Online Seller Advice: How to Handle Poor Customer Behavior


The adage, “The customer is always right,” is a common slogan that encourages staff to give their utmost priority towards good customer service. But not only is this slogan outdated, but it is also not quite true, at least in modern times.

While good customer service is vital to the success of a business, there are certain boundaries that customers simply should not cross. This is especially true for small online businesses that, unlike bigger brands,  often have to bend over backward to earn the trust and loyalty of customers. In this article, we’ll be talking about some of those boundaries and how online sellers can handle poor customer behavior that goes against them:

Making unreasonable demands

Selling on the Internet is not as easy as it may seem. Businesses do so much more than stocking, posting, and shipping goods. However, not all customers understand this. Some customers make demands (not “requests”) that are simply unreasonable or downright impossible. For example, these types of customers may demand overnight shipping even if overnight shipping is not advertised on your selling platform. Or perhaps demand an impossible lead time for a custom order, blatantly ignoring the standard lead time in your product’s description.

So how do you deal with customers like these?

The easy answer is to stand firm with the standards you follow with whatever their concern, whether lead time, shipping speed, or order quantity. Politely reiterate your policies and give alternatives whenever possible. If they do not want to accept your standard policies, you always have a choice of ignoring their demands with the reasoning that you simply cannot address them (or cancel their order if they have already put one in).

Rude or abusive behavior

There are certain ways to manage customers’ rude behavior, but downright abuse should not be tolerated. Remember that your employees (and yourself) do not deserve any abusive treatment whatsoever, and tolerating it can create stressful work environments that no business needs.

For rude customers, the best approach is to stay calm, apologize sincerely, and offer solutions. If the fault is on your end, offer a refund or any other kind of compensation to right the wrong. Many customers do not intend to be rude and are simply frustrated with their experience. Providing good customer service can turn the situation around and result in a positive customer experience.

But when customers get abusive (calls the representative names, makes threats, makes false accusations, etc.), it may be best to refund their order entirely (if applicable), offer a sincere apology, and then cease entertaining them altogether. If customers make grave threats, make sure to record everything just in case you need to involve law enforcement in the future.

customer care page

Not paying on time or not paying at all

If your online business sells products or services that do not collect full payment upfront (e.g., art commissions, virtual assistance, website development, etc.), ensure that the customer signs a legally binding contract and/or collects at least partial payment upfront. This way, you can avoid customers who do not pay on time or pay at all.

These types of customers are detrimental to a business’ cash flow. As long as you are keeping up your end of the bargain, you have the right to demand payment on time and at the right amount.

Changing their mind at the last minute

Another reason why securing a contract before you start working on an order or job is that some customers will change their minds at the last minute, often when you are halfway done through the work or already finished with it. These types of customers may either be unsure of what they want or want to back out on the deal entirely, which, either way, can hold a negative impact on your business.


Some customers may be dishonest with you on purpose, claiming false promises from your end or fabricating stories about how your staff treated them. Some dishonest customers may also under-represent their needs or ability to pay to deceive your business.

Sometimes, the best approach for dishonest customers is to give them the benefit of the doubt and double-check their claims. If you catch them lying again, document everything, present them with your findings, and discontinue your deal with them if necessary.

Regardless of the size, age, or type of your business, there will always be bad customers. All it boils down to is how you deal with them to prevent harm to yourself, your business, and your employees.

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