Handling Rudeness with a Smile

John Krautzel
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Once the twin terror of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is over, it's the season to be jolly, unless you're in retail, of course. As anyone who has spent five minutes in retail over the Christmas season knows, it's the time for stressed-out and rude customers. So how do you keep the Christmas cheer going?

When you get a rude customer, the natural instinct is to be hostile back, but that flies in the face of your retail policy, and it can generate bad publicity. So politeness and calmness are the words of the day.

Remember, a rude customer isn't actually a personal attack on you. With the pressures involved in everyone's lives, sometimes a problem customer is simply snapping under the load, with the relatively minor inconvenience of whatever has gone wrong in the store being the trigger point. Be polite, smile, and keep your voice low no matter what. If the customer starts being threatening, that's a completely different matter, but most rude customers can be dealt with reasonably quickly and efficiently as long as you stay calm.

Try to offer a solution to the rude customer. Sometimes, that's simply not possible, but it shows that you're actively listening to that customer's complaint or issue. Don't forget that you often have a bit of discretion when dealing with a rude customer. First, you can escalate the customer to a manager. That works with unreasonable customers as well because the manager can usually offer those customers a little more than you can. Alternatively, consider offering a small discount on future purchases — assuming you can. The objective is to get the customer out of there quickly as that person is holding up the queue. Remember that the customers behind your rude customer are often sympathetic to you, so you'll probably have an easier ride after the rude customer.

Even if a customer gets deeply personal, you can handle it, and if the customer starts being racist, misogynistic or just outright creepy, you should be able to call security in larger stores or ring for backup in smaller ones. Most stores have a strict "no abuse" policy, but try to avoid using this unless the customer has gone too far. The idea is to turn a problem customer into a satisfied customer who comes back and spends more money at your establishment.

One of the biggest rewards for dealing with a rude customer is when that customer returns and apologizes. This does happen occasionally, and some realize that they've overstepped the mark. Another reward is turning a rude customer into another sale, as there's a certain satisfaction in taking someone's money who has been rude to you.

Ultimately, rude customers abound, and the Christmas spirit does escape a few people. When you deal with a rude customer with professionalism and calmness, though, that customer is more likely to go away quickly and with little fuss.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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