Tips for Dealing with Unruly Customers at Work

August 19, 2022

Remember the toilet paper wars early in the pandemic? It seems that unruly behavior hasn’t completely gone away. The most infamous incidents seem to take place in the air. In 2021 there were nearly 6,000 unruly passenger reports on airplanes – many of them mask-related – leading to fines and other enforcement actions.

But let’s face it: bad behavior can happen anywhere, and it’s the workers doing their jobs that often have to deal with these problem clients and customers. You know the saying: the customer is always right. Well, that is not always the case.

Find Out How to Deal with Problem Customers Before an Incident Occurs

Dealing with angry customers is a given in some lines of work. Workers in public-facing positions must learn certain skills in order to deal with unruly clientele. They are often trained to deescalate the situation, remain calm, and continue talking with the person despite their responses or behavior. This tactic often resolves the issue. Not only can a calm voice and demeanor minimize the problem, but it helps calm other shoppers and coworkers so things don’t get out of hand.

Develop Some Ground Rules

It’s important to have ground rules for handling difficult personalities in any position that deals with the public. One major area in which employees learn skills for handling all types of people is in the customer service industry. There are millions of people working as customer service representatives who deal with hundreds of callers every week. It is inevitable that some of these callers will express frustration and even take out their displeasure on the customer service rep.

Being understanding and expressing sympathy is one way to handle the situation. According to one report, roughly a third of phone customers are most frustrated by having to wait on hold. Try letting them know more about the product or service in question. Eventually, you might suggest that they talk to a supervisor who has more authority to help them out.

Deescalate & Bring it to Your Manager’s Attention

If you’re the manager you probably know the drill. If not, your supervisor or manager may be the best person to take charge of a difficult situation. Here are three possible ways of speaking with difficult customers:

  1. The first is to speak with them politely — that is, to hear them out and treat the person with respect. They will usually calm down once they’re getting the attention they want.
  2. The second is to use the “tough love” approach. This approach requires managers to face their difficult customers squarely without sugarcoating their responses. Someone who is haggling because they refuse to accept your store prices might fall into this category.
  3. The third is to dismiss their complaint. Some store managers will let unruly customers know they can take their business somewhere else. This final method might make sense if the person is breaking store rules, bothering other customers, or otherwise causing problems.


Deescalation usually works. Better yet, most unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again.

Still, there are times when you need to be tough. Asking someone to leave who shows no respect for others and may even become dangerous is sometimes the best option. Of course, in worst case scenarios law enforcement may be needed to deal with an individual who suffers from mental issues or is making employees feel unsafe.

Treat Yourself Well: Use Chicago’s South Suburban Auto & Financial Services

Low-paid workers and those living paycheck to paycheck are sometimes the first line of defense against society’s most challenging and unruly shoppers. Sometimes the most you can do is clock out and leave your stress behind so you can enjoy the rest of your day!

One way to destress is by using convenient financial services for all of your money needs – someone nearby who you can trust. Chicago’s South Suburban Community Exchanges (SSCEs) have many advantages that large financial institutions don’t. They support local organizations and cater to the people living nearby so you can get all your needs taken care of under one roof.

Whether to make sure you pay bills on time, take care of your transportation needs, or just need somewhere with flexible hours to cash your check, SSCE can handle it all:

  1. Pay bills electronically
  2. Cash a check
  3. Load up your prepaid debit card
  4. Get a Ventra card
  5. Auto title & registration


We’re here to serve you and help you achieve your financial dreams with an array of services. Find your nearest location or check out our other services online to find out what else we can do for you this summer.

A man screaming into an old phone.