How to deal with rude customers?

By Anh Nguyen |

Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Ely, a Law Expert on JustAnswer since 2007. Ely shares best practices for dealing with rude customers. This post is part of the Experts Helping Experts program where Experts teach fellow Experts new skills, share expertise, and discuss hot topics. To learn more, click here.

If you've been an Expert on JustAnswer for awhile, chances are, you've had a few encounters with customers who are either rude, angry, or unbalanced. Customers get rude or angry for a variety of reasons—some justified, some not. And although we are in the business to help people, we also have the right to be treated with respect. I have dealt with many types of people during my time on the site. I can confidently say that most customers are genuinely good people. For the few who are rude, here is what I'd recommend.

Stay calm. It is important to keep calm even if a customer attempts to take potshots at you, which may happen. Customers - especially customers who received bad news or news they were not looking for - can become snarky. An Expert should never respond in a similar manner. It will only escalate hostilities.

To stay or opt out. Experts who run into rude customers have a discretionary choice to make - to stay and engage or to opt out. If a customer becomes aggressive and you feel that you can no longer help, you should opt out. If you do opt out, it's good manners to let the customer know that you're unable to help any further and will opt out so another Expert could assist.

Suicidal customers. While Experts are generally good at reading customer cues, it's difficult to know if you're dealing with a suicidal customer. If you sense that a customer may be suicidal, immediately alert the site via the red flag icon on the top right corner of PQA.

Don't buzz. If you've received a negative rating, you should always try to turn it around. However, I see too many Experts get into arguments with customers over negative ratings. Arguing with customers or buzzing them is a futile attempt to convince them to rate positively. It is simply unprofessional and also against site policy.

Got your own tips on how to deal with rude customers? Share them below.

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    All good thoughts; here's a couple more:
    Those of us operating in the professional categories that are in or perhaps are mostly retired from professional practices of our own have usually developed our methods of determining if we are a good match for potential clients. Most of us have learned the "hard way" that our first impressions of people are usually the most reliable. At JustAnswer we don't have the luxury of a face to face meeting, so we have developed alternative methods of making such a determination either initially or after a brief exchange with the customer. Here are a couple of techniques I use, which I'm sure others use also:
    1. "Read between the lines" in the question itself. Although in some cases it is obvious that you've encountered a customer that won't be satisfied no matter what; in others there are more subtle clues. Beware of a customer that tries to make himself look important by indicating he has a multi-million dollar problem. Ask yourself "What is he doing here, trying to solve that with a $30. - $50. payment"? It's a rare individual with a legitimate multi-million dollar issue that seeks us out for an answer; if he does, he's got bigger issues than we can solve. Also, when a customer presents several alternatives and multi-part questions, ask yourself if you want to respond to something that may take an inordinate amount of time for the compensation offered.
    I'd rather forgo such customers than get bogged down with someone with unrealistic expectations. Another technique is to try & put yourself in the customers situation; display empathy to his situation, (this is a common issue faced by many) ( that section of the tax code is extremely difficult to analyze in practical terms) (I don't blame you for being confused) (I agree with you that you have been placed in a difficult situation through no fault of your own) (there is very little guidance in that area so compliance is difficult - here's what I've done in similar circumstances in the past).
    Hope some of this helps...........Steve G. (Tax & Financial categories)