Dealing with abusive customers

How to Deal with an Abusive Customer


No one wants an abusive customer.

Sometimes, customer service training doesn’t adequately prepare you for what some customers throw at you.

When a call starts abusive or escalates from anger into an abusive tone, it sometimes seems that nothing you say can help. Any time a customer becomes abusive you need to apply more assertive techniques to protect yourself.

So what exactly does “abusive” mean? It means using dirty language, verbal bullying or just plain emotionally out of control. Some customers seem to lose it when you don’t tell them what they want to hear. And when you ask them, they’re frustrated that you’re not a mind reader.

These steps can help eliminate the abusive behavior:

  1. Make the conversation personal. The more impersonal dialogue remains, the more likely it is to provoke hostility. When you sense that the customer’s hostility is about to become abusive, and you’ve tried everything to defuse their animosity, make it personal. Call the person by name. If it is a corporate customer, refer to their company by name. Tell them your name again and remind them that your company (mention by name) wants them to be satisfied.
  2. Tell the customer your objective and your limits. Remind them that you want to resolve their problem. Inform them that you can help only if the appropriate language is used and the demands are realistic. Never under any circumstances should you allow foul language to continue or for the customer to continue out of control. When such abuse is underway, nothing can get done. Even worse, the abusive customer will take every opportunity to sabotage your composure. If you allow abuse to continue, you lose any respect they may have had. If they will not control themselves enough to engage in a sensible discussion, you need to utilize an even more aggressive approach.
  3. Transfer the call. This interrupts the abusive behavior and helps the customer realize that such behavior will not be tolerated.
  4. Discontinue the call. If you cannot transfer the call or if the call was transferred to you and the customer remains abusive, simply tell the customer that you want very much to help, but that company policy prohibits employees from continuing in abusive conversations. Ask them to please contact customer service at a later time. Then inform them that you will not be releasing the call.

For additional pointers on how to handle abusive customers, ask your corporate training officer for additional customer service training programs. Typically, online training courses are available which can be taken at your convenience, and such e-learning might also help lower your stress level. The next customer will appreciate it.