Even if you’re personally having a great day and everything is looking good across your online merchandising landscape, eventually you are going to come across a customer (or potential customer) who is just not going to play nice.

You will try your best and no matter what, the anger from the other side of the conversation will be palpable.

It’s times like these, however rare, that we start to second-guess if it’s all even worth the effort, if what we’re doing makes sense anymore. That’s a natural reaction.

We’re here to tell you it IS worth it, and there are strategies in handling people like this just like there are strategies in handling everything else. It all comes down to how you plan to conduct yourself.


But just like handling people who can be mildly annoying, your reactions are under your own control. Remember that it’s your store they are coming to; you did not seek them out. You have to be the “bigger” person. Even if the customer’s criticism appears outlandish, try to put yourself in their shoes and provide empathy and compassion. Recognize their pain and anger without having to adopt their viewpoint.


But keep in mind that giving outstanding service to customers does not entail accepting rude or offensive behavior from those who need assistance. Maintaining a professional and friendly demeanor is critical, but so is protecting yourself and establishing limits when dealing with challenging customers.

Being the bigger person does not mean being a punching bag.

Boundaries need to be in place for you when you know something has gone from angry to outright wrong. Should the customer become verbally abusive or transgress boundaries, it is important to let them know in a forceful but polite manner that you will not allow that behavior and that it’s unacceptable. Make it clear that you want to help and find a solution, but that you also require civility from the other party. You can be firm on this, no one has the right to abuse anyone else.


In all fairness, it’s easy to say all this though it’s quite another thing to handle it in real-time. It can be more than difficult to maintain professionalism and composure when dealing with unpleasant consumers. Take a deep breath and try not to let a customer’s rudeness bother you too much. Maintain your composure and refrain from expressing negative emotions. Actively listen to the customer’s worries and let them finish before you speak. Just listening to the other person and acknowledging their feelings can often ease tensions.


Keep your cool and always reply with courtesy and respect. Even if you need to shut them down like we said above, don’t do it the way they’re doing, do it the right way. Don’t argue back or bring the conversation down with unpleasant comments or defensive language. Also, don’t take it personally; realize that the customer’s actions are not a reflection of who you are as a person, but rather of how they are responding to the circumstances under which you find yourself. Keep a level head and act professionally at all times.


Change the subject to how you can help the consumer solve their problem. To get to the bottom of the issue and find a solution that works for everyone, it helps to ask questions. And always adhere to Etsy’s policies when responding to these customers, and be sure that your answers adhere to these policies and guidelines. Avoid confusion and make sure you’re following the platform’s rules in this way.

Also, take notes on the conversation you are having with such individuals. If a customer’s behavior is aggressive or disrespectful, it is especially important to keep a record of your interactions with them. If you need to contact Etsy’s support team about the issue, these details could come in handy.


You might want to keep in mind something a bit more esoteric, if it helps you. The people going at you about this, keep in mind that this could have very little to do with what they have experienced with you. This could just be the last in a string of issues they have had from sellers without your business sense, or maybe in the past they’ve even been scammed. You really never know what someone’s tipping point is and you might just be the receiver of anger that’s been building up from somewhere else.

This is not to say you have to take it. We’re merely suggesting an alternate way of approaching the situation, and alluding to putting yourself in their spot as we previously said, but on a different level. Especially if they bring up past experiences with other sellers, this could be a golden moment. Say it. Don’t be afraid, say it. Tell them that you are sorry that they got shorted in the past, and that you want to show them that not everyone is like that. Use the negative that someone else created and turn it into a confidence for you and your company. I mean, why not? People want to be heard, and telling them you are there to hear them could fix the entire situation right then and there.


You also need to know when to walk away from a conversation, and that time may come if the consumer continues unpleasant or if you find yourself running in circles. Exactly when this point comes is impossible to say with certainty, as every encounter will be somewhat different. But you’ll feel it when you’re in it. Explain kindly that you’re unable to help them at the moment and that they can contact Etsy’s support instead. If you believe you cannot handle the matter on your own, consider bringing in Etsy’s people for assistance.


You might also want to take some time to yourself after the event to think about what you can take away from it. Consider how your customer service or company rules could be enhanced to forestall future occurrences of the same problem, and share your experiences with the online community as an example of how to better handle such events.

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