Customer service to deal with bad customer behaviour

Customer service to deal with bad customer behaviour

Customer Service

In the hospitality industry in Ontario, you strive to ensure the best guest experience possible. You have invested in the best mystery shopping services to find out where you employees can improve, but sometimes, a guest experience audit doesn’t cover all the situations you might encounter when it comes to guest behaviour in your restaurant or hotel.

While poor customer service can make or break your guests’ experience in your establishment, there is another factor that you cannot prevent, only correct once it happens — bad customer behaviour. It is often overlooked, but shopping, dining, travel and other hospitality service experiences can be ruined by the actions of other customers. Unfortunately, though it may be undeserved, it may have negative effects on the reputation of your business in customer feedback.

The Seven Categories of Bad Customer Behaviour

In 2012, a Washington State University Hospitality Business Management student studies 200 instances of poor customer behaviour and classified them into seven categories that can turn otherwise positive experiences into negative ones for surrounding patrons.


Those who swear and use inappropriate language at volumes that are audible for other patrons.

Paranoid Shouters

The customer who becomes irate and out of control as soon as something doesn’t meet their expectations.

Lacking self-awareness

Those who may smell, be ill, cough and sneeze without attempting to protect other from their ailments.

High Expectations

The customer who makes outlandish requests that cannot be reasonably satisfied and are insulted when their demands are not met.

Rule breakers

Despite having regulations in place, these customers will attempt to break these rules (cutting into lines, for example).

Crazy kids

Children are expected to have more energy in social settings, but these are families with children who are out of control (running, shouting, misbehaving).

The unaware customer

The customer who constantly bombard your staff with minor requests, causing other patrons to wait.

The Right Way to Deal With Bad Behaviour

The first step to ensuring your other customers continue to enjoy their experience in your establishment is to identify the problem so you can deal with it.


Unfortunately, many employee training programs do not delve into the world of dealing with problem customers, so it may take a bit of extra time to teach your staff the appropriate measures to take to give the best guest experience for everyone. We recommend including some role-playing for your employees to deal first-hand with different behaviours and becoming comfortable with how they might deal with the real thing. Find a mystery shopping service that can address some of the problems you know your staff have difficulty resolving.

Do not script your employees with specific words and phrases to help them reassert their control over a situation. Scripted phrases are very evident to customers and can come across as insincere. Instead, teach your staff how you would like them to deal with these problem patrons, but encourage them to put a personal touch to their methods.

Do not reward poor behaviour

When you encounter disruptive behaviour, you may be tempted to allow privileges to these customers that you may not allow to regular polite ones. If these polite patrons witness your staff rewarding bad behaviour, they will be annoyed, which may cause them not to return to your business.

Instead, explain to the problem customer that giving in to their requests is against your policy and will have negative effects on the other patrons. If possible, openly acknowledge that other customers may be uncomfortable with what is going on. This will show that you care about their experience and you are not trying to ignore the negative effects that are resulting.

Pull rank

In cases that seem impossible to resolve, bring out the manager. Often, customers who are irate would prefer to speak to a supervisor anyway, so your staff can beat them to it by inviting the manager to join the discussion before things get out of control.

Customer service can be a hard job, made all the more difficult by patrons who do not always follow the social norms you may be expecting. But, the service delivered in the hospitality, tourism and food service industries is what ultimately sees your customers leaving with positive feelings about your brand. That service has to include dealing with sticky situations and disruptive customers before those experiences give your business a bad reputation.

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