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When Customers Attack
Don’t fear customer anger, fear customer apathy
Not all of your customers will love you. In fact, many of them won’t even like you. In my career building products and services, I have been referred to as: idiot, moron, incompetent, joker … and many, many more offensive terms involving profanity which I won’t reproduce here.
It is hard building something new and sending it into the world. As a maker, you feel that your work is a reflection of yourself and the way people respond to your product is how they respond to you. If they love your product you feel validated, but if they hate it you feel like a failure. You have to rise above that in business.
You should not fear angry customers.
You should fear customer apathy.
The most dangerous thing for you and your business is customers who don’t care. They look at your product and move along. They never engage, they never care, they never think about it again.
You want customers to be angry, because that means that at least they care. Someone who is angry is someone who cared and was disappointed. Maybe the customer thinks your product is too hard to use, too expensive, not powerful enough, etc. Whatever the reason, they wanted your product to be better than it is. They wanted to love you.
Many of the best customers I’ve ever had, the ones that become evangelists for my products and brand, started off hating my products. It is by working hard to reverse their disappointment and make them happy that they become happier than someone who is satisfied at the beginning. An unhappy customer is a chance for true customer success.
So, how do you turn an angry customer into a friend? There is no one answer but here are a few things that will help:
Active listening. Respond quickly and clearly, demonstrating that you understand why they are angry. Many people get angry just because they feel ignored. Eschew automated email responses for personal emails, phone calls or in person meetings.
Customer empowerment. As I mentioned – angry customers care. People who care have great ideas! Empower them by asking them how they would improve the product. What would they like to see done differently? Take that feedback and show them that you are listening through product improvements. Close the loop and ask what they think after the improvements are made.
Stay calm. If someone is screaming at you, it’s easy to get angry yourself. Always remain calm and treat them with respect. Your calm and respectful presentation will calm them down and encourage them to treat you with respect in return.
It is not always possible to turn an angry customer into a friend. Sometimes customers are angry for reasons that have nothing to do with you or your product and are just using you as a punching bag. Even so, you need to treat every angry customer as an opportunity since you can never know that ahead of time.
We all want all of our customers to love us and be perfectly happy. That will never happen, so focus on the skills necessary to turn around bad relationships. You may find some of your best customers that way.