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  Post #1 (permalink)   03-09-2008, 07:35 AM
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I have a pretty low tolerance for abusive customers and people who make unreasonable demands. I state very clearly to customers from day one that abusive behavior won't be tolerated. How far should I let them go before I let the axe fall so to speak? How far do the rest of you let them go before taking action?
 
 
 


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  Post #2 (permalink)   03-09-2008, 11:35 AM
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I don't put up with abuse in real life, I don't think any of my support staff do either. Why should any of us put up with abusive behavior online - even from potential or current customers?

For demanding or abusive shoppers, realize that you don't have to justify every point of your business plan. If they make demands that you aren't going to meet (for whatever reason), just keep refering them to your current listed offerings & your TOS and say that you cannot meet their needs, it's not part of your business plan. You may get some people who change their demands to see if you'll budge - either repeat your previous responses, or (if they reach a reasonable point) make a deal. But don't snark at them, don't say you get what you pay for (they'll either find that out, or make peace with being at an unacceptable host), don't get defensive. It just raises your blood pressure unnecessarily.

For abusive customers, do what corporate HR departments do: first reminder that such conduct is abusive of the staff and won't be tolerated; second reminder and a notice that if this happens again they may be asked to leave; final reminder; review of all prior incidents (documentation is good here - if you can refer to ticket numbers, even better); and a notice of service termination (with or without grace period, though I would recommend 3 days' grace with no shell access to let them get their files off of your system). If you state this policy clearly in your TOS, you're covered legally; if you define the abusive behavior in your reminders to the customer, you're teaching them exactly what not to say or do again. Just stay calm and consistent when dealing with them. There's no need to raise your or your staff's blood pressure; and you just might teach them that while they are a paying customer, you won't take abuse - and you won't give it, either.

If someone is irritated because of a particular problem and that's showing through, we tend to give a bit more leniency. Thus far, it's been possible for us to see when clients are just having problems troubleshooting and are thus carrying on cranky, versus truly abusive people who want to put us on the defensive or make us feel like we owe them something. The folks who are just exasperated and upset get a bit more leeway.
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  Post #3 (permalink)   03-09-2008, 01:39 PM
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I agree with Lesli. There is no reason it should be tolerated and dealing with is ASAP before it gets too far is best. Wronged customers can get rather irate, though, so if there was a problem on your end and they're rightfully upset, then simply dropping them without warning isn't really a good idea....but you should still try to keep it under control and do your best to fix the issue and do some damage control, even if the customer seems 'too' upset.
 
 
 


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  Post #4 (permalink)   03-09-2008, 02:26 PM
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No doubt, customers do know then can be very aggressive because there are so many providers to choose from; clearly if it's causing you or your employees stress then yes feel free to tell them nicely to search elsewhere.

No-one has to put up with it.
 
 
 


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  Post #5 (permalink)   03-10-2008, 02:50 AM
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Abusive, online, is still just words, so take some comfort in that.

One of my wife's colleagues had a chair thrown at her. It narrowly missed her. They still deal with that customer. Don't ask me why.
 
 
 


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  Post #6 (permalink)   03-11-2008, 06:44 AM
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The written word, either via email or IM, is easily mis-understood. However, there are certain words and phrases that are clear and leave no room for interpretation consequently employees shouldn't be required to tolerate them. It's up to the business owner to deal with these people. Otherwise, lacking those certain words and phrases, personnel should take a deep breath and choose to interpret them as more positive than negative.

Previous posters have made some very good points. However, it seems that part of the problem may be customers that are trying to negotiate a better deal. I'd classify these as aggressive (read: aggressive negotiators, versus abusive) customers. Again, it's up to the business owner to deal with this type of customer, unless the employee is empowered to make deals beyond that which is advertised.

That said, business owners have the right to deny service to anyone as long as it's not based on race, creed, religion etc.
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  Post #7 (permalink)   03-11-2008, 09:07 AM
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I would first be sure that abusive behavior is clearly defined in the TOS such as profanity or name calling won't be tolerated, etc. If you state the behavior and any consequences unequivocally, you have grounds for "firing" the customer. Unfortunately, many people have had "the customer is always right" drilled into their heads and some think they can get away with any sort of behavior. You shouldn't have to put up with bad behavior online or offline.
 
 
 


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  Post #8 (permalink)   03-11-2008, 12:19 PM
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Do bad clients really come along that frequently? I would think that this kind of problem would be pretty infrequent. Then again, I'm pretty new in the business so maybe with experience I will come into contact with some tough customers.
 
 
 


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  Post #9 (permalink)   03-11-2008, 04:54 PM
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Bad abusive customers are few and far between if you spell out from day one that it won't be tolerated. You will get the occasional bad apple and if you deal with it just like you warned from the beginning it will stay that way. I worked somewhere once where we didn't have to put up with it and we were treated well almost all the time. Elsewhere I had to take it or else. In places like that reps suffered nervous break downs. You don't have to ask which I preferred.
 
 
 


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  Post #10 (permalink)   03-11-2008, 05:05 PM
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dramaqueen, I have had relatively few experiences with genuinely hostile customers (presales or actual paying customers). I've seen many more frustrated people than actively hostile folks. I'm also fortunate enough to have a psych major on support staff, though; so whenever something's been questionable and I'm not sure of my own conclusions, I ask Apryl for a second opinion.

How many hostile customers you attract can depend on a lot of things: your site's design, the general impression of your company, your staff's attitude (poor initial communication can turn a frustrated, aggravated person into a hostile person), and an entire boatload of factors outside your control. I wish it was possible to simply say, "If you have X type of plans, or use Y color in your site, or say Z, you'll probably be more attractive to hostile shoppers." Then we could all just stop using X-Y-Z, and sit back and have a beer It's probably not possible to completely avoid the hostile folks; but it is possible to handle the situation in such a way that they can't really continue to get wound up without appearing incredibly, blatantly in the wrong. The trick is to learn how to spot hostile customers, and learn how to immediately stand firm without being defensive.

Spoken and written communication classes are extremely valuable in learning how to modify your own communication style, as well as identifying truly hostile communications.
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