Violent customers are a common problem. Every business deals with customers, that means every business will have to deal with a violent or angry one at some point. The key is knowing how to defuse the situation before it becomes a security incident.
Your Mental Checklist
In many cases, customers do not arrive angry or upset, but become that way in a short span of time. Typically, this happens when a person was expecting one outcome but was then met with another – it could be a request that was denied, a longer wait than they anticipated, or something else.
Regardless of what caused a customer to become upset, employees should be trained to manage the situation safely.
Here are the 5 important things to remember whenever a person is dealing with a customer that is at all upset, angry, or threatening violence:
#1. Stay calm.
The natural response towards someone behaving aggressively towards you is to defend yourself. This will only fuel the anger of your customer. Remember, you are representing your organisation professionally. Take a deep breath, talk slowly and calmly. This will also give you time to analyse the situation and plan your next course of action. Sometimes, your state of mind will have an effect over others. When you calmly explain that you understand the situation and you’re doing all you can, that alone may be enough for them. Avoid worsening the situation by making demands of them. For instance, saying “You need to calm down,” (even though it’s true) typically only upsets a person further.
Remember, upset customers are convinced that they are in the right. You need to find a tactful way to explain what’s within the bounds of your abilities so that you can work together to solve whatever the problem may be. Make it apparent to them that you’re on “their side”. Keep this mentality at the front of your mind whenever you’re dealing with a person who is angry or upset.
#2. Control your body language
Be mindful of your body language as well as your tone. While the customer may be swinging arms, cursing, and making obscene remarks or gestures, you need to remain not only professional but, preferably, polite. It’s very hard when a person is angry and getting in your face, but it’s the quickest way to get a situation resolved. Maintain an open-palm gesture while communicating with the customer.
#3. Always call a colleague in.
There’s power in numbers. Employees should seek the presence of at least one other colleague when dealing with an angry customer. There are many tactful ways to call one in without further upsetting the customer. To do so without angering the customer more, you can say something like, “I’m going to call my colleague in, they can help.” Frame the addition of the other person’s presence as something good for the customer. No one wants security or another authority called on them. It will make them feel like your ganging up against them and upset them even more.
#4. Isolate the situation and keep a safe distance.
If possible, direct the customer away from the crowd to a quieter area. Try to stay out of arm’s reach of the individual to avoid potential physical contact. When possible, put an object or physical barrier (such as a counter or a table) between you and the customer.
#5. Know your exit.
The safest thing to do when you’re scared for your safety is to leave the situation. If you’re ever dealing with an angry customer, keep an eye on your closest exits and do not be afraid to leave if you feel the situation has gotten too far out of hand for you to manage.
On-site security should be the first group you reach out to if you notice a customer becoming irate or upset. Police should be called if the situation escalates, like if the person refuses to leave private property or if they threaten employees or other customers.
Final Words – Always Prioritize Safety
Ideally, employees should be trained to avoid escalation as much as possible, but sometimes it is unavoidable. In any case, safety should always be the highest priority. If an employee ever feels unsafe around a customer, they should know exactly where to go and who to talk to in order to get help.
Simply having trained security personnel on site can do wonders. It gives employees the confidence to do their jobs properly while also deterring violent customers from making threats or acting out.
In the event that violence does occur, on-site security will make mediating the issue that much faster and more efficient. They can help minimize the threat of verbal and physical assaults along with the potential of property damage or other things that can come along with an irate individual.
Stay safe out there.