Complaint Comebacks

I’ve been talking about some heavy topics earlier in my last couple of posts so I’ve decided to break that mood a little bit. There are a great number of ways to respond to a rude customer. I’ve narrowed down some of your options here;

Witty

By far the most tempting option- if only you could think of something clever enough while being yelled at. Unfortunately that brilliant comeback will inevitably come to you hours later or while working at an establishment without a sense of humor. Some of the lucky few who have experienced that golden moment can be found here. I wish you all the best in thinking of it but remember your environment. Don’t risk your job for a joke that can be incorporated in the re-telling anyway.

Indignant

This is the ‘moral high ground’ response where in which you point out that no matter what has happened human beings don’t deserve to be spoken to like that. While absolutely true (see: this entire blog) you have to be careful where you use it. First of all it admits some level of fault which I can garuntee your boss won’t appreciate. Secondly, the people likely to care about this issue are the ones who are justifyably peeved and will calm down to annoyance in a moment. Rational anger will respond to this but the comment is only necessary with irrational anger. The irrationally angry customers will see a gentle reminder of humanity as another smear against not just their life (which is already inconvenienced hence their anger) but their personal morality. Which, to be fair, it kind of is.

Explanation

Informing a customer of the non-transparent reasons why something has gone wrong. For example, “a big order from another server got to the kitchen before theirs did throwing out the estimated wait time”.  This option works wonders with rational people as they can see the cause and effect and that no one was really at fault (if that is the case). However it can backfire in two dire ways:

  1. The customer will redirect their anger to the new problem and the ways in which it could be solved. Which they may then take over your head and it is taken out of your control. I.e. why don’t you have a way to stop small orders getting trapped behind bigger ones?
  2. Management is often not pleased to have their ‘secrets’ revealed. The number of times I could have explained a situation with ‘we are understaffed’ or ‘that person is very new and not fully trained yet’ is almost all of them. This explanation reflects badly on the business and more relevantly the management of said business.

Hostile

It is so hard to not give anything back to an angry customer. It is very easy to become defensive and to mirror their hostility. While defending yourself is important please try to choose the customers to do it in front of and the times to just let it go and explain it to your boss separately. There a very few circumstances where being aggressive is ok; in fact the only time where it is acceptable is if you are feeling threatened. When the customer has moved from “rude customer” to “someone who frightens me” then and only then respond with hostility in kind.

Customer Service Smile

Though it is the most boring and downright frustrating option the best thing to do when faced with rude and angry customers is to be cool, calm and collected. Respond to their anger with positivity and a smile. Be kind and make sure to project that their dramatics aren’t helping the situation. As terrible as they are be genuine in your efforts to help them. The more rational people will start to feel a bit silly and may even apologise. The now infamous irrational ones well… there is something extremely satisfying about watching someone struggling to yell about nothing. Your indifference and niceness will at the very least make the theatrics interesting to watch.

What’s your favourite method? Do you have an amazing cutomer comeback story? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC

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