How to Handle Angry or Difficult Customers

Angry or difficult customers are an unavoidable reality when working in retail. However, each uncomfortable encounter presents a unique opportunity to win the respect of your customers and gain their business loyalty. How you handle confrontations can have a powerful effect on your business. According to one study, consumers tell nearly three times more people about negative customer service experiences than they do positive ones. This trend will follow you online. An aggrieved customer is 21% more likely to post a review than their satisfied counterparts. It’s tempting to show a rude or belligerent customer the door. Before losing your composure, try some simple de-escalation techniques that can protect your hard-earned five-star rating. Read on to learn how you can keep your cool when tempers run hot.

Repeat the problem back 

Most people work hard for their money, and it can feel like a personal injustice if they believe they’ve been cheated or deceived. A customer with unmet expectations wants to be understood and taken seriously. It’s not enough to say, “I understand.” By repeating the problem back to them, you prove that you are engaged and empathetic. For example, you could say, “Let me make sure I understand all of the details. You purchased a camera at this store. When you got it home, you noticed it was missing the charger. Is that right?”

Let them vent

When someone is in the middle of an angry outburst, it’s natural to want to jump in to provide an explanation or solution. These interruptions are likely to further inflame the peeved patron in front of you. Give the disgruntled shopper the time and space to vent. They’ll be exhausted by the end of it and more receptive to discussion. Practice active listening techniques. Maintain eye contact without staring, keep arms uncrossed, and relax your hands. Nod your head in acknowledgment as they speak.

Respond, don’t react

When a customer confrontation escalates to arguing and yelling, you’re likely going to feel attacked, and your body will respond accordingly. When that adrenaline kicks in, your heart rate increases, your muscles clench, and the next thing you know, you’re yelling and waving your hands around too. At this point, civil conflict resolution becomes almost impossible. Practice keeping calm and collected in a stressful dispute, and you’re much more likely to reach a satisfactory conclusion faster.

Use their name

Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” This sentiment remains true today. People are less likely to engage in trivial conflict with someone they consider a friend or an acquaintance. Asking the crabby consumer their name at the beginning of the interaction, and then using it frequently is an easy way to turn a foe into a friend. You could say, “Let me check the backroom one more time for your package, Scott. I appreciate your patience.”

Prevention is the best medicine

The best way to minimize negative customer interactions is to learn the common pain points in your business and work to prevent them. Some mishaps will always be out of your control, but you can always keep your store clean and well-stocked. Signs and labels should be easy to read and posted in logical places in the store. It helps to have accurate store hours, policies, and FAQs published online.

Wish Local partners can ensure a smooth customer experience with the following tips:

  • Train all staff members on every aspect of the Wish Local workflow from scanning in packages to customer pickup.
  • Have an airtight package and product organization system to prevent lost or misplaced items.
  • Stay up-to-date on Wish Local program and policy changes by reading the Wish Local blog and subscribing to your region’s Wish Local Facebook page. 
  • Keep your store’s business hours accurate by emailing any changes to store@wish.com. If, for example, you are closed on Sundays, reminding regular Wish shoppers of this closure verbally may prevent future frustrations.

If there is a Wish user who is repeatedly disruptive or threatening, please report it to us at store@wish.com. Please include the customer’s full name and an order ID associated with the user. 

Take care of yourself

Allow yourself or your employee a short break after stressful interactions to recharge. You’ve got this!

Having a heated interaction with a customer is always going to be unpleasant. It’s crucial that you treat each customer with empathy and don’t take it personally. Disagreements happen. How you respond and recover can mean the difference between receiving an angry review or gaining a grateful return customer. Keep calm and carry on!