OMG – My Customer is Pissed!

I talk to a lot of people that deal with people. Social Media people, support people, sales people. Almost everyone I know deals with a customer at some level.

And they almost all hate “dealing with” a pissed customer.

I actually like talking to disappointed customers – it gives me a great opportunity to learn what is important to them, and where our weaknesses are.

It is also an excellent opportunity to make real change happen. If you are empowered to drive it back into the company.

Talking to customers that you haven’t completely satisfied is empowering. They tell you where you have failed them, and why.

If you are only interested in talking to customers you have pleased, you are missing out on both a great educational opportunity and a customer satisfaction opportunity.

Pissed customers are very honest – you can learn more from them than from surveys, I think.

What you are empowered to do with that information is critical. If all you can do is listen, that sucks. But if you are empowered to use that feedback to drive change – well, you have a great job.


  1. Good post and great perspective. I regularly encourage people to get past their innate defensiveness, to learn that thoughtful feedback is gold. Not just for selfish reasons; improvong you, your product, your company. But as a way to give what was deserved.
    One asterik to this, and to your post: this is only true when it’s legitimate feedback. There are times the ‘customer’ is wrong and acting on/assimilating the feedback would harm the individual or company.

  2. Yes, it is very important to listen to your disgruntled customer. It gives you a wealth of feedback and the opportunity to turn an angry customer into an ambassador of your brand.

    I agree with you Michael when you say:

    “The truth of the matter is as a front line contact point for our company we stand to constantly be blamed, accused, and held liable for the decisions and shortcomings of our company.”

    Often enough the customer service contact has been in contact with a customer, their complaint has been properly filed, but the back end is slow in handling this issue. This results in that same customer coming back in an even more emotional state and takes it out on the customer service agent. This kind of interaction is tiring and demotivating for the agent. No wonder they hate being in touch with complaining customers.

    What is important to learn from this is that systems have to be put in place to encourage the reception of bad customer feedback. Management must show complete support of resolving these issues and celebrate moments where angry customers become brand evangelists.

    On a personal note:

    I have worked in places where I deal with unhappy customers, there was minimal support for me to solve the issues. I ended up taking responsibility of the issues which increased my workload to unreasonable. I became tired, I was demotivated. And at a certain point, I did not even care about my customers anymore.

    I broke out of this, but I can certainly understand the unwillingness to talk to yet another angry customer.

  3. Great post.

    In my opinion the reason why people hate dealing with pissed customers is because they don’t like confrontation. Or don’t want to come to the realization that their product sucks. Basically: fear.

    It can admittedly be a tough one to overcome. I’ve been there for sure. I also know how much better my product has become because I have been able to sit in the kitchen with the fire burnin’ lately. Once you take those first few steps and embrace the upset customer though… you figure out where you stand pretty quickly.


  4. I agree to absolutely loving an upset customer.

    There are all sorts of customer interactions in the line of a support tech and none as involved and challenging as dealing with someone who has been let down, over-promised, or under-informed.

    In that situation I stand to make a positive right face in that customers’ life, showing that I/we care. I have worked support for over a year. I trained many of the new support technicians both on technical and customer service aspects. I stay engaged with the member’s of my support team daily. I have found that while I was engaged in support I personally took issue with certain type’s of customers as well as a large number of technicians I worked with. I don’t feel it was necessarily an upset customer that put a support technician out of their comfort zone. I can certainly empathize with someone who is dealing with a difficult situation and react to that. Those were my favorite interactions, and actually made my day brighter and more accomplished. The customer’s type that would make my day a little less enjoyable was those who resorted to personally attacking a technician in effort to escalate/resolve an issue. No person wants to feel threatened, attacked, or blamed in their work shift. The truth of the matter is as a front line contact point for our company we stand to constantly be blamed, accused, and held liable for the decisions and shortcomings of our company.

    Customer Service is such a delicate balance like a play, and the absolute most distracting aspect of it is to bring in personal feelings or attitude from both the customer service agent and customer. My mission as a support rep is to be on your side. There are plenty of missed opportunities and post negative feelings when a support experience gets out of control, and ultimately a support technician needs to take the responsibility that it is his job and mission to keep the conversation on track and on the fast track to being positive.

    The lesson to learn is that if you fail to react to your customer in the small time frame you have while they are simply upset, angered, disturbed, or questioning you are opening yourself up to the eventuality that customer will feel no other path or venue to resolve their issue other then resorting to anger or even rage. Unfortunately forgetting that you are there to be on the customer’s side will make you entirely likely to escalate an irritated customer into a angered customer. When I was a new technician I would often go back over missed opportunities and focus on finding my fault points in the transcript. From there I would gleam countless amount of data which I could reflect on and choose to employ differently. I found that over time I seemed to have less and less upset customers. This was not because I was getting lucky, but because I was employing active listening and empathy.

    Improving of my own shortcomings and cutting off a “pissed” customer by dealing with them positively at the irritated or let down state consistently reduced the amount of interactions I did not enjoy. You can ultimately choose to place blame outside of your responsibility. Or you can look to improve the interactions you have by focusing on how to nip the chance of negativity at the bud.

    Only one of these solutions is statistically going to make a difference at the end of your work shift.