Deal with disrespectful customers politely and effectively

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When you work in a service or retail industry, customers drive your business. Whether it's a restaurant, retail shop, grocery store, sales office, industrial company or hotel, good customer service is critical to the success of the business. However, sometimes no matter how helpful or courteous you and your employees may be, customers can still be disrespectful, angry or just plain rude. 

It can be difficult to treat these people the same as more polite customers, but it's important for the business to continue customer service excellence regardless. Here are a few tips to help you and your fellow employees deal with customers and guests who are impolite or angry. 

Show your professionalism 
When it comes to dealing with rude customers, there's a fine line between being firm and being a "doormat." CBS MoneyWatch recommended that employees politely step up their own intensity level when dealing with angry customers. This doesn't mean that you should curse and yell like they are, but it does mean that you can show them some sternness and wipe the smile away. It's OK to show that you're serious and that you dislike being yelled at, but you shouldn't stoop to their level. 

Professional dress can also help angry customers take you more seriously. Wear a professional outfit or organized uniform. The cleaner and tidier your look, the more professional and authoritative you become, from your shirt collar down to your stylish work shoes.

CBS MoneyWatch explained that by establishing a serious, professional persona with the customer, you can create a rapport as someone who can help them with their concern. 

Don't take it personally 
It can be hard not to take someone's anger or disrespect personally when it's directed at you, but Forbes magazine reminded employees that it's not actually about you. The customer likely doesn't know you at all. He or she is upset about a service or product that your establishment may have provided. Remembering that it isn't about you can help you stop yourself from being defensive or offended. 

Listen actively
Often, when customers are irate, they just want to be heard. The best way to do this is through actively listening. Respond to what they're saying or requesting supportively rather than defensively. Even if they're wrong, showing that you're listening to them and hearing their concerns can help them calm down and maybe hear you in return. 

Business Know-How explained that employees often need to acknowledge the customer's concerns before both sides can work to a mutually acceptable outcome. 

"The acknowledgement is essential to communicating in challenging situations," the business advice website wrote. "Use phrases like, 'I understand how you feel,' 'I see,' 'I apologize,' 'I am sorry' [and] 'I can see how you might feel that way' so that customers feel that they have been heard and that we respect them. It clears the way for us to move forward by helping diffuse the emotion and placing us on the side of the customer."

This advice is particularly applicable to managers who are most likely to deal with disrespectful customers. Once people feel heard and acknowledged, many may be willing to listen to a resolution. 

Know where the line is 
As Inc. magazine explained, sometimes managers and other superiors need to step in and ask a customer to leave. No matter how polite and respectful you are to customers, when they continue to disrespect your personnel and employees, it may be time to give them the boot. The magazine pointed to an example where a retail team tried to treat a rude customer with kindness, but he continued to be disrespectful and mean. The owner decided to step in and tell his employees that they did the right thing, and the customer was no longer welcome. Although telling a customer to leave is extreme, the magazine explained that in certain situations it may be the only answer. 

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