The career of a customer service representative is more often than not a rewarding one, yet at times, it can be very challenging. If you work as a customer service representative, you’ll know how customers can be demanding at times. Most of the challenges come from dealing with these rude customers that are on a mission to make your day miserable. Having patience and keeping your composure in these types of situations is easier said than done, but there are a couple of strategies you can apply to help you get through those tough calls.

Today we’re going to talk about how to deal with rude customers, how to manage your emotions in tough situations, and why it’s important to come on top and build bridges with even the most unpleasant callers. In order to understand these situations better, we need to know why customers are so rude in the first place, so let’s start with that.

Why Are Customers So Rude?

This is a common question that requires an objective view of the situation in order to understand it. Having said that, more often than not, it’s hard to comprehend these situations because it’s difficult to look at it from a perspective that is not your own since you’re on the receiving side of the yelling and the frustration. We have all experienced times when angry customers try to pull us into a heated discussion or make seemingly impossible demands. The reasons leading to them taking out their frustrations on agents can be numerous. For example, customers tend to be frustrated with long call waiting times, or they might not be pleased with the product they received. Maybe they think that the service levels are substandard or maybe they are not satisfied with the price of your services. While they are mad at the company you’re representing, it feels like it’s you as the person on the frontline that’s being targeted. 

This doesn’t sound fair, right? You’re absolutely right. So why does this happen? Well, there are two possible reasons. A small percentage of callers are just plain rude and have other things bothering them, yet they decided to take it out on you. It is very important to distinguish the unhappy customers from rude ones. No customer service representative should be exposed to abusive behavior, so if the communication goes south fast and verbal attacks start flying around, the agent should either ask for help from his supervisor or end the call. 

The more common reason customers behave rudely is their lack of knowledge. You need to remind yourself that just because you’re an expert and know all the ins and outs of the product or service your company is offering, doesn’t mean the customers are too. Most customers won’t even have the basic understanding to operate the item or service they bought. Keep this in mind when you’re dealing with tough customers and try to find the patience and empathy to meet them at their level.

Strategies That Will Help You Handle Rude Customers

Now that we know what are the most common reasons that frustrate customers, let’s explore some methods that can help you de-escalate the situations and find a mutually acceptable solution to their needs.

1) Keep Calm

Before you fall into total despair or, even worse, resolve to use verbal attacks yourself, remember that keeping calm is the number one thing you should focus on during those tough calls. Instead of being pulled into a heated discussion, try taking a few deep breaths before assessing the situation and comping up with a reply. Retaliating is never the answer, no matter how rude the person on the other side of the call is. Put yourself on mute, breathe in, and then respond. If you’re in a face-to-face scenario, it’s better to leave the room immediately and call your supervisor to handle the situation rather than jeopardizing your personal safety.

2) Remember to Not Take It Personally

No matter how horrible customers can get, remind yourself that they aren’t holding a grudge against you. In reality, they are angry at the product or service they’ve spent money on. You just happen to be on the receiving end, unfortunately. As long as you don’t take it personally and acknowledge that the customer’s frustration is not directly aimed at you, you’ll be more capable of keeping your composure and providing a real solution for the customer’s source of frustration. 

There will be cases where the customer is set on ruining your day and making your life as miserable as possible. In these situations, it will feel personal, but instead of lashing out, call your team leader for assistance.

3) Empathy, Empathy, Empathy

If you have the first two strategies covered, then you’re ready to adopt an empathetic mindset even when handling displeased customers. As we mentioned previously, most angry customers just want to vent their frustration. While some people have an easier time showing empathy, others can develop this skill set over time and successfully handle the situation. Practicing empathy is key in disarming an angry customer and de-escalating the situation.

3) Empathy, Empathy, Empathy

4) Make Customers Know You’re Listening

Most angry customers want their needs to be acknowledged by someone working for the company that sold them their product or service. If they are experiencing issues, they want to talk to someone who is not only an expert on the topic but also a good listener. Make them feel like you truly understand the inconvenience they are experiencing and that you’re aware of what is the source of their frustration. Repeating their complaint back to them is an excellent method for letting them know you actually heard what they were saying and that you fully understand the issue they are facing. Manage your emotions, apply active listening, and demonstrate empathy.

5) Use Your Voice as a De-Escalation Tool 

Speaking low and slow during a heated conversation is a great way to turn the tides in your favor. Using your voice correctly is a great way to calm the customer and let them know you’re on the same page. Aside from having a soothing effect, keeping your tone and volume low demonstrates professionalism and that you’re on top of the situation. Always try matching the tone of your voice to your calm persona.

6) Don’t Forget About Body Language

In case you’re dealing with customers in person, being aware of your body language is just as important as monitoring your voice, and controlling your emotions. Maintaining a calm demeanor is important if you want to successfully control the situation. Try not to cross your arms while talking to the customer, it portrays a defensive image and shows that you’re nervous and on guard. Having a positive attitude is one of the most important traits for a customer service representative to have. Maintaining eye contact at all times also plays a key role in disarming an angry customer and letting them know you’re here to help. 

7) Assess the Situation and Apologize If Necessary

Acknowledging the customer’s point of view shows that you’re on his side and that you’re there to help. Once you’ve assessed the situation, and if the customer is in the right, issuing a prompt apology in the company’s name is the best course of action. Now, this might sound counter-intuitive, especially if you had to endure verbal attacks, but remember that your job is to look past the rude attitude and identify the source of the frustration. By apologizing, you lay down the foundation for turning an angry customer into a loyal one. 

8) Utilize Hyper-Personalization

One more important thing to keep in mind is that most angry customers can be calmed down with a more personalized approach. Let them know that you are going out of your way helping them and that they are not just “some customers” you’re trying to hang up on. Assure them that you are fully aware of the inconvenience they are experiencing and that you will deal with it personally.

8) Hold Your Own Ground

So what if the customer is just wrong and is being unreasonable? This is where assessing the situation comes into play. If you’re absolutely sure that the customer is factually wrong, then you should lay down your arguments but in a courteous manner. Emotional intelligence is crucial in these situations. Also, if the rude customer is not allowing you to get a word in and is behaving unacceptably, then you may need to be more firm in your approach. Otherwise, the rude customer will have his way and walk all over you. Use firm but polite phrases, and if that doesn’t help, well, then maybe it’s a lost cause trying to resolve the issue.

9) Resolve the Issue

Of course, the best way to deal with a rude customer is to completely remove the source of his frustration. Whether or not this is possible depends on the nature of the problem. If there’s a simple solution, take it. If you have the authorization to issue a refund or exchange a faulty product with a new one, then, by all means, do it. However, if the demands are unrealistic, try to negotiate a better deal. Your goal should be to find a mutually acceptable solution.

9) Resolve the Issue

10) Take a Breather

Dealing with angry and dissatisfied customers is a stressful business, so make sure to take care of yourself and take a short break afterward. Also, remind yourself that not all customers are bad! The majority of the people you speak to daily are probably far from rude. Most of them are quite polite or at least reasonable. Remind yourself that tough customer interactions are rare and not something you have to deal with all the time. That being said, it’s important to reflect and think through what happened during your last interaction with a rude customer. While challenging, these are valuable experiences that can improve you as an individual, but also your company. Feedback is still feedback, so make sure to pass it on to your superiors.

Follow these 10 tips on how to deal with mean people, and you’ll have a long and successful career in customer service, but even more importantly, you’ll protect yourself from too much stress. If you’re interested in reading more blogs related to customer satisfaction, and how every customer, even the rude ones, can benefit your business growth, then make sure to check out our blog section.