You know you will meet them one day. Perhaps you have already met them. But did you handle them appropriately?

The easiest ways to deal with difficult customers are to smile, nod and give in to their unreasonable demands, but there are ways that you can stay in control and not let them ruin your day, your customer service standards or your reputation.

So let’s answer the age-old question of many shiftworkers:

How to deal with difficult customers

No matter what type of customer-facing business you work in, chances are you’ve heard the adage the customer is always right. But Google it these days and you’ll see as many pieces agreeing with that approach as you will pieces which disagree. But what does it mean in practice and how can you deal with the most common types of difficult customers?

1. The critical customer

How to deal with the critical customer?

The critical customer will evaluate every detail and complain about it – from the way you fold the napkins to the temperature of the room. From the background music to the one minute delay on the delivery of the drinks.

Critical customerHow to deal with them:

The one rule that you should remember is don’t take all the criticism personally. If you do, you’ll will be worn down in no time.

Discard the negativity and turn it into something positive. For instance, if the customer complains about a glass not being clean enough, say: “I’m so sorry, I will bring you a new one right away.” Or if the meat is not cooked to his satisfaction, say “I’m so sorry, I will send it back to the kitchen and bring you a new one in no time.”

Often, critical customers are not unhappy because of you and your restaurant. Most likely, they bring their daily frustrations with them when going out for a meal. So remember, the criticism is not meant to hurt you – it’s just their way of letting out some steam. And if you and your colleagues can stay calm, the positivity will reflect onto your customer and they will leave with a good dining experience.

Read more: Are you measuring customer satisfaction correctly?

2. The hurried customer

How to deal with the hurried customer?

They are tapping on the plate, squeezing the table cloth and desperately looking around the room. Clearly in a hurry. But that shouldn’t stress out you or your colleagues.

What to do

Start by informing them about the duration of the service. For instance, say “The burger will take ten minutes to make,” or “I will be back with your drink in one minute.” By being very specific, you will quickly calm them down and they’ll be able to enjoy the rushed but yet nice meal.

3. The loud customer

How to deal with the loud customer?

This person just talks over everything and everyone. They can be a real pain and are not easy to deal with. Obviously, it’s great that they are having a good time in your restaurant and amongst the people they’re is with. But it can be disturbing to other guests.

What to do

If you have already seated the group with the loud customer, you can try to seat newcomers further away, so they are not disturbed too much. However, if the other customers start to complain, your staff will have to politely be very strict: “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but will it be possible for you to lower your voice just a bit?” The risk here of course is that the customer gets angry. So only turn to the last option if it is necessary.

Read more: 5 ways to improve your customer service

late customers4. The late customer

How to deal with the late customer?

It’s almost closing time. You and your colleagues have started to clean the tables. You can almost hear your bed calling out your name. And then the doors open up and a group of people are in the mood for a midnight snack. Do you greet them or send them away?

What to do

If your kitchen has closed and there is no more food, then the procedure is quite easy. It’s a simple “Sorry, we have closed for tonight. But come again tomorrow, we open at 9.00 am!” If your kitchen is still going, you have the opportunity to make a little extra cash. Invite them in and make them feel welcome, but explain that the food selection is limited as you’re closing soon.

Read more: Small tricks to make your restaurant a success

5. The drunk customer

How to deal with the drunk customer?

The classic customer who has quenched their thirst on your amazing drinks all night. You have probably met this customer many times, but have you handled them correctly?

What to do

Drunk customers can be intimidating and cross some of your boundaries. But there are three tricks that can help guide them out the door.

First, stop serving alcohol when it’s getting to that point. Tell them nicely, “Sorry, the bar is closed for tonight.“

Then, you could offer them something else instead of a drink: “What about a nice Ice Tea? Or perhaps a plate of our great snack selection?

Last but not least, you can call them a cab and let him know that a car is waiting outside to take them home. In this situation, it will be calming for you and your colleagues if you stay close and keep working the floor. And remember, most of the time, those customers will only stay for a short time and continue somewhere else.

Header photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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