The Wrath of Customers


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Customers sometimes—or often—get unreasonably angry at their providers, even when the provider is not to blame. Although
the customer might well be overreacting, I recommend some actions
that can help smooth the waters:

  • Be empathetic
  • Treat them as individuals
  • Understand the scenario
  • Assume the responsibility
  • Come up with creative alternative
  • Apologize…and mean it!

Customers, you also need to understand that most customer
support people are just trying to help—once the anger passes, be


Betrayed by an Online App!

I had a very critical meeting with a key client. The meeting was
to examine the results of an extensive customer co-design
initiative to determine the immediate next steps and make sure the
project would move forward optimally. I was completely prepared;
had all my information; the results were impressive; my
recommendations were (I think) brilliant. But I hit a very hard wall
five minutes before the online meeting was due to begin: I couldn’t
access my Google Calendar!

Therefore, I didn’t have the link to the online conference, nor
did I have the number to call for audio participation, both of which
had been arranged by the client! I was outraged! How dare Google
Calendar be down when I needed it!

I felt betrayed; my much loved and relied on Google Calendar has
let me down!

Unreasonable but Real Customer Dissatisfiers

I trust my online apps to be there for me. Oh, I understand when
my network is down (which does happen occasionally) or when I’m
notified about scheduled maintenance (which happens in the middle
of the night on a weekend usually). But this was noon (EST), on a
Thursday, and it wasn’t just a “Webpage Not Found” message. No, I
got a “Server Error: Google calendar is temporarily unavailable.
Please try back later… We apologize for any inconvenience.” And I
got it in multiple languages (see Illustration 1). Google had a
glitch it knew about!

Google Calendar Server Error

Google Calendar Server Error

© 2010 Google

Illustration 1. No matter what the
language, this server error didn’t make this customer feel any

My feelings weren’t really unreasonable—just the depth of them
was. I had every right to be annoyed, even angry, but I was furious! I
railed at the computer, the Internet, Google, and even my desk lamp
(just because it was there). And it took me a while to figure out how
to remedy the situation because my emotions had clouded my judgment.
It took a few minutes for me to calm down sufficiently to send a
priority email to someone on the client’s team, who sent me the
meeting info, and I was only about five minutes late for the meeting.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed by my response, and I thought
back to other times I felt betrayed as a customer and took it out on
some poor CSR or tech support agent—even when the problem was not the
provider’s fault. After all, no application can be up 100 percent of
the time; weather does delay travel; stores close as a result of fire
or flood; and sometimes telephone support wait times are an eternity
long because of some external stimulus (such as a product recall).

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ronni Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group
Ronni Marshak co-developed Patricia Seybold Group's Customer Scenario® Mapping (CSM) methodology with Patricia Seybold and PSGroup's customers. She runs the CSM methodology practice, including training, certification, and licensing. She identifies, codifies, and updates the recurring patterns in customers' ideal scenarios, customers' moments of truth, and customer metrics that she discovers across hundreds of customer co-design sessions.


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