How to Deal with Rude Customers: Tips for Customer Service

Chris Thomas
October 4, 2021
Read time:
11
Minutes
Customer Service
Chris Thomas

Let's face it.

Handling rude customers is probably the worst part of working in customer service.

How are you actually supposed to deal with them? 

How are you supposed to maintain a calm disposition? 

Most importantly of all, how can you challenge rude behaviour without being accused of offering inferior customer support?

In this article, we'll be offering you a simple solution. You'll learn:

  • How rude customers can affect your business and your staff
  • The fundamental causes behind your customers' rude behaviour
  • The best attitude to adopt when speaking to rude customers
  • The step-by-step guide to dealing with rude customers - without losing their business
  • How to decrease the likelihood of rude customers in the future

Let's get started!

How do you define a rude customer?

Many types of customers are prone to complaining.

But contrary to popular belief, not all customers who complain can be called rude.

In the best circumstances, most unsatisfied customers will remain calm when speaking to your support team.

They'll be able to explain their problems without resorting to offensive language.

That said, some customers are unfortunately prone to bad behaviour.

What's more, even well-mannered customers might resort to rude behaviour if they experience poor customer service.

Either way, most customers don't resort to verbal abuse out of the blue.

One way or another, these customers have become frustrated - perhaps due to a bad experience or a negative perception of your brand.

It's up to you and your employees to win them over!

What causes rude customers?

There are a vast variety of reasons why a customer might resort to rudeness when contacting your company.

These reasons can range from the understandable to the downright bizarre.

More often than not, you have no control of these causes.

For instance, a rude customer might’ve recently experienced a personal setback, and they're unwittingly taking it out on your staff.

They might just have skipped their morning coffee!

Either way, there are four main reasons why some customers will forget their manners and resort to rudeness.

Fortunately, you do have control over the following factors:

Faulty products or services

Customers see a faulty product or service as a breach of their trust.

After all, they've parted with their hard-earned cash to purchase from your company.

If they receive an item well below the expected standard, it can cause immense frustration - even anger.

Poor customer service

Bad customer service is another huge cause of customer rudeness.

If customers experience an issue with your product or service, it's highly likely to impact their satisfaction levels.

Still, these customers might be able to take a deep breath.

They might be able to take the high road.

But if you’re guilty of any major customer service mistakes, frustration levels are going to rise!

Top Tip: One quick way to avoid poor customer service is to do away with impersonal stock responses. Start by replacing phrases like ‘sorry for the inconvenience’!

Long wait times

Long wait times are another cause of rude behaviour. 

Your customers are probably familiar with how long it takes to get through to an agent on the phone or connect via live chat. 

Nevertheless, when your contact agents take too long to resolve an issue, customers are going to get annoyed.

This is especially true if your present an unrealistic brand policy in regards to your live chat queues.

Top tip: To make sure you’re not annoying your customers via live chat, check out our guide on the top live chat best practices

A negative customer experience

The phrase customer experience relates to how your customers perceive their complete journey with you as a company. 

It means that even one mistake along that journey can lead to complaints or customer rudeness. 

Unfortunately, this is a sad reality when interacting with your site visitors. 

Even loyal customers can develop the wrong attitude if they feel like their experience hasn't met their standards.

How can rude customers affect your business?

Rude customers can affect your business in a variety of ways.

How your staff interact with these customers can have a huge impact too.

Whenever a rude customer gets in touch, it might be tempting to fight fire with fire.

Nevertheless, if you're not careful, negative interactions can spiral out of control.

For starters, they can push rude customers to leave negative reviews that might cause lasting damage to your business's reputation. 

With 88% of customers researching customer reviews when making a purchase, this isn’t an ideal situation! 

But negative reviews aren't the only way in which these customers can negatively affect your business.

Here are some key examples of how failing to deal with rude customers can impact your growth. 

Sales

Failing to deal with rude customers can damage your sales levels in two main ways.

Firstly, rude customers are still customers - they might have even brought you a large amount of business and demonstrated keen brand loyalty.

While resorting to rude behaviour isn't excusable, failing to solve these customers could mean less turnover in the long run.

Secondly, rude customers can share their experiences with others, turning away other potential customers and inbound leads.

Over half of the customers that do share bad experiences will share them with at least five other people

That’s a lot of missed opportunities for the sake of one negative interaction. 

Top Tip: Make sure you’re entire customer experience is on point by checking out or guide on the best tactics for your digital customer experience strategy.

Efficiency

Interactions with rude customers take up more time than regular interactions. 

They also lead to more escalations between contact agents and managers.

In turn, this damages your average handling and first resolution times.

It means that a failure to handle rude customers effectively can cost you precious time, as well as sales. 

Employee satisfaction

When dealing with an upset or angry customer, employee well-being is one of the most important factors to consider.

If a customer service rep doesn't know how to handle a rude customer, they are more likely to become stressed or upset.

In turn, they'll become less productive.

They might become more likely to respond with aggression too. 

This isn't just bad for an employee's feelings.

It also affects your customer relationships at large and your other employees’ attitudes too.

If you've got one member of your support team who's just come off a call with a ranting customer, they're more likely to affect team morale. 

This is especially true if they don't have proper support from their manager.

It means that a few negative interactions can soon affect your whole team's focus, as well as their customer service quality.

Who should handle rude customers?

Dealing with rude customers is a vital part of your support teams’ responsibilities.

This means that all of your contact agents should be well-equipped to deal with rude customers.

Their ability to deal with a tense situation can be a key indicator of their future capabilities and performance.

That said, different situations require different personalities.

And sometimes, the very worst customers don't deserve your time and attention at all.

For instance, your staff shouldn't have to tolerate verbally abusive or irate customers. 

Still, even if a customer is acting in a wholly intolerable and disrespectful way, you have to deal with them somehow. 

Even if that means hanging up on a phone call or ending a live chat interaction.

So, how do you handle these customers without causing further problems?

At the same time, how do you safeguard your employees' sense of satisfaction and well-being?

How to handle inappropriate customers

If a customer starts acting inappropriately, the customer service team should inform their manager immediately.

Managers will then be able to step in and assess the situation or take over.

However, if a caller or a site visitor proves to be a nuisance customer, your support team members should immediately terminate the call. 

Next, they should log the offender's details.

This person should then be blocked from contacting the company once and for all.

Permitting inappropriate behaviour unrelated to your business will only lead these offenders to take advantage of your staff.  

The best attitude to adopt when dealing with rude customers

However you prepare your team for troublesome customers, always remind them that a negative customer attitude isn't their fault.

It's not a reflection on how they perform their roles.

It's not a reflection on how well or how poorly you do your jobs as managers either.

So, make sure your team deal with these customers with the right mindset.

They need to treat rude customers with a kind but distanced sense of duty.

It might be their job to assist customers, but they don't need to take any poor behaviour to heart!

How to deal with rude customers: A step-by-step guide

Now that we've got a better understanding of how important it is to combat bad behaviour, let's take a look at how to deal with rude customers the next time one gets in touch.

1) Prepare your customer service team

To effectively deal with rude customers, staff resilience and preparedness is key. 

So, make sure you’re regularly training your contact agents and testing their skills.

For instance, activities like roleplaying can be a great way to prepare your team for varying levels of rudeness.

Analysing live chat transcripts from previous interactions is also a great idea. 

Both tactics will allow your staff to better understand how to develop the right mindset when they next face a rude customer.

2) Listen and pay attention to your tone

Whether a customer is complaining politely or rudely, both of them ultimately want the same thing: acknowledgement.

No one wants to feel like they're being ignored.

Regardless of whether your customers are being rude or not, start by listening and letting them finish what they have to say.

Acknowledge your customer's feelings, and remember that kindness is key.

You can even demonstrate that your actively listening by repeating your customer’s issue back to them for clarification. For example: 

'So, just to clarify, your delivery arrived late? That must be incredibly frustrating. I’m going to do all I can to get this sorted.'

At first, some customers might jump to the conclusion that you're palming them off or being patronising.

Nevertheless, if your contact agents take the time to communicate their sense of duty to your customers, the customer will soon respond with kindness.

3) Demonstrate empathy, not liability

Customers today are all too used to fast and impersonal customer service.

Instead, set your company apart by demonstrating your dedication to building better customer relationships.

To do this, simply give your customer more listening space if they need it.

Empathise with their frustration and establish rapport before trying to solve their problem.

Your customer will soon lose steam if they realise you're actually listening to their point!

The only caveat with this step: remember not to personally apologise for the issue at hand.

It's best to listen actively and demonstrate genuine empathy.

For instance, try: 'I'm so sorry this has happened - it sounds like a real pain', rather than 'I'm so sorry we've made you feel this way.'

4) Find the impact behind the issue

While engaging a rude customer, you'll want to uncover the real reason for their poor behaviour.

Your customer might be complaining about a faulty product, but what if that product was a gift?

What if this gift was for a significant event, and the faulty product made them look or feel bad?

What if they felt embarrassed, even?

Finding the impact behind the customers' issue is essential - once again, it'll make your customers feel genuinely heard.

This technique will allow you to understand how best to solve the issue at hand.

5) Offer a solution for the issue and the impact

By this point, your customer will find it increasingly harder to maintain their bad mood.

Even so, how you solve the issue at hand will vary depending on the situation.

Just remember to focus on solving the impact, as well as the issue.

For example, if a product was damaged in transit, you might opt to send out a new replacement for no additional cost.

This will help solve the customer’s issue.

But what if the product was a gift, as per our previous example?

In that case, why not offer them a free additional gift that compliments their original purchase?

That way, the impact of their issue is also neatly solved: they’re able to offer an additional gift for no extra cost. 

Of course, you’ll need to assess these tactics on a case-by-case basis.

Nevertheless, providing a multi-layered approach to their issue can prove a breath of fresh air - regardless of your customers' mood when they first got in touch.

6) Set a time frame for resolution and offer a follow-up

The next step is to agree on a time frame within which the issue will be resolved.

Setting deadlines goes hand-in-hand with demonstrating how much you care about your customers' satisfaction.

What's more, this step serves as a great way to bring the discussion to a close.

After all, most customers are seeking as quick a fix as possible. 

Now is your chance to make good on it!

Make sure to offer a follow up with your customers too, especially if you have a proven relationship with a loyal customer.

You don't want to lose business if the customers' problem persists further down the line.

7) Thank your customer and ask for feedback

The final step is to thank your customer for their time - like you would with any other customer!

Even if the interaction has been challenging, rude customers can still be valuable for your business.

This is especially true if you've put effort into winning them around.

So, remember to show gratitude and ask for feedback.

After all, the cause behind their initial attitude might also highlight an area in which you need to improve.

To paraphrase Bill Gates, a customer's complaints could be ‘your greatest source of learning’. 

8) Recover

Once you've finished up with the interaction, it's essential to take the time to recover.

Dealing with troublesome customers can be incredibly taxing for support staff.

Consider your own emotions the last time you had to deal with a difficult person or situation.

Chances are, you needed to take a moment to recompose yourself.

You and your contact agents need this kind of downtime too.

So, let them take a moment to breathe before the final step in the process. 

9) Analyse

While you don't need to analyse interactions with a rude customer immediately, scheduling a debrief is a great idea. 

Doing so will allow you and your staff to reflect on how you handled the situation.

For instance, did your contact agent handle the customer well?

Did they solve the actual problem, or did they make things worse by neglecting active listening?

For irate customers, would it have been better to refuse service until they’d calmed down?

Questions like these will provide you with an opportunity to identify areas in which you can improve.

How to decrease the likelihood of rude customers

So there we have it - the step by step guide to dealing with rude customers!

To round off our discussion, let's take a quick look at the tactics you can use to decrease the likelihood of these customers in the future.

Offer instant customer service

One of the best ways to save your customers from a bad experience is by offering instant online customer service.

Even in the age of 24/365 support, some customers end up waiting hours or even days before their problem is resolved.

This is not ideal - especially if you're dealing with an already angry person!

Customers today expect a seamless customer experience when making a purchase.

They want you to act quickly if something's gone wrong with their purchase.

So give your customer service team the best possible tools by investing in an omnichannel customer service platform.

Analyse past issues

Reviewing past interactions is another excellent way to minimise the likelihood of future conflicts.

By analysing your contact history, you can identify common or recurring issues with customers.

Using this data, you can preemptively solve customer pain points before they’ve even occurred - a prime example of proactive customer service

Set customer service goals

Once you've got a good idea of the most common issues amongst your customers, it's a great idea to set relevant customer service goals to improve your customer care. 

For instance, if most of your customers are frustrated by your response times, why not adopt newer communication channels to streamline your customer support?

Live chat can help you offer real-time responses to your customers, improving resolution times.

Chatbots can help alleviate strain on your contact agents. 

Video chat can vastly improve your average handling time too, allowing you to engage more customers at a faster rate.

Exploring options like these could mean the difference between happy customers and rude ones.

Perform quality checks

Whatever product or service you offer, customers expect the best.

If you deliver a substandard product, your customers will feel like you've broken the trust.

To mitigate this issue, make sure your quality control is first-class, and never ship untested products.

End inappropriate interactions before they get out of hand

Sometimes, saving a customer interaction is beyond hope.

Either your customer is too angry to be consoled, or they're a nuisance caller that's only looking to cause trouble.

Either way, your support staff shouldn't have to deal with abusive customers.

So, make sure they feel comfortable terminating interactions with any customer that's not worth their time or focus.

Rude customers in summary

Rude customers are unpleasant for everyone involved.

But how can you and your contact agents deal with them effectively?

To round up, here are the key takeaways you need to remember:

  • Stay calm and collected throughout the whole process.
  • Offer fast yet empathetic customer service via smart contact channels.
  • Seek to understand the impact of the issue at hand before offering a solution.
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to terminate conversations when necessary.

Ultimately, a rude customer isn't a reflection of you or your staff.

Nevertheless, there'll always be customers who overstep the mark.

But by following the above tips, you'll be able to soothe those customers with an axe to grind - whatever the issue at hand.

Want to discover how you can offer the best customer service to all of your site’s visitors? Book a demo with Talkative today.

Download the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Video & Next-Generation Customer Contact’

Discover use cases, implementation tips, and ROI for video chat as a contact channel

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