It’s common to encounter a rude customer once or twice in your work life. For certain industries, you could run into rude customers more often. Our natural reaction when we deal with a rude customer is to lash out at them at the moment or in private. We care less about why they are rude and focus more on our anger.
But it does raise an interesting question. What makes for rude customers? You could put two customers in similar situations, but they may have different reactions. One customer will yell, scream, or give off an aggressive tone, while the other may not be satisfied, but they will not lash out; why is that the case?
Of course, the natural thought would be to do your best to avoid them and curate your work, so people don’t get aggressive toward you. Easy enough, but there are some customers that, no matter what you do, will get rude. This article will cover what makes one customer more prone to being rowdy and rude.
What makes for a rude customer?
Your natural inclination would be to believe that the worker may have had something to do with it, but that is not always true. Some customers are more prone to aggressive behavior than others. Their outburst is based on the person’s characteristics than the actual events of the interaction between the worker and customers. A customer prone to be rude holds characteristics such as:
- Big ego
- Superiority complex
You must remember most people are not prone to being rude. Most people are just ordinary human beings looking to get their service done and return to their daily lives. So when you encounter a rude customer, they have something about them driving them toward this behavior. Take, for instance, impatience; if you are at a car shop looking to get your oil changed, depending on where you fall in the line of people waiting, you will have to wait a while for your car to get serviced.
A rational person would understand that they must sit there for hours until their car gets services. An impatient person who gets the estimated time of three hours for their car to get serviced will become agitated by three hours and thirty minutes. Walking over to the desk, asking the receptionist when their vehicle will be ready and how much longer, they will do this repeatedly.
So much so that by the third time they walked over to the desk, they realized that one of the workers was sitting to the side on their phone. Unknown to him, that person is sitting down because they are on break, but all they see is someone who is not working and could be helping his car get along. So now they are at the desk enraged, asking for things to move quickly, maybe even shouting explicitly to express their anger.
The same outcome reigns true for people who show any of the other characteristics, but the main one is the superiority complex. The idea is that they are better than other people and that their service should get held to the highest standard, and when it’s not, it permits them to act rudely.
Rude customers are far and in between on any given workday, but these traits are what you should look out for when determining when a person is likely to be rude. Some of the three characteristics are not things you can see on their faces, but you can tell who has these characteristics through their mannerisms, actions, and words.
For example, narcissistic people will speak about themselves in high regard, often to the point of fantasy. A person with big ego is overconfident about themselves and their abilities. As we mentioned, people with a superiority complex view themselves as better than others and have no problems expressing those beliefs.
How to deal with a rude customer
When dealing with a rude customer, there is a protocol you need to follow to avoid escalating the situation. Of course, your first instinct would be to respond aggressively to the aggression they are directing toward you. However, that is not the solution, especially when things often reach a level no one expected them to reach. Below we will cover some ways to deal with an aggressive customer that will de-escalate rather than escalate.
1. Do not engage
This is one of the essential tips for dealing with rude customers. You mustn’t engage with rude customers. If they are raising their voice, you do not raise your voice; if they are using profane words, you do not. The best thing to do is to keep your cool, let them say what they need to say, and then move the transaction along as quickly as possible.
2. Apologize, and reassure
This one, for some, could be a little hard to swallow, but you must remember that in customer service, the expression “The customer is always right” exists for a reason. When a customer is being rude and pointing out the shortcomings of their current experience, your job as the employee is to apologize for any issues and reassure them that you are doing to rectify their grievances as quickly as possible.
3. Understand they are unavoidable
As mentioned in the intro, you will run into rude customers, primarily if you work in the customer service industry. You are guaranteed to encounter them, so you must be prepared for them. Being composed means understanding, they will happen so that you are not prone to overreactions when it does happen.
4. Do not take the words to heart
When people are angry, they are bound to say things they do not mean. You must understand that the words coming out of this individual’s mouth are not personal, they are just upset at the situation, and you are the closest target. Learning not to take their words seriously is the key to surviving in a customer service-based business. It will help you avoid the mental and emotional stress from these encounters. Most jobs already have issues that can harm your mental and emotional state. The last thing you need is to allow someone who does not know you to affect it further.
5. Solve the issue
Even though some customers are more prone to rude behaviors than others, that does not change the fact that there was a reason for their rudeness to come to the surface. Figure out the leading cause of the rudeness, do as number #2 suggests, apologize, and reassure them that you will fix their issue as soon as possible and back up what you have assured them. Once the problem is solved, the interaction can return to normal, and the guest can be on their way.
When is a rude customer too much to deal with?
Every interaction reaches its breaking point. A customer could push the boundaries of what is acceptable, and you may need to take the appropriate measures. Again you must remain calm in the situation, but this does not mean you take abuse from the customer. If you are a low-level employee, calling in a manager to handle the situation may become necessary as they would have more experience.
If you are a manager, you may deem the customer too extreme, and it’s time to call in the proper authorities. It is appropriate to understand that customers get mad and rude, but there is a line where rudeness takes on the identity of abuse, and no employee should be taking abuse from customers. So if a customer screaming is getting too loud or threatening violence against you, it may be time to call in a manager or the proper authorities.
How to remain calm in the face of rude customers
Telling you to be calm in the face of someone who may be screaming and overly aggressive sounds very simplistic. But it’s essential to remain calm when dealing with a rude customer. Getting angry and trying to match their energy will not get you anywhere. Some tips on staying calm when dealing with a rude customer include
1. Remember you have a job to do
When that customer walks away, you still have a job to do. Engaging with the customer and further escalating the deteriorating situation will only lead to further issues, which will cost you your job. Your supervisors can do nothing about the rude customers, but they can do something toward you for insulting or adding fuel to the conflict that will cause them to relieve you of your job. That person is the guest, and you are the worker; you must uphold the integrity of the business you represent.
2. If you are a low-level employee, you do have a backup in managers or supervisors
When things get out of hand, it’s important to remember that you have a backup. There is no need to get upset as you can pass on the customer to the manager/supervisor, who may be more equipped to handle the rowdy guest.
3. They are only talking, and nothing else
Most interactions with a rude guest will be a lot of tense body language and facial expressions to express their discontent, or they will begin to speak out their aggression. As long as the situation does not escalate to violence or they threaten bodily harm, you get reassured that nothing physical will happen, and thus there is no reason to get out of hand with the guest.
4. Other guests need to feel safe
When you explode on a rude customer, it sends a message to other patrons that this is acceptable behavior in this business. Remember, you are a walking example of the business, so other fellows must know that everyone conducts themselves professionally, even in tense situations. Most people know a guest who is overreacting, so they will likely understand the situation and not hold anything against you. But they must feel safe and secure in their business, and if they see employees yelling and screaming at guests regardless of the circumstances, that makes them feel unsafe.
5. They will eventually leave
No matter what the guest says or does, the guest will leave. Whether with handcuffs or to their original destination, the guest will leave.
Are rude customers that common?
Rude customers are common, and as this article has sought to point out, you are bound to run into one in your working career. But what this article also has looked to reinforce is they are only a tiny percentage of the customers you will encounter. For example, you will encounter a customer having a bad day irrespective of anything you may have done and take their anger out on you for any small discretion.
Or you will encounter the people with the personality traits we mentioned before who have some sense of a “chip on their shoulder.” But it’s important to remember that once you get past this individual, most people will just be those looking to get their service and go home. All you have to do is survive this inconvenience, and you will not have to deal with someone like this for a long time.