Managing customer aggression

In this article the ARA has compiled some basic tips for how respond to customers who behave poorly. If you would like to learn more about this topic, the Retail Institute has a course all about responding to customer aggression which you can find out more about here. 

While most customers are polite and reasonable, there will always be those who, for various reasons, behave poorly. Staff should be trained in how to respond to these types of customers, with an emphasis on good customer service and de-escalation.

In the case of a customer who is being verbally aggressive, the best approach is to try to de-escalate the situation before it becomes violent. This could include situations where a customer is complaining about service, demanding refunds, or appears to be suffering from a mental health condition or the effects of drugs or alcohol. In most cases, if you are patient and non-confrontational, the person’s anger will subside. To de-escalate, you should:

  • Remain calm and patient
  • Keep a safe distance from the aggressive person
  • Be sympathetic:
    • Allow the customer to finish their rant without interrupting them
    • Acknowledge their problem
    • Calmly explain the options available to address the situation
  • If they continue to be abusive, politely request for them to leave the store
  • If they refuse to leave the store, call the police.

You should not:

  • Raise your voice
  • Respond with aggression.

Other employees should monitor the situation discreetly and not get involved.

In the case of violent customers, you should:

  • Step back from the person
  • Discreetly use counters and shelves as natural barriers between you and the offender
  • Discreetly remove items that could be used as a weapon
  • Call the police on triple zero
  • Only use force if it is necessary for self-defence and proportionate to the harm being avoided.


Retail Voice CEO Message: 29 March 2023

With the New South Wales state election complete, we now have a Labor government in place in every state except Tasmania and an 18 month window without any elections occurring.  
This provides a period where we may see significant reform and potentially for national alignment in key policy areas across Australia.  

The rich tapestry of neurodiversity

There is a slow shift towards incorporating design aspects that create more inclusive shopping experiences for customers of all neurotypes. Retailers willing to explore this hidden customer segment can deliver a more easy, engaging and inclusive experience both in-store and online.

Retail Voice CEO Message: 15 March 2023

Retail crime continues to be a concern with many businesses recording an increase in shoplifting. 
In the latest Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data coming out of New South Wales, retail theft increased 23.7% year-on-year.