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12 Tips For Dealing With Bully Customers

By Valerie Cade CSP

What if the bully is your customer? What can you do to help calm down and re-direct obnoxiousness from a customer? Best-selling author Rebecca Morgan gives us her Top 12 Tips for dealing with bully customers.

“In my seminars and interviews based on my best-selling book Calming Upset Customers, I’m often asked to give guidelines for handling these stress-producing encounters. The following offers some general thoughts for you and your staff.”

General Philosophy:

  • Don’t take upset customers’ rantings and ravings personally. Don’t get emotionally hooked. When you let him or her “push your buttons” you lose. When you respond emotionally—with anger, sarcasm, upset, tears—you can’t respond rationally. The customer often wants to push your buttons because he/she thinks you’ll give him/her what he/she wants.
  • Make it a game or challenge to see how many upset customers you can turn around. See if you can get him/her to be reasonable.
  • Look for the “gifts” upset customers offer you. These gifts are what they can teach you about dealing with ugly human behavior. The better you deal with them, the fewer upset people you’ll have in your life. They’ll see through your body language and composure that you are confident you can find a solution without getting rattled.
  • Understand that obnoxious bully customers are often embarrassed because they made a mistake and want to blame it on you.
  • Respond by being reasonable, firm, pleasant, mature, and professional to show them that you’re going to do what you think is right no matter how obnoxious they get. They think that being rude is the only way to get action.
  • Don’t “give away the store” or over-compensate. This rewards the bully customer’s behavior and teaches him/her—and others—that acting belligerently is the way to get what one wants. Knowing your boundaries and what is fair to offer a customer is key.

Specific Behaviors You Can Do To Cope With Bully Customers:

  • Listen fully-don’t interrupt. If you do, it will escalate the anger. Take notes; looking up often to maintain eye contact. Assume body language that shows you’re interested and concerned.
  • Have a respectful tone, even though you don’t respect this bully’s behavior. Have a calm but concerned voice tone. Don’t get distracted.
  • Remove the bully customer from the main customer area, if possible. Take away their audience.
  • Let the bully customer cool off when on the phone by saying that you need to research the situation and possible solutions, and then calling back.
  • Talk about what you can do, not what you can’t do. Being solution-oriented covers you.
  • Ignore impoliteness and cursing. If you allow the cursing to offend you, you’ve lost your objectivity and control, and the bully customer has won. Edit the comments in your head so you can make sense of the words without getting upset. For example: “You’re a fool. Why did you do this wrong? Who would ever hire an incompetent worker like you?”— translates into “She’s really upset. Something is wrong. What can I do to help set it right?”

Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, CMC, is a dynamic speaker and strategic customer service consultant. This is an excerpt from the best-selling book, Calming Upset Customers. For more information, check out her website at

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