How to Train your Employees to deal with Irrational Customer Rage

It appears that customer rage is at an all-time high. There is an increasing number of stories of customers becoming unruly, disrespectful, displaying both verbal and physical abuse in certain industries such as airlines, hotels, and restaurants. First off, I want to be clear, ANY type of abuse towards employees is totally unacceptable and should be met with the firing of that customer. Hopefully, we are talking about the small minority of customer scenarios in most cases.

Expect Customers to Overreact

As a result of the increase in anxiety, uncertainty, and business rules, it should be expected that most customers are on edge and more easily annoyed. Therefore, we need to train our employees on the following:

  1. How it is rationale for customers to be irrational
  2. How to avoid customers from becoming upset
  3. How to diffuse and de-escalate when customers become upset


  1. How it is rationale for customers to be irrational

Human anxiety has dramatically increased over the past two years. In any era, no customers enjoy hearing about all your company rules and policies. Think of how much these rules have increased today; “No mask, No entry”, “Must stand six feet apart”, “Must have proof of a negative covid test”, “Must be vaccinated”, “Use hand sanitizer”, and the list goes on and on.

*Disclaimer – these examples I have shared are not an open invitation to share your political beliefs on any of these topics or am I judging companies who are enforcing these mandates, I am just demonstrating how businesses have had to increase their rules to their customers.

*Related – Negative Cues

  1. How to avoid customers from becoming upset

So much of the situations that fuel customers becoming upset can be avoided by keeping a few key strategies in mind. First, the majority of customer challenges come back to how well we manage customers’ expectations. Today businesses are operating under a set of unconventional circumstances. There are a few obstacles nearly every business in all industries has in common: staff shortages and supply chain issues. Your business needs to be totally transparent about these issues on the front end. Inform your customers, “Due to XXXXX, we are experiencing delays longer than usual. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause you and we truly appreciate your patience. “

Secondly, it is not what we say, but how we say it. Employees can become robotic and come across as almost rude when telling someone they must be wearing a mask or whatever policy or rule it is they must enforce. I know it gets old for the employees to keep reminding customers, but that is what customer service is all about.

  1. How to diffuse and de-escalate when customers become upset

It is key that all your employees know how to properly react and handle a situation when a customer is inconvenienced and potentially upset. The key is that training needs to be easy to remember, effective, and easy to implement. I have seen dozens of different protocols; my favorite that is both easy and effective is L.E.A.S.T.

Listen – Give your customer your complete attention. Listen for the real reason the customer is unhappy. Never interrupt. Keep eye contact and nod as the customer is speaking. When it is your turn to speak, speak softly.

Empathize – When we listen & think from the other person’s point of view, their message becomes much clearer. When we understand the customer’s plight, the importance of every interaction becomes crystal clear.

Apologize – Let the customer know how genuinely sorry you are that the situation happened. The customer is not always right, but never make them wrong.

Solve – Do your best to solve the problem right there on the spot and make them happy. Take personal responsibility for solving the problem, act as an advocate for the customer. Be 100% positive the customer is completely satisfied.

Thank – Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and giving you the opportunity to make it right. Thank them for their patience and for being a loyal customer.

*Related – Businesses Must Manage Customers’ Expectations by Being Totally Transparent

Podcast – Why Your Doctor, Lawyer & Accountant Suck at Service

CSR Ep061 FB Feature, The DiJulius GroupChief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of the DiJulius Group discusses the top 4 reasons why such a high percentage of businesses from the medical, financial, and legal industries are so archaic in the client/patient experience they deliver. Listen to Podcast 61.


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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.