All retail companies encounter rude customers from time to time. While no one likes dealing with rude customers, learning how to do so can boost sales and improve a company’s brand. Managers and owners should try these three options to help employees handle rude customers.

Identify What Has Angered the Customer

Some customers have legitimate reasons to feel angry. Common reasons for customers to feel angry include:

  • They’ve been on hold for too long, so they don’t feel like customer service respects their time.
  • They’ve been sent the wrong product or charged the wrong amount.
  • They’ve talked to rude customer service representatives.
  • They don’t feel like anyone is trying to solve their problem.

Of course, there are also personal reasons for a customer to feel angry. For instance, if a man just had an argument with his boss, then he may already feel angry when he reaches out to customer service.

Companies need to identify reasons that their customers behave rudely. If there’s an issue that’s affecting one customer, then it’s probably bothering others, too.

Customer surveys can provide a look inside the customer’s mind. Businesses shouldn’t dismiss the negative things that customers submit. Instead, they should investigate the complaints to see whether they can improve their processes to make customer success easier.

Employees should assure customers that their complaints are taken seriously and that someone will investigate the matter.

Train Your Employees to Use Reflective Listening

Reflective listening is a communication strategy that reconstructs and repeats the customer’s words to make sure that he or she feels understood. The following script offers an example of reflective listening:

Customer: I’ve been on hold for 25 minutes and no one will answer!

Employee: I understand that being on hold for such a long time is frustrating. Let me try to solve your problem now so we don’t waste more of your time. What can I do for you?

In this example, the employee demonstrated an understanding of the facts (the customer was on hold for a long time), acknowledged that being on hold for 25 minutes is frustrating, and promises to solve the customer’s problem to avoid wasting more time.

The customer may still feel frustrating by the experience, but he or she is now more likely to treat the employee respectfully. The company made a mistake, but this employee understands the issue and is willing to help.

Few employees will know to use reflective listening strategies until they have received the proper training. After undergoing training, though, employees should understand the power of reflective listening and how they can use the strategies to pacify rude customers.

Without training, a conversation may go as follows:

Employee: Hello, how may I help you?

Customer: No one else has been able to help, so I doubt that you can do anything.

Employee: Well, I can try.

Customer: Just put me through to a supervisor. You can’t do anything for me.

After training in reflective listening, the conversation should sound more like:

Employee: Hello, how may I help you?

Customer: No one else has been able to help, so I doubt that you can do anything.

Employee: It sounds like you’ve had a hard time finding someone to assist you, today. I apologize. I know that’s a frustrating experience. If you could explain the situation to me, I’ll do my best to make things right for you, today.

With this revision, the employee sounds helpful and competent. The employee also seems committed to solving the customer’s problem. The customer, therefore, may feel that he or she has finally found a service representative who can do the job right.

Consider Breaking Relationships With Repeatedly Rude Customers

Rude customers usually have reasons to behave the ways that they do. Some customers, though, are always rude. Perhaps they have mental health issues. Perhaps they’re bullies who always mistreat people.

Unfortunately, companies often discover that they can never satisfy repeatedly rude customers. When managers encounter these people, they may decide that it’s best to break the relationship and ask the customers to shop elsewhere.

Such a decision may sound outrageous, especially considering how competitive the retail industry is. By breaking the relationship, though, businesses can show support for their staff members. After all, the retail industry has a 67% median turnover rate for part-time employees.

The high turnover rate costs businesses a lot of money because they have to train new employees and let new hires develop their skills before they get comfortable with their jobs.

Standing with an employee is a good way for a manager to show trust and appreciation.

There are several things to consider before ending a relationship with a customer, though. Some of the things that managers and business owners should think about include:

  • How much money the rude customer spends.
  • Whether the customer has a good reason to feel angry.
  • Whether the customer’s rudeness crossed a line, making the employee feel threatened or insulted.
  • How interacting with the rude customer affects the employee’s ability to work for the rest of the day.

If a business determines that the customer’s rudeness is too much for the average person to handle, then it makes sense to break ties with that person. Otherwise, employees can feel belittled, threatened, and exposed. Who wouldn’t want to leave a job that makes them feel like that?

In today’s digital world, one bad interaction with a customer can spread to thousands of people. It’s good business sense to deal with rude customers to avoid negative comments online. At a certain point, though, it also makes sense to stop doing business with people who make life harder for your employees.

Be sure to use a manager log to keep your team on the same page — about rude customers, nice customers, maintenance issues, and everything in between.

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