The SaaS Guide to Handling Rude Customers

The goal of customer service is to ensure that your customer is satisfied with your service and able to meet their desired goal.

But some customers aren’t satisfied.

Whether they have a legitimate gripe or they’re simply being unreasonable, you must do your best to rectify the situation and repair the now-broken relationship with your customer. If you play your cards right, you can convert the rude customer into a happy and loyal one. Otherwise, you’ll have wasted your time, money, and effort by converting a customer who doesn’t pan out. No business wants that.

Even if your customer is unhappy, it doesn’t mean that they’re lost forever. You can win them over with excellent customer service. Yep, even the rude ones.

So, how exactly do you handle impolite, impatient, and insulting customers?

Check out these tips. Below, we’ll share the best ways to disarm rude customers and defuse a potentially disastrous situation.

Is it time to fire your customer? Here are 10 clues to look for.

Empower Your Team

Rude customers are inevitable. Have a plan for how you’ll deal with a rude customer before they send that nasty email or tweet a disparaging comment about your SaaS.

Predict all of the things that could go wrong with your product, from customer input error to server downtime, and come up with a plan for how you’ll handle it proactively. Sometimes, acknowledging the issue and giving the customer a plan of action before they complain can prevent an actual complaint.

But of course, you won’t be able to stop every complaint. So, be prepared for the customers who want their voices heard by role-playing. Acting out potential scenarios can improve your team’s immediate, knee-jerk response to a rude customer. These short exercises can develop skills, bolster confidence, and inform team members on relevant company policy.

Know the Difference

There’s a difference between a dissatisfied customer and a rude one.

Both types of customers reach out to you because they are frustrated. However, dissatisfied customers keep their composure. Rude ones don’t. They impose their frustration on you and your team. They yell, belittle, lash out with offensive language, and may even threaten you. Rude customers are unwilling to listen to you. They want you to hear them instead. Or, they want you to feel their wrath.

Rude customers are like bombs that are seconds away from exploding and taking your business with them. You must figure out how to defuse the bomb as quickly as possible.

Don’t Take It Personally

If a customer lashes out at you, try not to take it to heart. You represent the company. They don’t know you personally. They’re not attacking your character or self-worth. They’re making a statement about the company or the product.

Separate yourself from the company when handling rude customers.

Remind yourself that even when the customer accuses you of not doing the right thing, they are likely referring to the product/company instead of you, the individual. Refuse to take the bait as an individual. Respond as a company would.

Don’t Return the Same Energy

Instead of fighting fire with the same fiery attitude, throw water on the situation. In other words, try to de-escalate the conflict instead of making it worse.

You’ll do that by reacting calmly to the customer’s abrasive and aggressive actions. Take a moment to breathe so that you don’t respond in a rash and negative way to the customer’s bad behavior.

Understand the Limits of the Written Complaints

Because you operate a SaaS, you’ll rarely have to deal with a dissatisfied customer face to face. The bulk of your complaints will come in the written form of email, chat, and social media.

Here’s the problem with that: Almost every complaint sounds rude when written. Unless your customer is a skilled writer, they’ll be unable to accurately convey their frustrations without sounding rude. They may not be rude. They just seem rude. There is a difference.

The Internet strips away tone, inflection, and body language— all of which provide much-needed context to any customer complaint. Because you don’t have the luxury of using these cues, give the customer the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume that they are being rude to you.

Empathize With Your Customer

Instead of only seeing your perspective, remember that your rude customer is frustrated. They’re lashing out at you because they:

  1. Don’t know how to solve the problem on their own.
  2. Need a resolution now, not later.
  3. Need to vent.
  4. Are looking for you to acknowledge your wrongdoing.
  5. All of the above.

The correct answer varies based on the customer. Some customers remain rude, even after you’ve solved their problem or pointed them to a self-help solution. Other customers can make the shift from rude to agreeable after you’ve remedied the situation.

To empathize, think of how you’d feel if you were in the customer’s position. Remember: The customer does not know as much as you do about your service or your company, so it’s unfair to expect them to act as if they do. Imagine how annoyed, confused, and victimized you might feel if you weren’t able to complete the desired action.

Listen Actively

Handling rude SaaS customers

Most of us are horrible listeners. Research shows that we only hear/remember between 25% to 50% of a conversation. What are we not listening to?

When it comes to combative, confrontational situations, we only listen to prepare for our defense. However, defensive listeners miss important details that could actually neutralize the situation.

It’s important that you listen actively to your customers, especially the rude ones. Active listening and refusing to adopt a defensive posture can be tough when someone’s screaming at you (or writing in all caps), but it’s important to do. This allows you to take in everything that your customer is telling you and make an informed action plan to swiftly and completely resolve the situation.

Ask questions to clarify. Summarize the customer’s problem to ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Never interrupt your customer while they’re unleashing. The interruption will only frustrate them, cause you to miss key details, extend the conversation, and make the situation more volatile. Simply let the customer talk until they’re finished and then respond.

Offer a Quick Response

Handling rude SaaS customers

Waiting frustrates everyone, but the effect is worse for unhappy customers. If you receive a complaint, don’t make them wait too long for a response. Even if your response is “I’m checking into your issue,” acknowledge the customer and give them a glimmer of hope that you’re working on solving their problem.

[tweetthis]Even if your customer is unhappy, you can win them over with excellent customer service. Yep, even the rude ones.[/tweetthis]

It’s best to respond to complaints as soon as possible— 24 hours or less.

Don’t Try to Prove They’re Wrong

The customer may not always be right, but it’s not your job to prove them wrong. Try not to blame the customer, even if they’re the reason why something has gone astray. After all, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your service is easy to use and foolproof

Apologize

A simple apology can improve your customer’s attitude. Apologizing doesn’t automatically mean that you did something wrong. Sometimes, you can issue an apology based on regret (i.e. you regret that your customer isn’t happy with your service).

Other times, an apology is 100% warranted because you were in the wrong. Accept fault and find a way to rectify the situation before it’s too late. Your customer will appreciate your humility and willingness to admit fault.

Don’t Accept Abuse

Being rude is one thing. Being abusive is another.

Never tolerate abusive behavior, whether it’s directed towards you or your team members. Abusive behavior can be physical or verbal. It includes the use of derogatory language. If a customer takes a jab at your physical appearance, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion, firmly tell them not to use those attacks. If they continue, then it’s okay for you to discontinue your interaction and relationship with them— Fire them.

Make sure that everyone on your team knows which rude behaviors are unacceptable.

Final Thoughts

Rude customers may not be pleasant but they can reveal a lot about your customer experience. Remember to put yourself in their shoes. Beyond trying to understand their specific problem, think about how frustrated they must feel to not be able to accomplish their intended goal. Listen actively and come up with a solution that can restore the customer’s positive view of your SaaS.

Before you go, check out these related resources:

Don’t forget to download this list of 10 ways to know when it’s time to fire a customer.