Career Development

How To Deal With Rude Customers

March 9, 2021

Customers can be rude for various reasons, and some are justified and some are not. However, when your primary duty is to provide customer service, you will sometimes encounter angry or rude individuals. How you respond can make the difference between lost customers and satisfied customers. In this article, we discuss how to deal with rude customers.

Ways to deal with rude customers

Here's a look at some of the best ways to deal with rude customers:

Be empathetic

The simplest way to handle rude customers involves using empathy. If you know why customers are being rude, it's the best way to defuse the situation. Ask the customer why they're upset. Once you have identified the issue, establish rapport with the customer by letting them know that you would also be disappointed if the problem was happening to you.

For instance, if a customer complains about the quality of their morning coffee, you can say something like, "I sure wouldn't like to begin my day with a bad cup of coffee!" After that, you can begin trying to solve the problem. This strategy helps the customer realize that they are speaking to a person who understands them and can solve their issue.

Listen actively

Listen closely to what the customer is saying, instead of paying attention to the anger behind their words. If you listen actively to the words they are saying, you can easily determine what's making them so upset and how to resolve the problem, instead of just trying to comfort them and defuse the situation.

For example, say a customer walks into your store and says, "Your product stopped working three days after I bought it. I am really shocked how poorly it's designed." Pay close attention to the words this customer used, particularly the word "shocked." This is how they described their feelings. They are not irate but rather surprised by the quality of your product.

In this case, you may be tempted to respond with something like, "I understand your disappointment." However, notice how this response intensifies the customer's feelings. You are allowing them to go from feeling surprised about the problem of feeling frustrated. Instead, demonstrate active listening by using the same language your customer is using. You can say something like, "That definitely is surprising! Let's check why the product has stopped working unexpectedly." This response recognizes the feelings of the customer without escalating their emotions.

Chunk the issue

Chunking refers to the process of taking one big problem and dividing it into several smaller portions. These small portions are easier to manage and make you more willing to deal with the problem at hand. People usually use chunking to organize their day-to-day tasks. It's equally helpful when dealing with challenging problems.

For example, say a client always has a reason why they cannot set up their account and start using the company's software. You can ask them during your next meeting to help you break down each of the final steps you need to take to get things moving. Chunking each task makes it easier for the client to digest what's left to do.

Related: 5 Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

Repeat what the customer has said back to them

A fundamental part of active listening is making sure you and the customer are in sync. Thus, once you have identified the root cause of the anger, repeat what the customer has said back to them to make sure you understand each other, and to let them know that their problem has been heard of and will be responded to.

For instance, you can begin by saying, "What I'm hearing is..." and then repeat their vocabulary back to them. If possible, emphasize how the issue is preventing them from achieving their goal. This demonstrates that you not only listened but also understand why they need your help.

Stay calm and stoic

When you deal with rude customers, you have to stay calm that you are almost expressionless. Don't take the situation personally. The majority of the time, the comments and criticisms rude customers are making are not meant to attack you directly. They are just mad and you are the person who had the misfortune of speaking to them.

One great way to handle a ranting customer is to just let them say what they want to say. Sooner or later, they will run out of things to say. Just stay quiet and calm until they tire themselves out. Listen to them and never interrupt for any reason. Once they have said their piece, excuse yourself and say you are going to start trying to resolve their concern.

If you are dealing with rude customers over the phone, you can just say something like, "I fully understand your concern. Let me just speak to someone and make sure this does not happen again. I'll get back to you shortly." Then put them on hold. This strategy encourages rude customers to reflect on the way they are reacting.

Offer solutions

Once you understand why the customer is rude, you can offer a solution. If the customer is not totally happy with your solution, ask them what would need to change. Here are some examples of statements to introduce solutions:

  • "I know this isn't how you want to start your day, and I can offer you this solution"
  • "There are several ways to resolve this. We just have to find the one that best suits you"
  • "In my experience, the best way to approach this is ________. Does that seem good for you?"
  • "Your problem is unusual, but I have handled the same cases before and I can help you"

If you give a negative message, make sure to counter it with a positive one. For example, you can say, "While I can't do that for you, I can do this for you."

Act quickly

If you can resolve the issue immediately, then, by all means, do so. Being able to address a customer's issue quickly may just turn their unpleasant experience into a pleasant one. They might also end up as a loyal customer who purchases from you regularly and tells their family and friends.

Resolving a customer's concern as soon as possible also prevents an issue from escalating. This is especially true if a customer is complaining loudly inside your store.

Offer a sincere apology

Whether or not you feel you are in the wrong, you should always apologize. This is to show the customer that you do feel bad that they have had an unpleasant experience with the company's service or product.

However, you don't necessarily have to apologize if you or the company has done nothing wrong, as that may be taken as you admitting guilt in a problem in which you are actually not at fault. Hence, be mindful of the language you use. Instead of saying, "My apology for our mistake," try saying statements like, "I'm sorry that you have had an unpleasant experience with our service/product." You can sympathize with the customer without taking the blame.

Related: How To Write an Apology Letter

Pay close attention to your tone

Focus on your tone when dealing with a rude customer. You have to learn how to employ a neutral or nice tone as needed. Speak and breathe slowly and never raise your voice to be heard. If the customer interrupts you, let them speak. If they interrupt you repeatedly, ask them politely if you can respond to what they said. Keep in mind that the way you say things is just as important as what you say. If you are collected, cool and calm, the customer will find it increasingly harder to keep being rude.

Thank the customer for voicing their concern to you

When the customer sounds negative and angry about a situation, thanking them for bringing the issue to your attention can go a long way toward establishing a rapport with them. A simple thank-you to acknowledge their patience and time as you work to solve the problem is enough.

For example, the easiest way to thank the customer is to do it repeatedly. When the customer begins a product inquiry, thank them for contacting you. When you are working on an issue and there's a long period of silence, thank the customer for bearing with you as you resolve their issue. Also, when the customer gives you feedback, either negative or positive, thank them for sharing their opinion and making the company's customer service better.

Set a time to follow up with the customer if necessary

Sometimes, an issue can't be solved in just one phone call and may require you to escalate it to your supervisor or file an internal request with the company's product team. If this is the case, inform the customer why you can't handle the problem on the phone with them, and let them know when you'll reach out next.

Make sure to explain why the break will benefit them. For instance, if you have to talk to a product expert before you can troubleshoot, let the customer know about it. Tell them that you cannot take any further actions until you hang up the phone and talk to your reference. If the customer is anxious about this proposal, reassure them by giving a contingency plan. Give them a timeline of when they can expect to hear from you next and let them know what information you expect to have by that time.

Related: How To Schedule a Meeting by Email

Ask for a copy of written statements

If the customer has an issue with the product they purchased, ask to see their receipt. If they are making demands that go against an agreement they signed, you can give them a copy of the agreement. If your communication with the customer is through a series of emails, you can email them proof of an agreement or contract, or simply refer them to an earlier email, if any previous communication dealt with the issue at hand.

Regardless of the situation, having some kind of documentation or supporting evidence can help you immediately shut down a rude customer's demands, if they are being unreasonable.

Keep it factual

If the client's anger is making the issue difficult to deal with, you can try to keep everything factual. Simply outlining the issue at hand encourages the customer to pay attention to their communication and makes it harder to keep an aggressive tone.

It also helps to provide customers with some idea of what steps you will take to help them. While you may be confident in your skills, they don't know anything about you or the steps you're following. Here are some examples of statements to keep the conversation factual:

  • "I will do this for you as fast as possible"
  • "Is there anything else about the issue I need to know?"
  • "To make sure you get the best possible help, I may bring my manager into the call"

Always listen to the customer before saying anything. They may have rehearsed what they are going to tell you and by interrupting them you can escalate their feelings. Before helping the customer with their concern, ask if it's okay that you verify the query, so they know you were listening. This also avoids providing the customer with the wrong information.

Communicate what you can and can't do about their concern

Once you have heard what the customer has to say, let them know what you can and can't do about their issue. Whatever you say, though, make sure you do something. If there's nothing that you or your colleagues can do, let the customer know. Make sure to be polite but firm. You can say something like, "I understand your disappointment, and I'm really sorry, but there's nothing we can do about the issue." The customer may get more upset, but they will most likely recognize they are defeated and leave after they feel they said their piece.

Consult with your supervisor or manager

If you are not authorized to issue refunds or exchanges, or if you're certain that doing so would go against the policy of the company, ask the help of your manager. You should inform your manager if the customer becomes rude or unreasonable, as the manager may have to intervene before things escalate. Make sure to explain to your manager what the customer's concerns are and what the problem seems to be caused by.

Your manager may give you directions on how to proceed, or they may offer to step in and speak to the customer themselves. At the very least, your manager should be able to help you come up with a reasonable solution to the issue, ideally one that would please all parties involved.

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