Abusive customers can be a nightmare for business owners and customer-facing professionals. They can be loud, disruptive, and threatening. Not to mention, they can really hurt your professional reputation.
In this blog post, we will discuss strategic ways to handle abusive customers. We will provide educational tips and practical ways to deal with these situations. Let’s get started!
What should you do if a customer becomes verbally abusive?
Verbal abuse is any action that harms a person emotionally or mentally. This can include shouting and making threats directed at you or your employees. Cursing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, and yelling are all examples of verbal abuse.
So how can you effectively manage these types of situations? Here are some helpful tactics to use:
#1. Speak firmly but respectfully
If a customer becomes verbally abusive, the first thing you should do is speak firmly but respectfully with them yourself. Your tone of voice and choice of words will help you get the situation under control.
It’s important to speak in a confident and respectful manner. A good way to do this is by using “I” statements like, “I understand how you feel,” or, “I want to help resolve your issue.”
This will make it clear that you’re trying to help them and de-escalate the situation.
Another important tip is to stay calm, no matter how upset a customer may be. Yelling back at an abusive customer will just make things worse.
Instead, speak in a firm but respectful tone of voice to maintain control of the situation.
#2. Ask them to stop
If you are dealing with an abusive customer, it’s important not to let the situation get out of hand. This can happen quickly, so make sure you take action immediately and don’t delay.
If they are verbally abusive, tell them that their behavior is unacceptable and that you would like them to stop. It’s important to be clear, concise, and firm.
Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and draw a line in the sand when needed.
#3. Address them by their name
Addressing a customer by their name helps to personalize the conversation, de-escalating a situation.
When possible, refer to them by their name to help you gain their trust and confidence. They will feel like you’re trying to understand them as a person, which can help diffuse the situation.
It also shows that you are willing to listen and care about their feelings, which is important in any customer service interaction.
If you don’t know their name, try asking for it. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
If they refuse to give you their name, that’s a clear sign that they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.
#4. Don’t take the abuse personally
It can be easy to get wrapped up in an abusive situation and start to feel you are the one who is at fault.
Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about how this person chooses to behave.
Remind yourself that you are doing your best and don’t deserve to be treated this way.
This may not always be easy, but it is important to stay strong and centered during these encounters.
#5. Keep your composure
It’s important to stay calm and collected during an abusive encounter. If you start to feel overwhelmed or emotional, it can only worsen the situation.
Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you are in control of your emotions. The more level-headed you appear, the more likely the customer will back down.
#6. Know when to walk away
There may come a time when it’s best just to walk away from the situation. If things are getting too heated or if the customer is being verbally abusive, it’s not worth risking your safety for the sake of keeping them happy.
Stopping the conversation shows that you have boundaries and that you won’t put up with their behavior.
#7. Get help
If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, it’s important to get help. You can reach out to your supervisor, a colleague, or even security support.
Remember, you aren’t alone, and some people can help. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you need it.
#8. Don’t argue
It’s important not to get into an argument with an abusive customer. This will only fuel their anger and make the situation worse.
If they try to bait you into an argument, calmly refuse to engage. By remaining calm and professional, you can diffuse the situation.
#9. Document the encounter
If possible, it’s a good idea to document any encounters you have with abusive customers. This can help if things escalate or if there is a later dispute about what took place.
Write down the date, time, and details of the incident. If there were witnesses, be sure to include their contact information as well.
Keeping records like this can be helpful in case you need to take further action.
#10. Know your rights
It’s important to be aware of your rights as a customer service professional. You are not obligated to put up with abusive behavior.
If the customer is violating your rights, you have every right to end the conversation and/or report them.
What to say to abusive customers in person or on the phone
Knowing how to respond when dealing with an abusive customer is important. Here are some phrases you can use in these situations:
- I’m sorry that you’re feeling upset. Can we talk about how we can resolve this situation?
- Please don’t speak to me like that. I want to help fix the issue, but first, I need you ____(to calm down/stop yelling/act more appropriately).
- I’m happy to help, but first, you need ____ (to calm down/stop yelling/act more appropriately).
- I understand how frustrating this must be for you. However, speaking to me in this way isn’t acceptable and won’t get us anywhere. We can talk about how we can solve the problem together instead.
- I understand how frustrating this is for you, but speaking like that isn’t going to solve the issue. Let’s try to talk about how we can find a solution that works for you.
How to diffuse abusive customers over text or email
Dealing with abusive customers who are texting or emailing is a little more difficult because you don’t have as much control over how they respond.
It may be tempting just to ignore them, but this won’t solve anything and will likely make things worse.
Instead, request that they communicate respectfully and try one of these phrases:
- “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I need to ask you ____(to be respectful, stop using offensive language, etc.).”
- “I understand how frustrating this must be for you. I’ve escalated the issue to my supervisor, and he will get back to you shortly.”
- “I’m sorry you feel that way. If there’s anything else I can do for you, please let me know.”
- “I see how angry this has made you. How may I help?”
- “I understand your concern. We are doing everything we can to resolve the situation. Would you like me to keep you updated?”
- “Thank you for your feedback. I’ll pass this along to our team.”
What you should do if a customer becomes abusive
The bottom line is that you don’t have to tolerate abuse from customers. There are ways to handle these situations safely and effectively. Using these tips, you can maintain control while keeping the customer happy. Remember, you have a right to feel safe and respected while doing your job.
Dealing with abusive customers can be a difficult and daunting task. However, by following these tips, you can diffuse the situation and keep yourself safe and protected. Remember, you aren’t alone, and there are resources and people who can help.