Handling Rude Customers

Updated: Jan 4

By: Brittany Winfield

As a former waitress and front desk employee, I have seen my fair-share of rude customers.

Yelling, screaming, waving fists, but worst of all - telling me how to do my job. It takes an extraordinary amount of willpower to keep your cool, but in the end, there is nothing more satisfying than asking someone to leave the establishment. When a customer looks to be physically or verbally agitated, you can use these tips to move the conversation along, while maintaining your own emotional balance:

1. Ask questions to find the root of the problem.

The issue may be a user error, like not reading the business hours correctly. Or it may be a bigger problem that could cause ongoing problems for future customers, like a broken link on your website. By using an inquiry-approach, you avoid making assumptions, which can escalate a situation even further than it needs to be.

2. Take a deep breath.

The last thing you need is someone grabbing their phone and recording a full blown fight between you and the customer. If you are unable to excuse yourself and walk away for a few moments, take a few breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Not only does it lower your blood pressure, it will help your voice remain firm and stable.

3. Check your tone of voice and body language.

The key to conflict resolution is active listening. So many times, we listen to reply, rather than understand. Part of this is breaking down the emotional barrier that comes with appearing closed off. Avoid crossing your arms and look at the person while they are talking. Even if they are completely in the wrong, if they do not feel heard in the situation, it will only escalate them even further.

4. Use positive language.

If a customer is so closed off to anyone else’s opinion but their own, there is nothing you could say to change their mind. No matter what the case is, always offer a genuine apology. This could be as simple as saying “I’m sorry.” Or saying other statements like “I appreciate your feedback” and “I can see/understand why you are frustrated.”

5. Find a solution.

We’ve all heard the saying, “the customer is always right.” But if you’ve ever worked in retail or the food service industry, you know that statement is complete bull. Despite who is actually wrong in the situation, it is not a good idea to assign blame to either party. When replying, avoid using you statements, but focus on the I and the opportunity for growth that has presented itself.

This is your reminder that it is your business, and one customer is not going to diminish all of the hard work you put into generating your reputation. With a professional communication plan in times of conflict, you have the opportunity to harness that gained attention and recruit potential new customers.

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