We’ve all come across someone who, no matter how kind and respectful you are towards them, wants nothing more than to release their frustration on you. It takes a great deal of patience to communicate with difficult people – especially when your job is to help them. Support agents and representatives know this all too well.
When it comes to rude customers, the last thing you want to do is continue speaking with them. But if you’re working in the customer service department, bidding them good riddance isn’t an option. You need to keep your cool and resolve the problem. That is undoubtedly easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s necessary.
Consider a recent study conducted at the University of British Columbia. Researchers found that simply expecting to encounter rude customers will make you react less strongly when it happens. It was also reported that knowing how to effectively manage disputes leads to reduced stress and improved performance.
Here are some more tried-and-true solutions to help you deal with rude customers.
Maybe the customer is taking themselves on a power trip. Perhaps they want to provoke a reaction. They could be venting. Some just don’t have manners. More often than not, rude customers aren’t even aware of their rudeness.
They also fail to realize that their problem isn’t your fault and that you’re only trying to help. As absurd as it may be, it’s simply human nature. That said, it doesn’t warrant an equally thoughtless response.
A better approach is that which was practiced by the ancient stoics, who sought to ensure that their behavior was guided by reason and not temper. This requires some practice, of course. Incorporating it into your daily life, which in and of itself has some great benefits, can help you maintain a stoic state at work. Here are some tips:
Think ahead. Consider the situations that cause your anger and determine how to deal with them.
Stay mindful. Being aware of the symptoms that bring on anger will keep them in control.
Use body language. If you look like a calm person, you’re more likely to act like one.
Take it slow. Close your eyes and take a breather before answering a rude message.
Enjoy human comedy. Your best weapon against nasty people is to see the humor in their behavior.
At the end of the day, it’s mostly a matter of not taking it personally. This ensures that you aren’t bringing yourself down to the customer’s level, allowing you to continue providing the support they might not deserve, but still need.
Sometimes, the cause of a customer’s frustration isn’t all that unreasonable. Getting down to the heart of the matter and identifying their problem will shift the focus on to what’s important.
If it’s something that can be fixed, then display your sincere sympathy and sort things out in an efficient manner. Your choice of words is key to making this happen. Switching to future tense and prioritizing the solution will help you avoid any unnecessary debates about who’s right and who’s wrong.
If it’s clear that the customer falls in the latter category and their rudeness cannot be justified, your best bet is to politely ask them for a suggestion. This puts them in an unfavorable position, as their only options are to give up or make an unreasonable request that you can decline.
Being bombarded by a constant wave of rude customers can quickly wear away your armor and leave you unable to cope with any more damage. This is no way forward, which is why it’s important to know how you can recover and continue on with your head held high.
Being mindful and observant of your emotional state, as difficult as that may sometimes be, will help you avoid entering a downward spiral. There are several ways that you can reduce the amount of stress brought on by customers:
Eliminate negative thoughts by focusing on something positive.
Take a loss or defeat as a lesson.
Uphold your values and self-esteem.
Identify healthy ways to cope and use them when necessary.
Discuss your thoughts and feelings with coworkers.
Remember that it’s not impossible to misinterpret behavior and perceive it as rude when it isn’t. Some customers are simply in a rush, and others might be nervous or lack etiquette. Either way, they mean no harm and are genuinely looking for help. It’s better to see their messages as that than to assume malevolence.
Few things in life are as difficult as having to apologize, especially when you know that you aren’t in the wrong. However, it’s necessary to show that you’re aware of the fact that the customer should not have been in the position of needing to contact you in the first place.
That said, there are certain situations where an apology isn’t necessary. If the customer can see that it’s not you or the company who’s in the wrong, then it’s better to avoid admitting guilt, as it can appear fake or scripted. Careful use of language will help you sympathize without taking nonexistent blame.
There are few cases where the best way to respond to a rude customer isn’t by being polite. When a certain line is crossed, and all of your attempts to be reasonable are to no avail, then the last resort is likely to cut them off.
Granted, the answer as to when this is appropriate will depend mostly on local legislation. It’s usually the case that you can refuse to deal with customers if it isn’t driven by unreasonable discrimination. In other words, you can refuse to talk to someone unless it’s because they belong to a certain group, be it gender, race, religion, nationality, etc.
So, if there’s no hope that the issue can be resolved in a civil manner, then waving goodbye might be the solution.
It goes without saying that putting this information in practice is no small feat. But with some persistence, it won’t take long before you can quickly and effectively deal with even the most unreasonable customers, which will certainly be a valuable skill, both in and outside of the workplace.
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