Retail: How to Deal with Rude Customers
If you’ve worked in retail, you’ve surely met your fill of rude customers
First published in jobpostings magazine
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We all know that customer: The one who talks on their phone incessantly while you try to serve them. They may smack their gum, or they may roll their eyes while purveying their distinct brand of ungraciousness. We know them better by their true name—The Rude Customer.
Your first instinct might be to turn into a green rage monster, but before you go destroying everything within arm’s reach, we have five tips for dealing with rude customers that might just help you out while working in retail.
“The first thing that I would tell someone to do is stay calm,” says Jason Nedelkos, a barista at Starbucks Coffee. “I’ve learned to keep a respectful tone if somebody has an issue. If someone is rude or shouting at you, there’s no need to sink to their level.” An added benefit of this strategy is that it might force the customer to tone down their unreasonableness. “It’s hard to be rude to someone who is being calm and collected,” Nedelkos shrugs.
“Kill them with kindness”
Sarah Erwin, a cashier at Shoppers Drug Mart, has similar advice. “For me, what works best is to kill them with kindness, so to speak.” Erwin graduated from University of Toronto and has been working at Shoppers Drug Mart for the past year while job hunting. “Never stop being overly polite. The meaner they get, the nicer you get in response.” This technique always feels like a personal win, and you still get to be as great at your job as ever.
Put the power in their hands (and get them off your back)
“As a barista, the small complaints I usually get are about mixed up drink orders, which are pretty easy to resolve.” Nedelkos explains. “The really rude people are upset about things that I can’t fix. Like why we don’t have cups in a certain colour or something.” Erwin agrees that most of her angry customers are upset with things she has no control over. “The two things that cause customers to yell at me are long lines and prices.” Nedelkos offers a solution to this situation. “I usually explain to them that I personally can’t change this, but I invite them to fill out a comment form or talk to a superior and say ‘They will listen to you over me’.” Not only does this get them out of your hair, but puts the power in their hands to resolve their own problem.
Maintain a neutral tone of voice and body language
As rude as the customer is being, you represent the entire store and organization. So as rude as they are, any hint of snideness or confrontation on your part will exacerbate the situation. “A rude customer feels threatened already, you make one false move and they will get madder,” Nedelkos laughs. Really, just stay calm, be as kind as you can, apologize profusely and keep a neutral tone of voice. You should make it through in one piece.
Don’t take things personally!
We know, easier said than done! But having a rude customer can really ruin your day, and make you feel bad long after you’ve left work. Instead, choose to remember the good times at work when you are decompressing after a long shift. “Rude customers are rude customers,” Nedelkos remarks. “But if you choose to remember the person who left you a great tip, or the one who was really nice, you’ll have a much better outlook.”