Subscribe Form Popup

Why Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter?

That's easy. You'll get action-worthy business tips aimed at owners like you. Plus it's a quick read.

Tips On Dealing With Disruptive Customers

Posted Dec 7, 2017
Closeup portrait angry young woman blowing steam coming out of ears

Disruptive customers have a way of quickly turning what was an enjoyable workday into a sour experience. There are few things worse.

So, what do you do when these scenarios occur? Does your team know how to assess these situations and handle them? Even if you think the answer is ‘yes,’ disruptive customers have a way of taking you by surprise.

TIP: Be prepared for the “surprise,” in whatever shape or form.

For many of us, our natural instinct is to get defensive when we are confronted. Especially, if it’s obvious that the customer is at fault, not us or our team.  

Tell your team that although it can seem like a personal attack, they don’t know what might be going on in that customer’s day that may have contributed to them lashing  out.

TIP: Instead, strike a balance between a hard and soft approach by listening with patience, showing empathy and speaking in a low volume and tone.

No matter how the customer acts (yelling, cursing) it’s how your team acts that makes the difference.

TIP: Have a policy in place that every team member understands and has been trained on.

The policy should outline steps your employees should follow for handling the challenging customer. For a small retail boutique, it might look something like this:

Situation: Customer wants to return an item past the 30 day deadline.

  1. Show the customer the information at the bottom of the receipt about the 30 day limit, explaining in a calm and kind nature.
  2. If customer is not satisfied, ask them why they need to return the item. If it’s a size issue and the garment hasn’t been worn, get a manager to override the 30 day limit code on the register and perform an even exchange.
  3. If the garment has been worn and the customer wants a cash or credit refund, let them know you cannot return the item, but let them know about upcoming specials, sales or incentives that you are offering to try to deter the anger. If there’s a relevant coupon, give it to them at this time.
  4. If customer is still not satisfied or makes a scene, ask them to step into the manager’s office.

TIP: If your team is given the ability to remedy certain situations without including management, it can make for a smoother, quicker transition back to a happy customer.

By allowing the team to provide a coupon, do an exchange or know when to contact you, you’ve taken away the “I don’t know” or “I have to check with someone” language that customers do not want to hear.

Diffusing anger can sometimes turn a once angry patron into a loyal customer. Letting the customer vent and not becoming defensive aids in finding a solution to which both parties can agree. If they feel you care and are genuinely trying to fix the problem, they will respond.

For restaurant owners, you might notice a regular customer complaining a lot about their food and constantly asking for refunds or freebies.

TIP: You may want to note in the customer’s data record the nature of each dispute and how you resolved it. That way, if you see that a particular customer is always complaining and trying to get something for free, you have documentation.

Now you can make an informed business decision about what to do if yet another complaint arises. At some point, you may decide it’s better for your business to lose the customer rather than continue to put up with the hassle and ongoing compensation.

Having a good POS system allows you to record interactions with customers. Contact us here at Simpay at if you’d like to discuss data management options.

Here’s a cool article on ways to make your customer love you. In a competitive world, use your unique business model to provide something different. Reward cards for loyal customers, block parties to meet new customers, or perhaps a day when you donate your proceeds to charity. Create for yourself the opportunity to stand out in your community.

Do you have any out-of-the-box ideas for dealing with disruptive customers? Email us at and we’ll share it with our audience.