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How to Deal With Rude Clients on the Phone

by Charli Mills

It's never pleasant dealing with rude clients on the phone, but you can stay in control of the situation by following a few rules. If you know ahead of time how you plan to react to rude clients on the phone, you can focus on your steps instead of being rattled by someone else’s anger.

Listen

Even if a client is rude, listen to what he is saying. He might have a valid reason to be upset, and your best chance to diffuse his rudeness is to understand its origin. It’s also possible the client just wants to vent and be heard. Acknowledge your client’s frustration without taking the blame. Repeat back what the client said in a calm and professional voice. Let him know you are listening to what he has to say and working toward a better understanding of his problems. Do not be rude in return. Meeting rudeness with rudeness is like fighting fire with gasoline.

Make It Right

Once you understand the reason for your client’s rudeness, try to make things right. Ask open-ended questions to engage the client in focusing on a solution rather than ranting about a problem. Your goal is to diffuse the emotion behind the rudeness and find an acceptable conclusion. For example, if a client is angry about a project delay, ask questions to better understand his expectations and enlist his ideas on how to overcome the reason for the delay. You can even thank the client for bringing the situation to your attention.

Document

Document the rude call by noting the date, time, behavior, complaint and resolution. One reason to document the rude call is to look beyond the rudeness to the reason and learn from the situation. You can always learn something, such as the importance of meeting deadlines. It gives you the opportunity to grow from client feedback. Another reason to document the rude call is to note the client’s behavior in case it is the beginning of an unwanted pattern.

Too Rude

If the client’s rudeness becomes problematic, you must decide how rude is too rude. One or two rude phone calls are manageable. However, if more rude phone calls follow, or the rudeness involves screaming, swearing, belittling or threatening behavior, then you can politely ask the client to modify his behavior. If he does not, then it's time to part ways with your client. In many cases, the amount of time and energy you expend on dealing with him might not be worth his business.

About the Author

Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.

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