We can easily forget that there is a proverbial line which customers should not cross when interacting with employees of a business, and there are people who are more than happy to cross that line if they’re allowed to do so.
The old sentiment, “The customer is always right” was invented during a time when the customer was probably a little more respectful of employees than they are today. Now it isn’t uncommon for a customer to make ridiculous demands and mistreat customer support representatives, even to the point of verbal abuse. That’s why your customers need some boundaries to discourage and prevent this kind of abuse.
Yes, you should go above & beyond, but…
This doesn’t mean that you should stop providing excellent service and support; on the contrary, we all know that it is essential for building positive relationships with customers and for generating good word-of-mouth for your business.
Employees just have to be conscious of where the line is, so that when a customer crosses it, they can deal with the person in an appropriate way. So where is the line?
Defining where the line is.
All of us generally know it when we see it, but it’s still a good idea to go over the signals of an abusive customer with your team, and the protocol for dealing with it when it reaches that point.
In its most basic form, yelling and/or cursing at an employee is the clearest sign that the customer has gone too far. Sometimes it may be more difficult to judge whether the customer is just rightfully frustrated, or if they are unreasonable and out of line.
For example, a customer may appear to be calm, but refuses to follow a support representative’s instructions while continuing to complain and insult them.
What is excellent customer service?
The problem is that we define “excellent” customer service as an individual who puts up with everything the meanest customers hurl at them, then swallows hard and politely complies with anything the unruly customer asks of them.
Some people can take more mistreatment than others, but your employees will end up having a lot of bad days if they are expected to take the abuse with a smile. It’s true that superior customer service means being polite and accommodating, of course (as long as the customer is not abusive), but ideally it is more about being efficient and knowledgeable, solving customers’ problems quickly.
For some advice on dealing with difficult customers, here are a couple more posts that you may find helpful:
How to Handle Difficult Customers: Know When to Hang Up
10 Steps to Handle a Tough Customer on the Phone
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.