Social Question

FluffyChicken's avatar

Those in customer service, hospitality, or related jobs; How do you deal with Jerk customers?

Asked by FluffyChicken (5511points) July 27th, 2011

When a customer or guest is a real PITA (pain in the ass), or a complete asshole. What do you usually do?

Today at the hotel I work at these rather elderly folks had me move them to the ground floor because they could not walk up stairs and we have no elevators. We are very full tonight, and I had to bend over backwards to move some rooms around and get them into a ground floor room. I even gave them a coupon for a complimentary glass of wine to make up for the fact that it took me some time to get it figured out.

Then the man misplaced his suitcase. He thought it was in the lobby. I told him I had not seen it. He kept insisting that “it was right here! it was right here!” I suggested other places it might be, and tried to be as helpful as possible. He said “I’m going to call the police, You people are terrible!” after I had bent over backwards to be as helpful as possible. Shortly afterwards, he came back to the counter to tell me he had found it.

Have you had similarly awful people in your workplace? What did you do? What would you have done? Anecdotes encouraged!

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27 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I’m not getting mad over them, I’m above that lol. Some people like to argue with them or let that person get to them, but it’s only going to make the situation worse.

bobbinhood's avatar

I generally work very hard to keep a straight face as I find overly uptight people incredibly amusing. I’m not about to let them ruin my day. I actually look forward to the spice they bring.

KateTheGreat's avatar

I just walk away. People like that are obviously idiots, so I just laugh to myself.

AmWiser's avatar

@FluffyChicken, I really feel for you. Customer service is sometimes a very thankless job. People can be cruel, selfish, ungrateful and just downright a$$holes. The only advice I can offer you is to learn to be tactful, gracious and smiley while letting all the foolishness roll off your back.

JLeslie's avatar

Those customers are not anywhere close to awful. It is completely reasonable that they need a first floor room, you should have said you understand and will do everything you can to accomodate them, and you could have taken pleasure in being able to help them. Maybe advise them that when making reservations they can request a lower floor or elevator accessible floor (although half the time I request a higher floor and the hotel seems to fail to look at the comments). He was forgetful and misplaced his suitcase, if you showed him you were concerned, cared, empathasized with the situation and have misplaced things yourself, he would have been happy you were helping, rather than your attitude of being annoyed to help him. Your attitude needs to change so you feel better in your job and provide better service. Your service in the end might be the same actually, but how you come across will make the customer feel or perceive you as delivering service above expectations. You wind up doing the work anyway, you might as well do it with a smile and feel good about it.

The gentleman even came back to let you know he found it, he cared that you did not continue to worry about the suitcase, even though it sounds like you were not worried much. That was nice of him. He knew it made himself look badly, that he had been mistaken, but he still let you know when he did not have to.

When I worked in retail our standard was to exceed expectations.

MacBatman31's avatar

Kill them with kindness. It is much easier to make them choke on their rudeness by just being super sweet to them. Smile, laugh, and don’t take a single thing they say seriously. I used to work at a Perkins, and I tell you what, those are some of the rudest, most inconsiderate customers I have ever worked with.

Blueroses's avatar

First of all, I had to laugh at your Q because I had marked some clients as PITA in my work database.

My personal challenge is always to make them smile. Not to make a deliberate effort at letting them know I’m bending over backwards to accommodate them, but to try and make a genuine connection letting them know I understand the issue. I get why they’re upset, I’d be upset too. Let’s do an immediate “customer stroke”... and then we’ll look at what I’ll attempt to do to resolve the entire issue.

The key is sincerity and asking “what can I do for you, right now?” The ticket for a complementary glass of wine might be better used as “Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll have Becki bring you a glass of wine while I phone your travel agent and work this out.”

You just always have to act as if it’s your pleasure and your desire to make them happy. Not look like you’re working at it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I try to let them get it out of their system, offer whatever solutions or apologies are at my disposal and go on from there. Sometimes I excuse myself when someone won’t accept their options, I’ll call or go get a manager so other customers don’t get waylaid. I try to keep as quiet and steady as possible, keep myself out of it. Where I work then once a month several of take turns working a Saturday as the cashier and all of us dread it because of how rude the customers are.

poisonedantidote's avatar

I happen to work in a hotel that is full of mostly older people. While I do deal with complaints, these are not the kind I deal with.

When I have an asshole client (had 2 that I can recall), I just consider them a lost cause. They have alredy made their mind up about what kind of review they will give the hotel and if they will come back or not. You have their money, let them be miserable and fuck off, and just concentrate on not letting their idiocy rub off on the other customers.

Avoid them, give them excuses, and generally treate them as if to say “yea, this place is as shit as you say it is, stop expecting things”.

Usually there is alcohol in the equation, or they are at least behaving like their mind is impaired some how, just let them wash down stream.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@JLeslie I was very happy to serve him until he started accusing me of stealing his suitcase. I was happy to find them rooms on the first floor. I WAS concerned and always do my best to make sure my guests are accomodated as well and cheerfully as possible, and even offered to help him look for it. I DID do it all with a smile. It’s the fact that he assumed that I stole his suitcase, and then called me terrible to my face, when I HAD done my absolute best to help him.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@FluffyChicken: When we answer the phones for our store, we almost daily have customers swear at us and call us names when they get frustrated they can’t get what they want, it’s horrible, I never imagined this went on before.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I turn around, pull my pants down, bend over, spread my ass cheeks wide and scream
“COME ON! JUST GET IT OVER WITH!”

abysmalbeauty's avatar

You need to have a certain mindset to work in customer service. Some people are willing to have this mindset and others are not. Its those who are not who give company’s the reputation of having bad service and quite frankly those people need to quit or get fired.

If you are going to work in customer service and do so effectively the first thing you have to realize is that the customer is king. Without the customer YOU DON’T HAVE A JOB. The second thing you have to realize is that people have the right to be demanding or even a “PITA” about what they pay for and your role is to help the customer not be annoyed with them. Just remember that if you don’t treat your customer right someone else certainly will. So put a smile on and put some effort into enjoying helping people. Or get a different job.

Coloma's avatar

I’ve done a lot of customer service type work and I am very good with people.

I can make them forget their complaints, humor them, empathize, make jokes. I’m a natural! lol

Good thing I only use my gifts for the good! lol

People want to be HEARD, they want empathy, and USUALLY if you supply these two ingredients they feel cared for and their issue respected.

They also want compensation if their complaints are viable.

I was at liberty to toss in ‘bonus’ items on screwed up orders or compensate with an extra ‘gift’ to make restitution for the mistakes or items that were damaged.

I LOVED doing this, I would often ask the customer if I could randomly “surprise” them with some extra items. Often, they so liked the bonus items that they would order lots of them with their next order!

I used to do the customer service, accts. receivable for a large import company.

The trick is to be GENUINE, not a schmoozer, there is an energy to genuine that cannot be faked.

We had clients all over the world. Shakers of London, all over the U.S. I LOVED my clients and they loved me. It was my bitchy, psycho, chinese boss that owned the manufacturing companies that made me go.

NO approach works with crazy!
The rest, easy! haha

JLeslie's avatar

@FluffyChicken Are you sure he assumed you stole it? Or, did he want to call the police because he thought someone stole it? Might it have been a miscommunication and an assumption on your part that he was accusing you when he never did? I am simply asking, I am not trying to put you on the defensive. Were you against calling the police?

I’m glad to here you genuinely wanted to help them, it didn’t come through to me that way in your question, I apologize if I made a bad assumption.

My best advice is to put yourself in their shoes. In this case elderly, tired from travel, arrive and maybe surprised to see there are stairs in the hotel rather than an elevator, maybe they don’t travel much, and then they misplace their luggage. They were probably feeling very discombobulated, so just treat them as you would want to be treated. If they vent on you a little because their day has been long and tiring, maybe a flight delay or a traffic delay, maybe they are in town for sad reasons not happy ones, the best thing is to just do what you would do to help if their attitude was better, continue to give them great service and say you want to do everything you can to help. You can literally say it, so they know your intent is not to get rid of them as fast as possible nor to do what many service people do which is to say very little while customers vent. I find that extremely annoying. People who tend to have a little temper are not very fond of the other person saying nothing. It is passive aggressive and not practicing problem solving, and the guy who is annoyed wants his problem solved.

If they are becoming abusive, screaming their head off, calling you names, being physically aggressive, you do not have to deal with that. Call in another person to handle it so the customer can have a new face to deal with.

FluffyChicken's avatar

@JLeslie I gotcha. I totally agree with you. Normally I’m pretty cool in a situation like that. I don’t know why I let it bother me so much. Unfortunately we only have two people on staff at any one time, and we both tried to help the guy. Oh well. Over it.

JLeslie's avatar

@FluffyChicken Yeah, I get it, really I do. I have had customers make me cry. It was very rare, mostly I loved customer service and I miss it. You just needed to vent too, it sounds like you know what to do.

chyna's avatar

You have to have a thick skin to work in the business where you deal with people. Older people have different views than younger people and the more you are around them, the less annoying they will be, you will just smile at their eccentricities.

Haleth's avatar

Patience and empathy. If you can put yourself in their shoes, it’s easy to understand why they would be upset. Imagine if you were going on a vacation- it’s a special event that you’ve been looking forward to, you’ve been traveling all day and you just want to settle in. Now imagine not being able to walk to your hotel room. The panic of dealing with something like that (will we have a place to stay tonight?) can make it easy to get flustered and distracted. Whenever I’m stressed, I always lose things and misplace things. Not everyone is reasonable, and some people are looking for an outlet. He might have even had a sneaking suspicion that he misplaced the suitcase, but when you’re already angry it’s easier to blame someone else. Most of us do things like that all the time.

The fact that you used the phrase “bend over backward” twice tells me that you lost your patience with them. If you had been patient enough to stay friendly the whole time, I guarantee you the customers would have been more reasonable. It’s important to have a calm and reassuring manner- if they felt taken care of when you were getting the room, they probably would not have lost the suitcase or gotten angry with you.

All in all, you could have made this a positive experience for everyone. Most customers don’t expect considerate behavior that goes above and beyond, and when you exceed their expectations, they remember it. They could have become repeat customers or recommended the hotel to others.

I think they just want to feel that someone is on their side.

Haleth's avatar

I also want to point out that, since they’re handicapped, they’re probably used to customer service people being impatient with them. They need special accommodations just to get around, and it’s something they have to think about every single time they go out. Being kind to a handicapped person is a really good thing to do.

JLeslie's avatar

@Haleth I did not get the impression from the question that they are visibly handicapped.

Haleth's avatar

@JLeslie Possibly true, but a handicap is still real even if it isn’t obvious. And they told the OP that they couldn’t walk up the stairs.

JLeslie's avatar

@haleth I was just commenting on the idea that these customers might be accustomed to being treated differently because they are handicapped. Most of the time they may not be perceived as handicapped at all. Of course a handicap is real even if we cannot tell from the outside, but if I cannot tell just by looking, why would I adjust how I treat them? I don’t think I adjust for most handicaps anyway. Not with how I verbally treat someone, and I would only adjust what I do for them based on the limitations I can perceive or have been told about.

Anyway, if you read the OP’s answer to my first response, it seems she just needed to vent a little, and does understand what is needed to work in the customer service industry.

Sunny2's avatar

1. Always be polite, calm, and quietly friendly
2. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. .
A. They are travelers and probably tired.They may be cranky or not at their best.
B. Consider their age and realize they may have special needs. People with kids may want to get the kids into the pool ASAP. Older people may be easily confused. It’s your job to make things as pleasant as possible even though you’re irritated by the customers.
3. Don’t take it personally. Let it roll off your back and keep your cool with a smile.
This is true in any service job you may ever have. It’s NOT about you; it’s about the customer.
Good luck.

Haleth's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve definitely felt the need to vent after a tough day at work, and I can absolutely understand where she’s coming from.

Small print because this is going off-topic. My view on handicaps is probably different from most people’s, because I live with a relative who doesn’t look handicapped but has difficulty walking and can’t do things like walk up a flight of stairs.

I also should have been clearer about my meaning in the post up above. I didn’t mean to imply that the OP was discriminating against handicapped people. My exact meaning is that if you have a handicap, even if it’s not an obvious one, it can be difficult getting the accommodations you need. When I travel with my aunt, we always have to plan ahead to make sure we’ll be able to complete the trip. Some of the things we need to do are unusual for customer service people in the places we go, and they don’t always understand why we need so much help.

Another example is one of my customers at work, who is in a wheel chair and doesn’t have the use of his hands. When he comes in, I pick up the items for him, get his wallet from his bag, run the card, and sign the slip for him, then put all the items in his bag and hold the door on the way out. Every time he goes to a store, he has to find someone who will do this for him.

So I shouldn’t have said that the customers are used to being treated differently. What I should have said is that they face a unique set of challenges every time they travel.

JLeslie's avatar

@Haleth I certainly understand not looking sick or handicapped and having a disability or pain that limits what a person can do. So, I know just where you are coming from. Your comment about some customer service people maybe not understanding the needs of someone who is disabled is a good point.

As far as the man in the wheel chair who does not have use of his hands, it seems to me his disability is fairly obvious, although I guess maybe some customer service people may not think of everything he needs done for him. Still, to your previous point, he is in a wheelchair so people are more set up mentally to expect he might need some help. I look young, healthy, normal. Even people who are aware of some of my physical problems forget or have a hard time believing it is true.

The OP did not seem to question the needs of the elderly couple, but rather a frustration with having to deal with the needs, and then the suitcase incident I guess just made the entire interaction frustrating.

Pandora's avatar

I try to remember that at times I have made strange request that was important to me and the same way I expected them to try to help me out it was my job to try to help out my customers to the best of my ability. Sure its not always easy to keep that smile on your face when they insist on something wrong and you know it was their mistake and not yours but I always would feel satisfied when they had to come crawling back.
I had this one real in the pain ass customer once. Who was a freaken nightmare. But I swallowed by pride and apologized if I said or did anything that made him feel that his business wasn’t wanted. I was surprised we ended up having a totally different experience once he realized I wasn’t looking for a fight. I was just looking for a way to be able to please him without breaking any rules or giving off the appearance of preference.
You’ll be surprised how a sincere apology can make a big difference. Only stand your guns. You could’ve asked him for information of about his bag and got someone to stand in for you while you helped him look. Standing behind a desk and pretty much telling him that he was wrong was only going to make matters worse. He doesn’t want to hear what you think. He just wanted to find his bag. Of course he couldn’t simply asked someone to help him find his bag. But people react to things in different ways. What can you do?

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