What Makes Your Customers Angry?

25.06.2018 |

Episode #1 of the course How to serve upset customers by Jeff Toister



My name is Jeff Toister. I’m the author of The Service Culture Handbook and the popular “Customer Service Tip of the Week” email. I’ve also been a customer service trainer for more than 25 years.

Working with upset customers is by far my most requested training topic. Over the next ten days, I’m going to share proven techniques to help you neutralize your customers’ negative emotions.

We’ll focus on three key areas:

• defusing customer anger

• recovering from service failures

• preventing anger in the first place

Today, we’re going to examine the reasons customers get angry.


What Causes Service Failures

John Goodman (the customer service researcher, not the actor) identified the common causes of service failures in his book, Strategic Customer Service:

the employee: 20%

the customer: 20%

the product, service, or process: 60%

These results confirm what you may already know—service failures are not always our fault. And the customer is not always right!

That said, it’s still our job to fix the problems we can and try to make our customers feel better about their interaction with our company.


Learn Why Your Customers Get Angry

I’m going to share an exercise that will help you understand the specific reasons your customers get angry or upset. We can use this list throughout the course to identify issues we can fix, spot the early warning signs of customer anger, and take proactive action to help our customers feel better.

Let’s start by looking at your top five customer complaints. There are three ways you can get this information:

1. Run a report in your customer service software if it tracks complaint data.

2. Analyze your customer service survey if you offer one.

3. Gather your team and brainstorm a list of the most common complaints you hear.

Once you have this data, take a few moments to identify which issues you can fix and which issues you can influence.

Let me give you an example.

A support team for a software company knew the number-one customer complaint was long wait times. Customers sometimes had to wait on hold for an hour to speak to someone on the phone! It seemed hopeless at first. The support team couldn’t fix the software bugs or improve the confusing new workflow in the latest version—that was the developers’ job. They also couldn’t get approval to hire more people, even though it seemed obvious the team was understaffed.

So, what could they do? Here’s their homework:

Issues to fix:

• Take time to let customers vent and help them feel better.

• Uncover additional issues that could be solved on the call so the customer would not need to call again. (That had been happening a lot.)

Issues to influence:

• Track top customer complaints to share with the development team.

The customer support team was able to use this insight to cut the average wait time by 50% while maintaining an 88% customer satisfaction rating!

Notice that the team didn’t fix the problem completely. Customers still had to wait and some people still got upset.


There Will Always Be Angry Customers

Keep in mind that we’ll never make everyone happy.

The world famous Ben & Jerry’s occasionally hosts free ice cream days at its stores, and I’ve seen customers complain about the length of the line, the size of the ice cream, or even the flavor selection. It’s free ice cream and there’s still someone complaining!

So while we can’t make everyone happy, we can sure try. The goal of this course is not perfection, but rather to help you successfully handle more complaints while reducing the total number of angry customers you need to serve.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Identify the top five customer complaints and have your list handy for tomorrow’s lesson, where we’ll identify an instinctive reaction that can undermine our ability to help an angry customer.


Recommended books

Strategic Customer Service by John Goodman

The Service Culture Handbook by Jeff Toister


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