Don’t Let Bully Customers Trample on Your Employees

Angry customer shouting

Everyone has heard the old adage, “The customer is always right.” It sounds really nice. However, anyone who has ever worked in customer service knows that it simply is not factual. Customers can be wrong, and they quite often are.

People can get nasty when dealing with customer service representatives. Businesses in this field must work to walk the fine line between pleasing the customer and not letting the customer call all the shots.

Lower-level employees should never have to deal with a customer’s abuse. Make sure to inform all employees to notify a manager anytime that a customer behaves in a belligerent manner. The highest-ranked staff member on duty should deal with any customer who feels they are entitled to be nasty.

Why Do Customers Behave Badly?

Customers who try to bully customer service workers do so for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons have nothing to do with the customer service worker who they are mistreating, and they often don’t really have to do with the company either. Most of the times that customers yell or threaten are because of anger in other areas of their lives with people that they can not treat so poorly.

Many bully customers are mad about work issues, but can’t yell at their boss. Others are mad about domestic issues but don’t want to yell at their partners. Some are just mad about life in general but don’t know who to yell at. As a result of all of this misplaced anger, all of these customers come into a store and yell at the employees. They often do have some small grievance with the store but will at other times completely fabricate something to be angry about.

Bully customers figure they can treat employees terribly because they don’t really need anything from them. There are other stores. There are more important things. They have nothing to lose but possibly being asked to leave a business, where they have no true desire to be. Plus, the world has taught them that in this situation, they are always right anyway. Because of this, they take a false sense of righteousness into the confrontation.

How to Defuse the Situation

Anyone on your staff who might find themselves in charge at some point should be trained in how to deal with an unruly customer. Steps that should be taken to calm the customer and get them on their way are:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s grievance
  • Ask for them to explain in a civil manner
  • Walk through their complaint step by step
  • Calmly explain your side
  • Ask how they would like to resolve the issue
  • Offer a solution
  • Call security

Acknowledge the Customer’s Grievance

Let the customer know that you see they are upset and you want to work with them to find a solution to their problem.

Ask for Them to Explain in a Civil Manner

Ask the customer to explain the problem to you, but if they have not calmed down, politely insist that you can only help them if they talk to you in a civil manner.

Walk Through Their Complaint Step by Step

After they have told you what the problem is, check everything once again to clarify that you understand correctly every part of what they are upset about.

Calmly Introduce Your Side

If the customer is clearly upset about something that is not the fault of your business, but rather their own fault, calmly explain why they are wrong, without saying that they are wrong. It can be a tricky bit of verbal gymnastics. If your company does appear to be at fault, explain how the error was made and apologize for the inconvenience.

Ask How They Would Like to Resolve the Issue

Ask them what you can do for them that will satisfy their anger.

Offer a Solution

If their request is reasonable and they are no longer being belligerent, then fulfill the request. Otherwise, you can offer a counterproposal of what you can do for them. You could even shape this for the interest of your business, without withdrawing any benefit that your customer is entitled to.

Call Security

If they are not satisfied with your solution and once again become aggressive, inform them that if they don’t leave the store, you are going to call security. Do not yell, but use a firm tone that matches theirs and displays that you will not be mistreated. If they fail to leave, call security or the police if your business does not have security services.

Talk to Employees After Any Altercation

Non-physical domestic violence is more common than you think. Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse can have extremely detrimental effects on victims of domestic violence, and these forms of abuse can also cause your employees emotional anguish.

After things have settled down and the customer has left the store, the manager who dealt with the problem should go to the employee who was first assaulted by the customer and make sure they are okay. Afterward, the incident should be logged, and the manager should report it up the chain. A human resources representative or the top boss should check on the manager to make sure they are doing okay as well.

Bottom Line

It’s always best to treat customers as if they are always right when you can, but there is a line that should never be crossed. Do not follow the old adage to the detriment of your company or your employees.

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