The 5 Absolute Worst Customers (And How To Deal With Them)

Customer service is a key part of any business, and is at the forefront of maintaining a loyal customer base. Good customer service is just another part of good business, something every industry and company should strive for. For those in customer service, helping people and meeting client needs can be one of the most satisfying experiences.
But it can also be one of the most frustrating. For every cheerful, friendly, genuinely nice customer that happens into your establishment, there are three more that are ready to test the limits of your patience and ruin your day. These customers range from mildly irritating to blood-boiling agitating, but there are five types of customers that are universally the worst to deal with.

The Cell Phone Talker
These customers have their phones glued to their hand, and can’t be bothered to end their conversations and hang up in order to deal with you, the employee. They stand at your register, resolutely chatting away, still expecting you to serve them. They don’t even realize how rude they are being.
You can take the easy, non-confrontational route to deal with them, and simply complete their transaction and let them go. This frees you up to concentrate on the customers who aren’t completely rude.
The second option is to help the people behind the Cell Phone Talker. When the Talker finally realizes what you’re doing and gets mad (so satisfyingly mad), politely tell them: “I’m sorry, I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation. Please step aside until you are finished, as I don’t want to be rude.”
The Impatient One
The Impatient One usually comes in during the busiest time of the day, when every employee is rushing around like mad and doing their best to help everyone. But even if the Impatient One manages to arrive during a slower time, nothing you do will be fast enough. They will make gestures at you to hurry up when you are talking to them, tap their feet to signal their haste, and generally make you feel incompetent.
The way to deal with this customer is to just suck it up and deal with it. If you slow down at all (like you do when someone tailgates you on the highway,) they will most certainly take the time out of their busy day to speak to your manager. If you work in food service, you will be stiffed a tip.
It is easiest to do your best and serve the Impatient One. If it helps, you can tell yourself that they actually have somewhere important to be.
The Know-It-All
This customer can be one of the most frustrating as he or she will insist that they know more than you do about the company you work at. Maybe they think the chef will still serve lunch after 3:30, or that they can still use their coupon even though it expired three days ago. They are a regular, and tell you what you already know, and what you should know.
If what they are telling you is correct, just say something along the lines of, “Yeah, I remember them drilling that into our brains at training.” This implies that you are an old hand at whatever it is, and are well-versed in your company’s policies and tasks. It might make the Know-It-All stop trying to tell you how to do your job, as you were the one trained for it.
If the Know-It-All tells you something you know is wrong, call your manager over to reiterate what you just said. You will get the smug satisfaction of seeing the customer told by someone who runs the company that they are mistaken. The Know-It-All may continue to argue, but the manager will not budge.
The Crank
This customer is just there to make you miserable. Maybe they had a bad day, maybe they’re just naturally crotchety, but they are determined that your day will be as bad as theirs. Natural effervescence seems to confuse them, and they glare at you if you smile at them. Because they hate you and everything you stand for, everything you do is wrong, even if it’s not your fault. Maybe you poured their coffee wrong, aren’t carrying the item they want in-store, or just said “Hello” too loud. Be prepared to deal with the sourpuss.
Keep your energy up. By sinking to their sour level, you can make the Crank crankier. If they yell at you for something, remind yourself that it’s probably not your fault. Do your best to please them, as this will keep them from biting your head off. Eventually, they’ll leave, and take the dark cloud they brought in with them.
The Snob
This customer is easily the most infuriating one of the five in this list. The snob is convinced that, since you are in retail, you are below them. They will treat you like dirt, a servant put on this Earth to cater to them. The stuck-up way the Snob speaks to you is enough to make your blood boil, and if you put one toe out of line, they’ll speak to your manager. Most of the time, their complaints run along the lines of: “I know we’re at a Tex-Mex restaurant, but how dare you not have waffles?” and “My 10-year-old needs an adult menu, even though he’ll just end up ordering chicken fingers.”
There should be entire lectures on the Snob in training, and prizes for dealing with them during Customer Service Week. Dealing with this person is extremely difficult, so try to just laugh it off. Even if the Snob sends a letter of complaint in, your higher-ups will probably have a chuckle at how ridiculous it is before throwing it out. If they feel the need to talk down to someone providing a great service to them, their lives can’t be all that great.
Being in customer service means dealing with all types of customers, from the sunny ones who remind you of why you’re doing your job, to the terrible ones who ruin your day. Knowing how to deal with them is half the battle. Keeping your head up in the flow of mean-spirited and awful customers makes you a better, stronger person overall.
Sara Stricker is part of a team of dedicated writers who contribute hundreds of quality articles to blogs and sites. Contact her for more information on customer service, and follow her @StrickerSara for more articles.