How to break up with abusive customers and our SUPCONF learnings

At Aircall, not only do we provide support but we also sell it, so we’ve seen just about every type of customer and know that sometimes it’s not easy. Support agents are often expected to get along with all customers, even the ones who are far worse than “not easy”. The time comes and the question “when to break up with abusive customers?” arises and should be addressed.

What is an abusive customer?

The perfect customer is someone who provides constructive feedback, is a brand advocate and remains loyal, but not every customer is ideal. Often, we start out a relationship with the hopes of a happily-ever-after ending and at times find ourselves utterly disappointed. The wrong customer can quickly turn into a miserable relationship instead of a business partnership.


As a support agent your biggest priority is to keep your customers happy and loyal. If you can accomplish that you’ll grow your business successfully. It’s important to distinguish when a customer is challenging and when they really need to be let go. That said, always try turning an angry customer to happy one first. There are times where there is a quick fix to the problem, a new contact within your company or maybe a little extra attention. Other times, you and the customer need to go your separate ways. But how do you know when and how to break up with abusive customers?

To be able to quickly identify a bad customer saves time and is essential. The easiest way to go about this is to determine a baseline for what constitutes a bad customer who has just gone too far. Make sure that is a team wide effort and that everyone knows what the policy is and sticks to it.

Behaviors telling of an abusive customer

There are certain behaviors that shouldn’t be ignored or tolerated.

  • Abusiveness – Abusive language is never ok. Quality assurance is important but there is never an excuse for verbal harassment.
  • Threats – Threatening to complain about you on social media and review sites  or threatening to leave every time something goes wrong should not be tolerated.
  • Bad behavior – Bad behavior happens for time to time but it’s important to distinguish when the customer is having a bad day and when this is a recurring behavior with no signs of improvement.

A bad customer is not a bad person

When encountering a heated situation with a customer, take a step back and try to imagine yourself in their shoes.  Bad days happen to everyone, even the best of us. However, it’s important to remember that a bad customer does not necessarily reflect the type of person.

Empower your agents
Give your agents the right tools to handle challenging customers and ensure they know how to breakup with abusive customers when needed.

  • Teach your agents how to problem solve and navigate situations with difficult customers
  • Allow them to offer credits and refunds when appropriate
  • Implement policies that protect your agents

How to break up with abusive customers?

Just like personal relationships, breakups are difficult. Not every customer will make your life easy by departing without putting up a fight. So keep your cool, tread with great care and have a clear strategy in mind beforehand.

  • Remind yourself that this is a business problem and not a personal one
  • Come prepared with evidence to support your case
  • Lay out the facts and clearly explain why it’s not working out

Breaking up should still be graceful. We like to think that there’s a nice way to end a relationship: by offering a refund for the past few months and wishing them the best of luck!

Aircall was proud to be a sponsor of SUPCONF2016!

“SUPCONF 2016 is a brand new conference series targeted at customer support professionals. SUPCONF is a place for support professionals to see how they can develop their own careers as well as take home best practices to their support teams.”

The SUPCONF meet-up was a reminder that even support needs support. The intimate and informal setting allowed us to connect and talk with similar businesses who face the same support challenges that we do. The breakout sessions and talks were on actionable content that provided professional’s advice in a support career by facilitating a place where people felt comfortable sharing. Lance Conzett from Raven gave an interesting talk on when and how to break up with abusive customers.

Aircall’s awesome raffle winner went home with Amazon’s Alexa. Congrats to Jerry from TrackTik for being the lucky winner!

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