Anyone who has ever had to deal with customers in their jobs knows how challenging it can be. You get to interact with so many different people every day, and certainly, not everyone tends to be all nice and positive.

Sure, those who reach out to customer support representatives are usually going through some issues that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. This leads to frustration or even anger, making it a support agent’s responsibility to get everything back to normal.

Although still putting a customer first is no piece of cake when you’re bombarded with negative emotions, an experienced customer support specialist always has some time-tested tricks up their sleeve that come in handy when dealing with rude customers.

To help you cope with similar situations, we’ve gathered the key tips from HelpCenter’s customer support gurus and put together a list of best responses to rude customers that’ll help you stay professional during any hostile conversation that you might face in the future.

Why do customers get angry?

First, to be able to handle irate customers, it’s important to understand that there can be many possible reasons for their anger. The worst you can do is to take it personally which can not only bring your spirit down but also negatively impact your work performance.

Think of it this way – it’s very rarely about you, most of the time you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The reason why customers are angry and rude can be any of the following:

  • Issues with products. Something that was supposed to be, look, or work in a specific way, isn’t. Or they are just not able to get things to work. Whichever it is, customers may feel fooled and that’s what leads them to anger.
  • Customer expectations and assumptions. Anyone buying a product online has a certain image of it in their heads already. The product can be exactly as you’ve described it, yet it still might not meet certain customer expectations that might have been incorrect because of various assumptions.
  • Poor customer support. Customers can get frustrated during interactions with customer support specialists. They can also get frustrated if those interactions are happening slower than they’ve expected or not happening at all. The poor quality of customer support can make them feel unheard and not valued, which can cause even more complaints.
  • Personal stuff. Sometimes people simply go through a bad day. Sounds unfair, but it happens – even the smallest issues appear bigger than they are, and you just happen to be an unfortunate target for their frustration.

There’s actually value in customer complaints…

Although having someone verbally attack you is never a pleasant experience, try to approach every customer complaint as a lesson.

Whether they’re not happy about the products you sell, long response times, shipping delays, or anything else, this is where you can get some valuable insights about how your business operates and start changing it for the better.

In fact, customers who complain seem to care more about the company than those who don't and even hand you an opportunity to change their minds. 91% of customers who are not happy about something related to a specific business but don’t complain simply churn.

So the choice here seems to be one of the following: to either watch them leave or learn how to defuse an angry customer and try to keep them.

Let’s see how you can achieve this.

Tips on how to deal with rude customers backed by customer support pros

Whenever you’re thinking of how to handle an angry customer, remember the 3 magic words that can help you in that specific situation: ACKNOWLEDGE (their emotions), ALIGN (with the situation), and ASSURE (it’s going to be resolved).

With these in mind, follow the tips below to learn how to deal with rude customers for the best possible outcome.

Note: We’ll be sharing tips from our customer support specialists Justas, Donatas, and Renatas who agreed to pass the knowledge that they’ve gained through years of working in customer service.

1. Listen listen listen

Active listening is one of the key customer service skills that any customer service representative should possess. No matter whether you’re dealing with a happy or disgruntled customer, this can significantly improve their experience with your brand.

“The main task is to make your customer feel heard,” says our customer support pro Renatas. “All complaints are similarly themed – something was supposed to happen that didn’t. A product doesn’t work, an expectation wasn’t met. In any event, your client was inconvenienced or worse. By the time the problem is severe enough for the customer to contact you, they are undoubtedly upset.

In such situations, you should keep in mind to relax and not start attacking the client. I think that hearing and reassuring the customer is half the solution to the problem.”

Tips on how to be an active listener

What does active listening mean though? When you listen actively, you make the conscious effort to really understand the message that’s being communicated by asking questions, reflecting on specific thoughts, giving verbal and/or nonverbal feedback.

It’s important to let the customer say everything that they want yet ensure that they’re talking to someone who acknowledges and understands the issue, not just listens.

2. Repeat the issue to understand it better

Reiterating the issue is part of active listening that can get you and your customer on the same page. Repeating what the customer has just said to you will also help you to better understand the problem and look at it from your perspective.

Our customer support guru Justas admits that this is completely essential – you need to understand the client’s situation well to help them and for this, you have to have enough information on the problem.

“Sometimes when the customer is unhappy agents prefer to talk less and just try and solve the problem,” he adds. “The issue here is that this might lead to a lack of information, where you will be forced to come back to them later with additional questions when they would expect a solution or even worse - not a great solution.

Additionally, asking clients more questions gives an impression that the issue will be solved, you care more, and that they are important. Everyone has been in a situation where you are trying to give a simple point to someone and the point is simply not being understood correctly. Let's make it easy on the customer.”

Customer service tip: asking questions to understand the problem better

3. Show empathy

Empathy and customer service are like peanut butter and jelly – they're just much better together.

“Try and understand that the client is frustrated and assist them with the corresponding amount of empathy,” says Justas. “This usually sets your own mood from protective to actually helpful. You will notice how those unhappy customers are quickly turning into happy when handled gently.”

Empathy means that you’re able to understand what other people are feeling, align with those emotions, and respond accordingly. Put simply, in customer service it’s the ability to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, yet still address their concerns professionally.

Without empathy, customer support reps can find it difficult to understand specific issues and communicate the solution to the customer, which can lead to even more frustration.

4. Highlight the case’s priority and set expectations

Once you and your customer are in sync – meaning you completely understand what the customer is complaining about, you can start thinking about the best possible solution in that specific situation.

But first, you need to assure the customer that the thing they’re going through is very important to you and under control.

Our customer service pros Donatas shared his experience on what to say to an angry customer:

“When a customer is unhappy, the key rule for me is to mention the importance of fixing the issue as soon as possible to calm them down and make them feel cared for.

It usually works when the issue is clearly explained and you assure the customer that it’s already being fixed. If you can solve it quicker than the customer anticipated, it makes them happier and, in some cases, even leads to them leaving some good feedback.”

If you know that there’s no way of fixing a specific problem fast, make sure you communicate this to your customer. Explain the steps you’ll take to solve the problem and when they can expect it to be done. In such situations, being honest can go a long way.

5. Use positive language

Although it might sometimes feel unbearable, you can never get on the same level of frustration as your irate customers.

Instead, try to stay focused and use positive language. It will not only help you stay more in control of the situation but can also soften an angry customer a bit, leading to a better experience for both sides.

Using positive language in customer service - example

Justas adds:

“The tone of voice is very important in both written and spoken support work. You can basically convert any negative phrase into a positive one and you should do it.

For example "Sorry for the issue caused" can be changed to "Thank you for your understanding"; "Sorry we took longer than expected" to "Thank you for your patience"; "We are not able to release the suggested feature now" to "I believe the feature is great and our team will add it to be reviewed later," etc.

This is basically 101 on all communication and is extremely helpful when handling unhappy customers.”

6. Apologize but don’t overdo it

Errors and mistakes happen and there’s no way to completely avoid them. For customer service representatives, apologizing even for the smallest inconveniences is a part of their everyday routine. Yet what’s important is not to overdo it.

“Do not over-apologize. This is a tricky one. Stay friendly but official and to the point,”  adds Justas.

“Sometimes customers are giving emotionally emphasized questions/expressions that are outside of the main point and the best way is to quickly acknowledge with something similar to: "thank you for your understanding", "thank you for your feedback" or even directly diving into the next step.

If a customer support agent spends too much time on emotional support and apologizing - it simply fuels it for longer, essentially making the situation worse for the client. We are here to make it easier for the client.

The balance here is important, so the customer gets the feeling that you are in control and will be able to assist him, rather than you are very sorry but your priority is not his problem, but his feelings.”

Customer service tip - do not over-apologize

7. Follow up

To renew or strengthen the relationship with your irate customer, follow up with them after a few days have passed to make sure they’re satisfied with the outcome of your interaction.

You can send an email, give them a call, or even send a text message if you have them on your messaging list.

This will indicate how serious you are about that individual customer’s satisfaction and show them that you care. Since the anger should be gone already, reaching out can be an effective way to score some extra points for your brand and even improve the customer’s loyalty.

17 best responses to rude customers

Just like you can easily fuel an already angry customer by saying something reckless, there are words that you can use to minimize the potential harm and stay more in control of the situation when dealing with rude customers.

Below you can find some of the best responses to rude customers that you can adjust to your specific situation, whether you’re dealing with angry customers on the phone, live chat, or replying to a rude email.

  1. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience you have experienced and I’m committed to resolving the issue as soon as possible.
  2. We appreciate your patience and hope to have a solution for you by [date].
  3. So, what I’m hearing is… Is that correct?
  4. Thank you for your feedback. Our team is sorry you felt this way.
  5. We thoroughly investigated your situation and found out that…
  6. I can understand how frustrating this must be for you.
  7. I know how disappointing it is not to get what you’ve expected.
  8. I’d like to understand the situation better. Tell me more about why you feel this way.
  9. Thank you for your patience and assistance.
  10. I’m very sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I completely understand your frustration.
  11. What can I do to help you feel better so that we can move forward?
  12. I’m sorry to hear that. Can you tell me exactly what happened so I can help?
  13. I’d like to sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, I understand such mistakes can be upsetting. Can I ask you a few questions so that we could resolve this as soon as possible?
  14. It’s unfortunate that X happened. I’m aware of how it must make you feel and appreciate your patience as I work to resolve this issue.
  15. I apologize you have to go through this. Let me quickly check to see how I can fix it.
  16. It looks like I need to speak with a product expert about this error. That’s going to require more time, but the sooner I do that, the sooner we can fix this.
  17. I appreciate you making us aware of your negative experience. We strive to provide excellent customer service, and I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.

Wrapping up

Customer service mostly involves dealing with failures – flawed products, equipment shortcomings, miscommunication, human errors, imperfect policies, broken promises, and so on. And yes, it can be stressful.

When dealing with rude customers, the key is to never personalize the problems that have arisen and try to look at the situation from your own perspective. This will bring you closer to really understanding the issue and might even indicate the next steps towards finding a solution.

Stay calm, flexible, and take every such interaction as an opportunity to learn something new or pinpoint the issues that you weren’t aware of – which will only help you and your business grow.