How to Handle Rude Customers: 7 Time-Tested Strategies

Along with stubbed toes and intermittent WiFi, rude customers are up there with the most frustrating aspects of being a human.

And as an ecommerce entrepreneur, regardless of what you’re selling, dealing with rude customers is an unavoidable part of the job.

Handling rude customers can be tricky business. It’s very tempting to bellow a few choice words, bid them good riddance and slam the phone down. But doing so isn’t usually good for business in the long-run.

In this article, we’ll share tips for a more tactful approach. We’ll show you how to handle rude customers and turn them into fans of your business (while keeping your sanity in the process.)

Let’s begin by coming to terms with why customers are so rude in the first place.

Why Are Customers So Rude?

Understanding why customers are so rude can give you a sense of where they’re coming from and help you relate to their frustrations.

The following are three things that can turn even the gentlest of customers into a bad-mannered, boorish barbarian.

1. Poor Customer Service

If you’ve ever ‘held on the line’ for customer service, you’ll know there’s only so much tinny elevator music one person can take before their blood starts to boil.

Indeed, the number one reason why customers are rude is that they’ve had a poor customer service experience like this.

Think about it: customers who contact you are likely already in a state of mild distress.

If you make them jump through hoops to reach a resolution, it’s understandable they might be less than a barrel of laughs when you speak to them.

To avoid this, it’s essential to develop a customer service strategy that delivers customer service at the right time and via the appropriate channels.

In ecommerce, some of the most popular ways to provide rapid customer service are:

  • – Offering live chat on-site via bots or humans
  • – Having a live voice call widget
  • – Creating detailed FAQ pages
  • – Providing customer service via social media

Every business will be different, but the principle remains the same: the easier you make it for your customers to get resolutions to their problems, the less frustrated customers you’ll have to manage.

💡 ProTip: Want to give customers the option to call your eCommerce store without sharing your personal number? Read our guide on how to buy a business phone number.

2. They Don’t Feel Heard

If you or your customer service team are dealing with a large number of support tickets, it’s easy to forget that each customer’s frustration is very real to them.

While it’s understandable that you want to manage your customer service in a systemized way, customers don’t want to feel that their problems are ‘just another call’ or ‘just another email.’

Even if some customer issues seem trivial, you can avoid upsetting customers by giving each support ticket the attention and understanding it deserves.

Remember, while the ticket might be a quick two-minute interaction for you, making the impression you leave on your customer can last a lifetime.

3. They’re Having a Bad Day

Sometimes, even when you do everything right, a customer will still insist on being rude.

Their boss may have yelled at them, their coffee may have scalded their tongue, or an upturned plug may have inflicted its pointy-wrath on their delicate foot.

Whatever the case, some folks have decided that rudeness is the best course of action despite all of your best efforts.

Now, this is where it can become challenging to avoid escalating things into a full-blown shouting match. And when that happens, everybody loses.

Why it’s Important to Handle Rude Customers Properly

Handling rude customers is no fun. When someone starts treating you, your team, or your business with disrespect, the easy way out is to hang up the phone or delete the email.

But managing rude customers is vital for two reasons:

1. Your Brand’s Reputation depends on it

Poorly handling rude customers is a recipe for disaster. According to Sprout Social, 55% of consumers say they’d vent on social media after a poor support experience.

The implication? In today’s connected world, it only takes one dissatisfied customer to cause severe damage to your ecommerce brand.

The good news is that it works both ways. If you can look past the rudeness and resolve the customer’s problem, the word about your terrific customer service will spread like crazy.

2. Enhanced Customer Retention

NewVoiceMedia reported that 51% of customers said they’d never shop with your brand again after just one negative customer service experience.

On the flip side, HelpScout showed that 90% of unhappy customers would continue to do business with you if you resolve their issue the first time around.

The takeaway from these two stats is that while rude customers might be a thorn in your side, it’s important to remember that they’re still putting money into your bank account.

Deal with them well, and they’ll continue to do so. Mistreat them, and you’ll feel the effects in your bottom line.

Reframing rude customers as an opportunity to boost your customer retention makes dealing with them a little easier.

How to Handle With Rude Customers

Rude customers can kill your mood, suck the joy from your day, and leave you feeling exhausted. But only if you let them. Here’s seven strategies to help you keep your calm when dealing with rude customers.

1. Imagine You’re Oprah (Show Empathy)

If you’re ever caught in the throes of anger with a cantankerous customer who’s intent on ruining your day, use this one trick: Imagine you’re Oprah.

Oprah Winfrey Relax GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why? Because Oprah is a well-spring of empathy. She’s a woman who’s built a career on her ability to connect with and understand other people’s feelings, needs, and wants.

And while your ecommerce store is a little different from her show, Oprah’s skill-set is the perfect antidote to many customer ill-contents. Copy the way she listens intently and asks carefully considered questions to gain a deeper understanding.

Some of us are naturally more empathetic than others. If imagining yourself as Oprah doesn’t do the trick, here are two other ways to cultivate empathy towards rude customers:

  • – Imagine them dropping their phone on their face as they lie in bed in the morning. It’s a universal human experience that’ll help diffuse your anger.
  • – Imagine what they were like as a newborn baby or will be like as a 90-year-old pensioner. We find it easy to feel empathy for people at either end of their lives.

In most cases, acting with empathy toward bad-mannered customers will, in turn, cause them to respond with kindness toward you, creating a better experience for all.

2. Channel Your Inner Buddha (Remain Calm)

Mad Men Yoga GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

If you wanted to create an outstanding customer service team, it’s fair to say an outfit of Buddhist monks would be an excellent choice.

Because when us non-enlightened folks get attacked, our knee-jerk reaction is to return fire. And that when things go south in a hurry.

A critical part of dealing with rude customers is that you don’t allow them to drag you into their emotional weather storms.

Thankfully, there are a few Buddhist-inspired exercises that can help you keep your cool:

  • Breathe deeply: Slow breathing is a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system. Try inhaling into your belly to a count of 4 and holding it to a count of 7. And then slowly exhaling for a count of 8. Even 1-2 breaths can give you the space you need to gather your thoughts.
  • Become an observer: Imagine yourself leaving your body and floating up until you’re looking down on yourself and the world around you. From this vantage point, you can simply observe what’s going on. You don’t need to get emotionally involved. The heat of things doesn’t affect you from this perspective.
  • Go slow: Deliberately slow down your movements, notice your surroundings, and assume the posture of a calm person. The idea here is to get out of your head and into your body.

3. Watch Your Tone of Voice

The way that you say things is just as important as what you say. And nothing gives away your genuine emotions like your tone of voice.

When you’re being attacked, It’s dangerously easy to speak before thinking. This can lead to sarcastic comments, cutting remarks, and even shouting.

Show your ill-mannered customer who’s got the power by speaking in a calm and collected tone of voice.

You’ll probably find that the customer loses the angry wind from their sales. After all, it’s not easy to continue to attack someone when they’re responding calmly.

So, practice speaking slowly, keeping your voice low, and avoiding interjecting when the customer talks. Frequently you’ll find they just rant themselves into exhaustion.

👉Suggested Reading: 7 Of The Most Important Customer Service Trends For 2021

4. Focus On The Issue At Hand

When a rude customer is flinging insults your way, it’s easy to lose sight of their reason they contacted you in the first place.

One excellent strategy to keep your wits is to focus on the meaning behind their words and work out the root issue.

You can do this by calmly asking the customer what went wrong and how that differed from their expectations.

While there’s no excuse for rudeness, sometimes the underlying reason why a customer is upset is justified. Othertimes rude customers’ actions are way out of proportion.

The key here is not to play the blame game but to focus on finding a common resolution. Even if it seems against every fiber of your body to let rudeness go unchallenged, nine times out of ten, it’s the best course of action.

You might be left with an uncomfortable sense of injustice, but that’s better than risking damage to your business’s reputation.

If it’s impossible to resolve the customer’s problem, ask them what they expect of you. Try calming them with a “How can we fix this for you? Or “How can we make this up to you?”.

Even if you have to ask these questions through gritted teeth, they work wonders for de-escalating the situation. They pull the focus away from the problem and prompt the customer to develop an acceptable solution.

5. Don’t Take it Personally

In the words of novelist Paulo Coelho:

“How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.”

That means when impolite customers are ranting and raving; their rudeness usually has absolutely nothing to do with you. So, you should never internalize their insulting comments or criticisms.

Instead, distance yourself from what they’re saying. Realize the angry customer is annoyed at your business or something else going on in their life, not you as a person.

Even if a rude customer is aggravated by something you’ve said or done, remind yourself that nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and such errors can almost always be remedied.

Step 6. Avoid Glossing Over Rudeness

It seems silly to tell you to not gloss over rudeness. But ignoring rudeness can be problematic.

Because if you’re interacting with many customers every day, then being exposed to low-level rudeness can become your new normal.

For example, according to research from the University of Woolum, folks who experience sustained rudeness at work tend to dismiss it as ‘only minor in nature’ or ‘innocuous.’

And here’s where things get interesting: despite their blase attitude, the same folks still suffered the adverse effects of rudeness.

They had lower moods, worse job performance, and a shift in their perceptions that started to color their interactions with others.

This last point is critical because it suggests that rudeness could be contagious for customer service agents. One angry customer can trigger a cascade of less than pleasant interactions.

So if you’re continually shrugging off rudeness, it’s time to stop. Instead, define it, notice it, and remind yourself it’s harmful. Because if you don’t, the science says both your well-being and performance may start to suffer.

Step 7. Come Up For Air

Dealing with rude customers is a draining experience. Once the interaction is over, you’ll usually feel like this:

Phone Reaction GIF by moodman - Find & Share on GIPHY

That’s why it’s important to take a break if you can. Launching straight into another support ticket will only leave you feeling exhausted.

Get some fresh air, and take a moment to reflect on how you handled the situation. Why was the customer so rude? Could you pinpoint the issue? Did your reactions help release the tension? Did you solve the problem, or is further action required?

Doing this will help you improve your ability to handle rude customers and give you time to return fresh to your next support ticket.

Wrap-up: How to Handle With Rude Customers

Rude customers are an inevitable part of running or working in the retail industry. Sadly, even if you strive to deliver the best products and customer service, there’ll always be someone who’s cheesed off with your business.

While you can’t stop rude customers from contacting you, you can learn how to handle them better. If they're being just slightly rude, it's best to continue with a smile and to imagine them as an angry infant (because that's how they're behaving).

If a customer is being particularly rude, and it's affecting you poorly, then don't hesitate to refer them to a manager. Most managers are experienced in taking on very rude customers from their staff and if it comes to it, may have to terminate the customer's relationship with your brand.

Hopefully, the tips in this article help you defuse situations that would have otherwise gone nuclear.

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