal tirade personally. You don’t know this person or what’s going on in their life.
- Rudeness has become a way of life. But, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Don’t let their poor attitude infect yours.
- Think of yourself as a mirror allowing the anger to hit your mirror and reflect back at the customer who is doing the yelling.
- Focus on finding out what the root of the problem is.
- I’ve cut through many a tense situation by letting the customer know they were right; however, they must be correct.
- If the demands are unrealistic or unacceptable, or you are being verbally abused or bullied by the customer, slow the interaction down by bringing in your supervisor. In most cases, they have the final authority to make things right or explain why not.
- Smile throughout the transaction to further deescalate the situation. If the person came in looking for a fight, it is critical not engaging in their fight. Stay neutral.
Software Engineer, Journalist, Radio Host, and Founder
Always have a proactive approach with clients
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling to businesses or operating a retail store; there will always be some irrational and downright rude customers. Some clients will make you happy, whilst others might make you want to bang your head against the wall.
Therefore, the tip here is always to have a proactive approach with clients. Having been in business for multiple years now, I’ve been able to develop an intuition that usually lets me know from the start whether a client is going to be easy to handle or not down the line.
Keep the end goal in mind
One difficult client can really make you use up all your resources in an attempt to satisfy them. Here’s a secret, not all clients are made equally. Some will hassle you endlessly, whilst others will be happy to let you get the job done on your own accord.
The key here is to realize that you’re in the business to provide value. It doesn’t matter here if the client is being rude or not, but what does matter is whether or not you can meet their demands.
If you feel that no matter what you do, the client isn’t going to be satisfied, then it’s best to drop them early and focus your efforts in places where they can actually make a difference.
Try not to be offended when a client says something nasty
Customers who are rude require a different approach overall. I’ve generally been more open and rigid about our agreements with them right off the bat. This helps us be on the same page and avoid future conflicts.
My job isn’t to be offended when a client says something nasty. I just brush that off and think whether or not I can help them out with their needs. And if the answer is no, I just move on to the next one.
CEO, Water Softeners Hub
There are times when you deal with customers who do not possess the best manners. Sometimes they act rudely to get their way, sometimes they seem like they don’t even want what you’re offering them, and sometimes they just come across as highly confused or irritated.
You might find yourself at a loss as to how you should respond and wish for some magic words or actions. Some people may suggest that you use some “psychological tricks” or “reverse psychology.”
Here are some ways to handle rude customers so you can turn their visit around and make them happy again.
Make every effort to be as nice as possible
Sometimes people just need a good experience with a customer service representative to perk up their mood. So be as pleasant as possible even if the customer is having a bad day and does not seem very sociable.
Be patient and understanding
If you’re dealing with a customer who’s having trouble making up their mind or seems to be extremely confused, try to understand why they’re acting that way and use as much patience as possible as you help them out.
Maybe they’re having a bad day like you, or perhaps there really is something wrong with the product and it needs to be returned.
Offer them alternatives
Sometimes people just want what they want and nothing else will do. If that’s the case, help them find an alternative solution to their problem instead of flat-out denying them service.
Director of Marketing and Content, Divorce Answers
Avoid blame games
All of your staff, even new hires, should be told to avoid blaming the client or the company. Even if it is their fault, directly blaming the customer is a sure way to irritate them.
Instead, the employee may say, “I’m truly sorry, there seems to be a problem, and we’ll do everything we can to correct it as soon as possible.” Such a reaction reassures the angry clients that you are aware that something has gone wrong and that you will do all possible to correct it.
Prepare scripts for common FAQs
At some point, every business will experience rude customers. Based on such encounters, you can develop script responses. When the support team encounters such customers, they can employ these scripts.
One thing the team must remember when using scripted responses is to use a script that is appropriate for dealing with angry customers.
Objectify scenarios and situations
Objectifying a situation or event is looking at it from many viewpoints and perspectives. So, if someone has said something to you that was nasty, disrespectful, belittling, rude, or condescending, don’t take it personally.
Related: How to Not Take Things Personally
Instead of responding negatively, you would consider all of the possibilities for something wonderful or beneficial to emerge. As well as all of the positive things you may do or contribute to that person or people.
That may mean offering to move their call to someone more senior or knowledgeable and powerful than you, but in reality, it’s just going to someone else in the same department who follows the same rationale and approach until it’s resolved, at which point they can decide how to handle it.
But more importantly, something that will benefit both of you. It could even be as simple as responding to anything someone has said and inviting them to provide feedback or a testimonial. Even a coupon code or a discounted price for something.
Focus on finding and solving the root problem
It’s easy to lose sight of the problem when a consumer is verbally abusing you. This is when you may find it difficult to maintain your composure.
Instead, pay attention to what they’re saying and utilize that to figure out what the problem is. You may begin solving the problem once you’ve identified it.
If there’s one thing that might assist an irritated customer to relax, it’s you stating that you’ve found a solution to their problem. And, rather than sitting on the phone listening to someone rant at you, focusing on the process of problem-solving will help you relax.
Customers are important for business, but they act out of the box at times. They may act very rudely and talk harshly, sometimes the reason for it is justified and sometimes not. Thus, they need to be dealt with nicely.
When a customer is being rude, it’s a natural response for you to get angry. But it would be best if you remembered, they drive your business, and you should be empathetic towards them.
Instead of shouting back, try to understand the problem and solve it. Also, understanding the customer will make them realize that they are being understood, and they might change their behavior.
Attempt to apologize if the problem is serious
You must try to apologize if the problem is serious. An apology has the power to lessen someone’s anger. A sincere apology will make the customer feel that you genuinely feel bad for the problem that is caused. Also, there is no need to apologize if the company has done no wrong.
Address the problem quickly
One can try to act quickly at such times. One must try to solve the problem immediately since it will also save you from a lot of hackles. And also, solving the problem may change the customer’s unpleasant behavior.
Hear out your customers
One must try to hear out their customers. This will help them understand the problem that is caused better, and it will be easier for them to solve it. It is important to know the cause of the problem because it will bring loss to the business if it is actually problematic.
Maintain your composure at all times
The most important way to deal with a rude customer is to stay calm. One must try to ignore the harsh comments made by the customers. This will help prevent the situation from being exaggerated.
One must try to let the customers say whatever they want at first. If one remains, customers will be tired. But don’t stay shut for too long. It might frustrate them.
Thus, one can follow these tips when dealing with rude customers.
CEO, Book of Barbering
Listen to them
This is the most important piece of advice I can give anyone working in customer service. Let them vent, let them say what is on their mind, and then try to work through it with them.
Don’t take it personally
Customer service representatives often feel undervalued and unappreciated for their work, making them nervous about standing up for themselves or the company.
However, suppose you treat a customer in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable or disrespected. In that case, he might escalate the situation by yelling at you or using inappropriate language toward you. If this happens, try to stay calm and don’t take it personally — even if the customer is very harsh on you.
Think before responding emotionally
It’s easy to let your emotions get the best of you when dealing with an unpleasant customer because angry people are—well—angry. If you’re feeling angry yourself, step back for a moment and collect yourself before responding.
Escalate the issue appropriately
If you’re unable to resolve a situation directly with a customer who has been rude or abusive towards you, try contacting your supervisor or manager for help resolving the issue.
At this point, you should also document your interaction with the rude customer and include any notes on what was said.
Switch to a phone call
One of the best ways to diffuse a heated argument with a customer is switching from email or chat to a one-on-one phone call. There’s nothing as personal as talking to someone directly, especially when you’re on the receiving end of rudeness.
This puts you in control of the situation and allows you to interact more personally with the customer. It will be easier for you to manage the conversation and keep the stress minimum.
Provide real-time assistance
The first impression of a consumer is really important. Whether it is positive or negative, it produces a lasting memory of the experience that determines client loyalty.
Real-time support is a key component of providing a great customer experience. And it is a win-win situation for businesses when they are able to satisfy their expectations. With live chat, you can provide real-time sales and support to your consumers.
Understanding the client’s journey allows you to provide proactive assistance. With live support options such as co-browsing and video chat, you can discover problems sooner and provide customized solutions on the first encounter.
Exercise empathy on a daily basis
Empathy is the most effective method to cope with a harsh consumer. It’s the easiest method to de-escalate the issue if you know why they’re being unpleasant. It can tell you what they anticipate from you and point you in the right direction. You might begin by considering the matter from the customer’s point of view.
When employing a customer service representative, ask questions to determine how empathetic they are. What’s the matter with them? How would you react if this event occurred to you? Make the most of the answers you come up with.
Before resolving any issue, teach your team to exercise empathy on a daily basis. Once they’ve found the problem, urge them to build rapport with the client by telling them that they, too, would be frustrated if the same thing happened to them.
Don’t take it personally
A number of conflicts get out of hand due to undue escalation in the moment. I know it can be hard to disconnect in the moment – but just try to remember, it’s not personal.
I’ve tried to remind my team to practice empathy as much as possible and how sometimes the smallest things can inexplicably set us off beyond belief.
Perhaps the client is having a bad day and ends up taking their frustration out on us – whilst it’s wrong nonetheless, staying calm is a lot easier once you accept these facts.
Take it as a team
This is not the time for an employee to show the other up by swooping in and solving the issue at hand, undermining their coworker. Whilst I definitely encourage collaborative work, I do not allow my employees to purposely put their teammates down to look better.
In the boss’s eyes, you’re better off working as a unit – and sometimes, that involves taking a hit together too.
Ask for extra time
Usually, the rude client wants to keep unleashing steam until the issue is resolved. In an effort to speed this process up, some employees might be tempted to roughly manufacture a below-average solution that simply irks the client more so.
Don’t be afraid to ask for extra time to find an optimum solution! This gives your end a chance to discuss and come up with the most feasible option and allows the client to cool off and have a more logical interaction next time around.
Gift Researcher, GiftRabbit
The gap technique
I have been using this strategy whenever I deal with very, very rude and angry customers. They are the ones who will curse and shout as you speak with them.
Let the customer speak, vent out, and pour all their negative emotions on you as they have felt invalidated and underserved at one point or another.
Act as a sponge of their emotions but never take it personally. Once they are done, give them a few second or minute gap to get themselves together (and for you too). Now, you can talk and tell your side of the story.
The gap creates an emotional detachment for both customer and you, and to be more objective about the situation. The gap is like creating a breather from the cloud of emotions that results in bad expressions of emotions.
The usual equation of rude customers is this ‘Emotion > Expression.’ But as a Customer Service professional, you are responsible for creating a safe space for both of you to talk in a civilized manner. So your equation should always be ‘Emotion > Gap > Expression.’
Founder, LifeGoal Investments
Take a human approach when communicating with customers
Avoid relying too heavily on the rulebook. Having certain rules in place can be helpful in guiding customer service processes, but make sure that customers feel their unique needs are being met as much as possible.
It’s important to find a balance between an objective and subjective approach to handling customer concerns.
A lack of empathy can escalate customers who already feel that they are not being heard or helped. Acknowledge the situation and any errors that may have been made, and provide solutions that remedy the mistakes.
If customers are being rude and aggressive, even after you’ve tried to remain patient and offer them reasonable solutions, it may be best to hand them off to a supervisor who can propose alternative options.
Annemarie Lafferty, CECP
Neuro Emotional Therapy Specialist | Owner, Healing Within Wellness
Engage as an observer of the complaint
Dealing with rude customers is easy if you engage as someone standing on the sideline of the complaint.
- Observe it from the other person’s point of view and seek to find the solution quickly.
- Avoid becoming “personally” involved by not taking what they are saying as a personal criticism.
- Immediately identify the complaint; what occurred and what is it they want in response?
- If it’s a reasonable fix such as taking a dish off of a restaurant bill because it was served cold right from the kitchen or not prepared to their liking, then yes, take the item off their bill.
- A simple quick remedy and asking if there is anything else you can do goes a long way.
- The rude customer wants to control the situation; give a quick and respectful solution to de-escalate the individual as well as any bystanders.
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