There's nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with a customer who is outright rude to you. The last thing you want to do is stay talking to them. In fact, you'd like to give them a few choice words, bid them good riddance, and slam down the phone.
Unfortunately, that approach will only harm you and your company in the long run. Often, you have to swallow your tongue and keep your cool when dealing with difficult customers. So, here are some tips for doing just that.
7 Tips for Dealing with Rude Customers
1. Practice calming exercises.
There are a lot of tricks that can help you keep calm in the face of a very irritating situation. First, practice taking deep breaths. Taking 10 deep breaths -- inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth -- can slow down your heart rate and help you collect yourself.
Second, you can close your eyes and visualize an image that helps relax you. Perhaps, it's waves lapping onto a beach or the faces of your loved ones. Whatever it may be, this image should help ground you in the moment and help you calm down in order to better assess the situation at hand.
2. Don't take it personally.
You should never internalize the disrespectful comments and criticisms. The majority of the time, the remarks a rude customer is making are not meant to directly attack you. Simply, they're angry, and you're the person who had the misfortune of speaking to them.
Distance yourself from what they're saying, and recognize that they're just irritated about a product malfunction or service mishap. They're upset with the overall company. And, even if they are upset with something you specifically said or did, know that everyone makes mistakes. What's important is that you take their feedback but separate your personal self from your professional self.
3. Be empathetic.
One way to remain calm is by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. First, this can help you remove yourself from the situation by focusing on the perspective of another person. Ultimately, this can help you stay clear-headed and lose any added emotion.
Second, by putting yourself in their shoes, you can come to understand where they're coming from. This can help calm you because you'll recognize that they're not trying to be rude and angry for no reason. They're simply frustrated that they trusted your company and were let down. Empathy can help you relate to the customer and actually want to help them.
4. Have your tone match your calm persona.
Your voice can typically give away your true emotions. It's easy to speak before thinking when you're upset, which usually leads to sarcasm, snide remarks, and yelling. So, show off how calm and collected you are by having a tone to match.
Speaking slowly, without raising your voice, can help relax both yourself and the customer. Practice responding to rude remarks with such a tone. You'll find that the customer will probably back off a little. After all, it's not easy to continue barraging someone who is responding with a calm, relaxed tone.
5. Apologize genuinely.
Of course, you should always apologize, whether or not you feel you're in the wrong. The main point of apologizing is to show the customer that you do feel bad that they've had a negative experience with their product or service. They should never have been put in a place of having to contact you at all.
However, as genuine as you want your apology to be, you don't necessarily want to apologize if you or your company have done nothing wrong. That can be taken as you admitting guilt in a situation in which you're actually not at fault. Thus, being careful with your language is key. Try saying statements like, "I'm sorry that you've had a bad experience with this product" rather than "I'm sorry that we did that." You can sympathize with them without taking the blame.
6. Focus on finding and solving the root problem.
When a customer is verbally assaulting you, it's easy to lose sight of what the problem is. This is when you may struggle to stay calm. Instead, focus on what they're saying specifically, and use that to figure out what the root problem is.
Once you've figured out what the problem is, you can start solving it. If there's one thing that can help calm down an exasperated customer, it's you announcing that you've figured out a solution to their issue. And, it will help calm yourself if you focus on the task of problem-solving rather than sitting on the phone hearing someone yell at you.
7. Take time to cool off before responding, if you can.
If you're speaking to a customer on the phone, you don't have the luxury of taking time to respond. If you desperately need a moment to collect yourself on the phone, you could ask the customer if they mind being put on hold for a minute and then take that minute to breathe and relax. However, among other customer service phrases to avoid is "Can I put you on hold?" -- especially to a customer who's already upset, so proceed with caution.
However, if you're communicating with said customer via email or live chat, you can take the necessary time to cool off and craft an appropriate response. It can be helpful to vent out your frustrations in a drafted letter, then delete it and draft a real response. Thus, you can feel satisfied with letting out your anger, and then focus on producing a response that is thoughtful, patient, and effective.
The lesson learned from rude customers is that they're often just letting out their anger on you. As difficult as it can be to be at the receiving end of that, you never know what's going on in a customer's life. Perhaps they're dealing with something in their personal lives, from losing a job to family problems. At the end of the day, your job is to help make their life a little easier by helping solve their product or service problem. And, maybe, your calm, patient self can help improve their day.
To learn more, read this post on conflict resolution skills next.
Originally published Nov 5, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated June 09 2021