The Wrath of Customers

Are We Blaming Providers for Things Beyond Their Control?

May 6, 2010

Sometimes customers go overboard with their negative emotions, even in the face of a situation that isn’t your company’s fault. So what can you do about it?


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 gracious.


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 better!

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 ...


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