Words Like Knives and Swords

220px-Taylor_Swift_-_MeanQueue in Taylor Swift’s “Mean” and proceed with belting out the tune, “…whyda gotta be so mean?” Then wipe up the tears and go get yourself some ice cream.

Ok, that was rather harsh, but in reality, I need to hear that. Yes, I am talking to myself here.


I have a very difficult time with mean customers. While my skin is thickening, if a customer calls me a bad name, I take offense.

Dumpsey: A True story

A customer wanted something that we truly could not provide them with. I was kindly explaining it to them and their angry email back to me referred to me as “Miss Dumpsey”. My last name is “Dempsey” and while growing up, I was referred to as “Dumpsey” quite often. This triggered my inner child and I just couldn’t take it. I went on to forward the email to Jeremy saying, “She called me DUMPSEY! I can no longer assist this disrespectful customer. She’s all yours.” Of course, in the heat of the moment, I hit “reply” instead of “forward” and the already angry customer received my heartfelt thoughts. Yikes!

Or, even more recently, a customer called me a very disrespectful name and I replied with “Well, that’s offensive!” They were pretty furious to hear my thoughts on this and hung up the phone, refusing to even speak with me. But, they called ME the bad name, gosh!

We’re in the business of transforming horrible service to awesome service. Some of these very angry customers need an outlet and don’t care to hear our thoughts about it. Along the way, after being called many a name by customers, I’ve developed some tips to help with this:

1. Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Yelling or name calling back to the customer is counter productive. While it feels real good to blow off steam and share your thoughts on their comments, it’s not worth it. We don’t like to be called mean names and chances are, the person you’re talking to, no matter how hurtful, doesn’t like it either.

2. Don’t Take it Personally

Remind yourself that you’re awesome. Really. Do it! You didn’t do anything to purposely hurt this person; you’re just trying to help. They are channeling their anger indirectly toward you. They are not angry at YOU but at something that’s not working right. Most of it is frustration. Think of how you feel when you’re frustrated. Do you get snappy? Do you  mean harm toward the person who is trying to help you? Probably not.

3. Be All Ears and Silence Your Tongue

This goes back to #1–don’t yell back at them or try to dispute their feisty behavior. Keep quiet, allow them the floor to continue to talk and acknowledge their frustration. When it does come time to talk, impress them with empathy and phrases such as, “I know this is a very difficult situation. I’m on your side and here to help you.”

If the customer does get extremely aggressive, such as threatening your life or saying extremely vulgar words, know you can always tell them that this probably isn’t the best time to talk and you’d like to work with them when they’ve calmed down. If it’s really bad, you can alert them to discontinue the use of their language or else you’ll terminate the call. But, make sure that you tell them you do want to work with them at another time. Don’t leave them hanging–this only makes them more angry.

All in all–it’s another learning experience. How do you deal with customers that call you mean names? I’d love to hear your feedback and advice!


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  • Jeremy Watkin

    Great post Jenny! As the supervisor, I want to be careful to make sure our CSRs aren’t taking too much abuse too. Sometimes the customer takes customer experience problems out on customer service when the people in charge need to do something so the customer doesn’t have to call.

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