In an ongoing pandemic, there are more than the usual number of people who don’t want to follow safety rules, whether locally chosen or corporate enforced. It is, however, your job to make sure that all of your customers and team members are safe! How can you practice handling difficult customers that don’t want to follow safety rules?

Communicate Your Reasoning

You are enforcing rules to protect the community, but also your team and ability to stay in business. This means that it is acceptable to calmly say, “I know this is frustrating, but it is the corporate position that this safety rule is followed in our store.” The same reasoning is true if they wanted to jump in front of your delivery van. You cannot allow it, even if they threaten to not return. Tell them the reason. Even if they disagree that it is a good reason, your reason is following the rules of your job to enforce the safety rule.

Give Them Reminders

Mask signs are easy to apply and can set expectations for behavior at your business. Make sure that your team understands that they must follow safety protocols. A manager with a mask under their nose will have team members doing likewise, and customers arguing to not wear masks. Make sure your signs say that mesh masks and similar faux masks do not fit corporate policies.

Active Listening

Your reasons for following safety protocols are important—your job, the safety of team members, and the store depend upon being able to stay open. However, this gives you the ability to take a breath and listen to the customer. Repeat what they explain. If they said, “Masks don’t work!” your reply could be, “I realize that some say that masks don’t work. But our corporate policy says they must be worn.” This can continue, using their words to show you are listening, to hopefully diffuse the situation.

Some customers have the impression that they can allow all of their anger at the stressful global pandemic on you, as workers. This is, of course, incorrect. Companies must realize that their workers’ safety is more valuable than temporary customer frustration! Now, more than ever, your team must work together for their own safety, and for the ability to keep your store open! Encourage safety and always have your team’s back! They are your most valuable asset.

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