In customer service, rude customers are sadly inevitable. You’ll pick up a call, receive an email, or have someone walk into your office who has strong feelings to express—and you’ll be on the receiving end of rude behavior.
Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks to deal with rude customers. Mostly, these ideas come down to one thing: not to respond with the same level of emotion. Stay cool and collected. Be professional. You can’t control how someone else speaks to you, but you can try to manage your own reactions.
Let’s look at this issue in a bit more detail—and tap into those tips.
Why are some customers so rude?
This isn’t an easy question to answer, as many factors can affect how a customer treats a customer service agent. In some cases, they may just be hangry and need a sandwich. But others are genuinely fed up with the quality of the product or service they’ve received.
Some of the leading causes of rudeness in customers include:
- The product or service they purchased wasn’t up to standard
- They feel let down by promises your company made
- They’ve had several, consistently negative experiences
- They feel cheated and hard done by
- They feel that you aren’t trying hard enough to resolve a situation
- The customer service agent has been rude to them, too
(It’s worth noting that not every unhappy customer is a rude customer. Some customers can express their dissatisfaction politely and calmly without becoming angry or aggressive. In this post, we’re looking at those who don’t manage to do that.)
How should you handle rude customers?
Let’s look at some practical tips to help you respond to rude customers:
- Stay calm:
It’s easier said than done when you have someone screaming at you but staying calm in tense situations is really important. Try not to fight fire with fire. Let the customer have their say, take a few deep breaths, and start apologizing—sincerely. Then, reply kindly and helpfully, outlining how you might be able to resolve the situation.
- Manage your expectations:
Research from a team at the University of British Columbia has found that the expectations of customer service agents play an important role in difficult interactions.
Employees who expect unpleasant conversations are less likely to mirror customer rudeness with their own rude behavior. This comes down to training: being prepared for rude customers can help you cope when they appear.
- Remember, it’s not personal:
This can also be tricky, especially if you carry the residue of a tough interaction after it’s passed. (Studies suggest that employees who experience rudeness in the morning tend to carry it throughout their workday.)
But a customer’s experience—and especially their reaction—is not about you. Try not to take the emotional response personally. Take a break after a contentious conversation so that you can return to your work feeling fresh. If necessary, ask your supervisor to talk through what happened. You might find you need some support.
- Get to the heart of the matter:
Uncovering the root cause of your customer’s frustration is a delicate art. Sometimes the most recent issue isn’t necessarily the biggest one—it’s just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ask careful and deliberate questions about what your customer’s expectations were and how your company failed to meet those expectations. Then, start to look for possible solutions.
- Find a solution that works:
If you’re turning your customer’s fury into friendliness, one of the most important things to do is find a sustainable long-term solution to their problem. This might involve enlisting the help of a supervisor or manager if senior intervention is needed or the finance department if refunds or credit notes will help.
- Follow up:
Make a note of when the issue should have been resolved and follow up with your customer. A simple phone call to ensure they received a replacement for the broken product they bought, or to confirm that their refund came through, can help instill some of your customer’s confidence back in your business.
- Train your team:
If you’re the manager of a customer service team, one of the most important things you can do is prepare your team for rude customers. Train them on your company’s policies, and let them know where they can find different levels of help.
A study in South Korea found that if customer behavior was dysfunctional, employees were more likely to sabotage their interactions with customers—which only made things worse. But when provided social support, employees were less prone to reacting poorly.
- Develop standard responses to help your team:
An important part of any crisis response is speed. If your customers are angry, you’re only going to make them angrier if you take too long to respond to their concerns. For managers, developing standardized answers that your team can easily tweak according to the situation will speed you up significantly.
Magical allows you to create customer support templates and drop them into emails and chats with just a couple of keystrokes. You can rely on these shortcuts to respond in the right way, every time—while being able to customize everything you need to make your message personal. Magical can save you up to 7 hours every week, and it’s super easy to set up. No coding is needed. Download the app and it works like a charm.
Dealing with your rude customers effectively can be hugely beneficial. Studies show that 78% of consumers will do business with companies again after a mistake if the company’s customer service is good. This is why your team needs to have a consistent comms approach for rude customers—something an app like Magical will help you manage.
How do you handle aggressive customers?
Aggressive customers are different from rude customers. If a customer makes you feel like your physical safety is at risk, react quickly to diffuse the situation. This might involve calling for help from a supervisor or a security team member if the interaction is in-person.
In an extreme situation, of course—call the police.
Can you walk away when customers are rude?
Yes, you can walk away when customers are rude. The old adage “the customer is always right” definitely isn’t true. If a rude customer abuses employees, damages their mental health and contributes to staff turnover, you can refuse to do business with them anymore.
This, too, should be handled politely and professionally. Have the hard conversation you need to have, address the fact that the relationship is no longer working, and direct them to one of your competitors. This may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes stepping aside from rude and damaging customers is the best thing for your team and your business.
Hopefully, though, this won’t be necessary. Start by improving, standardizing and streamlining your customer service responses. This means you’ve got all the tools you need ready to support you when customers are rude.