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As a customer service professional, it is a virtual guarantee that you will deal with upset, angry and rude customers from time to time. Understanding the motives for the customer's rudeness is the first step in handling these situations well. Tactfully following a step-by-step service-resolution approach is pivotal.
Actions result from attitudes. If you operate with the mindset that customers are the enemy, you won't have the proper mental preparation to handle a rude customer well. Instead, have empathy. It is likely that you have been an upset or frustrated customer at one point in time. Recognize the various reasons customers get angry and act rudely. Dissatisfaction with a product, service or overall experience with a business contribute to an upset customer's feelings. Some customers just have bad days or aren't in the mood to act with kindness toward others. The key is to approach the customer as though there is a valid reason for her feelings.
Kill Them with Kindness
It is a cliche, but "kill the customer with kindness" helps put her in the right perspective to work with you toward a resolution. In many cases, the rude or upset customer just wants an attentive ear and genuine response. Let the customer express the source of the negative emotions and then roll with it. Don't get defensive. If a customer is upset with a product experience, you might say, "This is an expensive product and you have every right to expect top-notch performance." If poor service is the culprit, you might say, "I can't undo what's been done, but I really want to give you a better perspective on how service works here."
Treat the Situation
Ultimately, a rude customer needs some sort of resolution to leave your store in a better mood. If you don't put out the sparks, the fires of her anger may just erupt again. If the problem is a simple demonstration on how a product works, give the customer your time. If the product is a defect, take measures to get a replacement as quickly as possible. For service issues, redo the service when appropriate. In any instance in which your business didn't live up to its obligation for a quality experience, go above and beyond to offer a great experience and even free stuff to overwhelm the customer with joy.
Let Go and Unwind
Some people have a natural ability to absorb the harsh glares and abrasive words of a rude customer. Many don't. You are human. If you need to take a few minutes to unwind after resolving a customer's problem, do so. It is often the burn out of handling multiple rude customers without a breather that causes even well-meaning customer service professionals to crack. It is also good to reflect on the experience and to make any adjustments to your attitude, approach or resolutions in your next encounter with a rude customer.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.