Top Tips for Dealing With the Tough Customer

Everybody in the hospitality industry knows what a difference a kind customer can make to a difficult day, and how hard a tough customer can make it. Most of the time, the kind outweighs the rude and it’s the happiness you can bring to someone's day and the relationships people make with their regular customers that keep most hospitality workers in the industry.

You can’t please everyone, however. Difficult customers will always be something you have to deal with so here are five ideas for how you can cope with the customer who drives you crazy.

The Politeness Tax

A few years ago, a coffee shop in the United States went viral with the sign they put outside their establishment denoting different prices for coffee dependant on the politeness of the customer.

Since the story spread on social media, cafes throughout the world have followed suit. Even if you don’t really end up charging customers a different amount, the sign is a good reminder for the public that those working behind the counter are people too and deserve a base level of respect.

Tables For Hire

Every café owner has, at some point, dealt with the customer who buys one small coffee and then sits at a table (usually a table for at least four) for hours, happily using the café’s wi-fi and power outlets.

Why not charge these freeloaders rent? After the first half-hour, if no other purchases are made the table is free to rent for $5 (the average price of a coffee) per half hour. Similarly, you could charge for wi-fi and power, perhaps a coin-operated system would work.

Does this seem a little cold-hearted? There is another option for the customer that is staying too long:

The ‘Haven’t Purchased Anything in an Hour’ Alarm

Don’t want to charge the over-stayers? Instead, you could have a friendly reminder that your café is a business, not a public park.

If that one-coffee-customer is staying too long, sound an alarm that will get them up on their feet and either out the door or back up to the counter for another round.

The V.I.P Only Café

Does your establishment have a great core group of regulars, customers that have kept your business afloat with their daily purchases?

Lock your doors and give those customers a swipe card or passcode, your café is for the good customers only. Of course, new customers can join the club, but only after they have been recommended by a friend and vetted for politeness. You’ll never suffer the random rude guy again.

Kill Them With Kindness

This can be a hard solution but is often the best choice. When defensive or aggressive people are confronted with calmness and empathy it really annoys them.

A customer complains about their coffee - offer them another one on the house. A customer leaves a 1* review online - like it and thank them for their feedback. Embrace the fact that you will never please everybody and run over that rudeness with the kindness train.

These are tongue-in-cheek ideas to help café and restaurant owners turn negativity into positivity. Life is too short to take it too seriously so have fun with your customers, the good ones and the bad.