Three Myths About Customers From Hell


angry woman.jpgIf you’ve been in a customer service role for longer than a month, you have no doubt experienced a “Customer From Hell.” You know – the ones that can truly spoil your whole day. There are a lot of popular but ineffective strategies for dealing with these people, and most of these strategies come from some basic misunderstandings as to what makes them tick. Here are three of the most common myths about Customers from Hell:

Myth #1: The Customer Is The Problem

A 1990 study of negative customer experiences identified that customer dissatisfaction is created far more frequently by an employee’s response to a situation that from the situation itself. A recent study conducted by The Belding Group (to be released this Fall), confirmed this, showing that most customer dissatisfaction was a result of an employee not taking ownership of a situation. While there are indeed truly unreasonable customers out there, the vast majority are people who simply feel like you just don’t care.

Myth #2: The Customer Has Unreasonable Expectations

While customers do sometimes have unreasonable expectations, this is most often a result of us failing to manage their expectations in the first place. Imagine a customer who thinks it only takes a month to build a new home, and the builder doesn’t advise them that it could actually take 6-8 months. Is it really the customer’s fault when he (she) gets upset after a month has passed and the house isn’t ready?

Myth #3: The Customer Wants Compensation When A Problem Arises

When a customer complains about something that has gone wrong, many organizations have the default response of offering some kind of compensation. Airlines are notorious for this. “Oh, we oversold your seat, so you couldn’t take your flight? Here’s a $200 coupon for your troubles.” This is little consolation for someone who is going to miss their best friend’s wedding. While compensation might be an important component in a service failure, customers are far more interested in a heartfelt apology, an acknowledgement of how serious an issue this was for them, and a concerted effort to try and correct things.

Dealing with difficult customers requires both empathy and skill. In today’s social-media world, it is also a critical competency. The Belding Group research shows that over 65% of positive word-of-mouth for a company comes from situations where an employee has successfully recovered from a service failure. That’s a pretty good argument for approaching a difficult customer as an opportunity instead of a problem.

“It’s not a coincidence that some people get very few ‘Customers from Hell,’ while others seem to get more than their share” – Winning With The Customer From Hell – a Survival Guide


The Belding Group helps companies stand out by providing World-Class customer service training and customer experience consulting and measurement

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