Why People Go Public with Their Customer Service Nightmares

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Why people go public with customer service nightmares

Most of us can’t get enough of positive customer service stories, but we can surely learn way more from customers that leave us with fanfare.

We all know that bad experiences – especially in a public setting – travel like wildfire, while great experiences take the slow but sure, consistent route. Without paying attention to the former, a business could easily find itself as the object of pretty nasty finger-pointing.

Imagine this situation. You’re waiting for a flight, and out of nowhere, you’re hit with the dreaded flight cancellation. At that point, you have a number of options. You can call or email the airline’s help desk department. Or, you could join your fellow panic-stricken passengers in the race to the airline’s information counter.

Until a decade ago, that’s all you could have done. Now, you could open up your Twitter account.

So in my case, one of two things could happen. The airline might notice, send me a response via direct message, and hopefully get me rebooked soon. Worst case, my post would get enough views that by next day their name would be swirling in a stew of bad publicity.

Understanding the power of negative emotions

Negative emotions are negative for a reason – they leave you angry, worked up, stressed out and can otherwise ruin a perfect day. However, knowing how to deal with this negative emotional onslaught from customers is what truly defines how good your customer service really is.

It turns out there aren’t that many things that upset customers in the first place. Most of the issues stem from an unwillingness (or inability) to meet customer demands due to lack of communication; faulty support processes; the product or service not working as intended. We see it all around us:

  • A simple transaction could be taking too long (such as a bank account or plan change).
  • A product was not delivered on time or underwhelms them (such as a software feature).
  • You are causing a stressful situation for them (such as a delayed flight).
  • However, it takes something different entirely to make your customer truly “hate” you.

    In order to recognize and deal with so-called rouge customers we first need to pinpoint the reasons why they choose to take their frustrations online. What are the triggers that force a customer to use all their might to get back at a business? Let’s take a look at what they are.

    Blown chances

    One of the main reasons why upset customers venture online is because they exhausted all options to turn the situation around. In the customer’s eyes there must be at least two “failures” on the company’s part. The first one is failing to acknowledge the wrongdoing and the second one is failing to rectify the situation.

    Why it matters

  • A blown opportunity to correct a wrong isn’t something fatal – say you didn’t turn a happy customer into a delighted one. However, the difference between a “whatever” and a “that sucked” customer experience is just as tiny – and that difference will only be apparent when you’re in the middle of a customer obsessed culture.
  • Remember, customers tend to avoid talking to you unless they absolutely have to. So a company that embraces customer experimentation, risks, a/b tests, data tracking, and all types of customer feedback is going to be at the forefront of customer expectations. This minimizes the chance of misunderstanding your customers (and getting on their bad side).
  • customer service lack of communication

    Communication, or lack thereof

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be a rude employee. Customers can be offended by any experience for a multitude of reasons. Due to confusion regarding the company’s stance or policy as a whole. Due to a particularly sour interaction with a support rep. Following that, disgruntled customers can get quite committed with directing their time and energy against your company.

    Why it matters

  • Take communication seriously. Be comfortable holding conversations across all channels, and always keep a record of what your customer told you over the phone, Twitter, or chat. Sometimes you may even need to limit your customer service channels in order to give all your 100% to ones that you have!
  • Still, many organizations are disconnected, disorganized and can’t pinpoint previous conversations. When customers contact them a second time around, most businesses admit they’re lacking context to craft that perfect reply. That’s enough to leave any customer in a sour mood!
  • Misleading promises

    Avoid unclear promotional material or overly fine print in your communication. Companies attract customers by hooking them onto promotions and sometimes too-good-to-be-true propositions. Once the truth comes out, most of us instinctively look elsewhere – but the feeling of being lied to may lead particularly vindictive customers to add fuel to the fire instead.

    Why it matters?

  • Is there anything worse than no promise at all? Sure – a broken promise. The old adage, “underpromise and overdeliver”, is indeed something to learn from, considering more than half of customers report that brands fail to live up to their promises, chalking it up as “something brands do.”
  • We may not notice it, but brands broadcast subconscious promises all the time. Unfortunately, only the best fulfill them – the others fall to the wayside. What’s more, if the promise matches the brand’s overall image, the brand will stick around in the customer’s mind for a long time.
  • Betrayal of expectations

    The textbook definition of betrayal is when one party is putting trust and value into a relationship that is negated by the other party. This is a dangerous position to put your clients in since it’s unlikely you will gain their trust again. Customers then go online to vent their frustrations as they feel it’s the only recourse.

    Why it matters

  • We all expect to receive answers in a reasonable time. When it comes to email, over 80% of customers expect a response within 24 hours and nearly everyone expects a response within 48 hours. Take longer than that – and customers will definitely object (and react in a negative manner).
  • What was not important to customers yesterday is important to them today. After surveying 1,000 customers, Zogby Analytics found that 48% of customers (up from 41% last year) are unlikely to do business again if they have to repeat information every time they contact a company. Betray these expectations and they’ll be looking elsewhere.
  • Moral obligations

    When a customer is genuinely angry at a place of business – he or she believes their decision to engage in a fight is a question of right and wrong. By showing the business in a bad light, customers will feel like they are not only saving the public from an evil corporation, but also doing good for the world. Naturally, this drives them to creative business-smearing tactics.

    Why it matters

  • Upsetting customers is bad enough, but making an enemy out of a customer surely puts the nail in the coffin of that relationship. Upset customers rarely think that they owe a company a second chance. Over 59% of customers refuse to deal with a company after a bad experience – and 40% of them actually hold that grudge for years!
  • Even one poor experience is enough to set customers on a collision course with you. Customers that experience friction on issues important to them – quickly gets your competitors on their radar. Indeed, over 44% percent of customers go to a competitor after one poor service experience that personally or morally resonates with the customer.
  • Strong, negative emotions

    A strong negative emotion such as anger justifies vengeful behaviors in the customer’s mind, regardless of whether or not these actions are warranted. This means once a business fails to rectify the situation, it’s anyone’s guess what avenue a rogue customer is going to pursue to get back at you – and this may be the most frightening aspect of all.

    Why it matters

  • Not everyone sits still after a bad experience – this depends on a number of factors, including the customer’s emotional state. Over 49% of those who believe they were wrong will tell a friend not to use their business and over 34% will take revenge by posting a negative review online or on social media.
  • We all have certain standards. We expect something out of people around us, and the same holds true for businesses, too. For example, over 50% of customers give business only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them (without so much as an explanation!)
  • See advice from LiveChat’s Support Heroes on keeping a positive attitude at work.

    How should you deal with customer service nightmares?

    Customer service excellence is difficult to get right. No matter how perfectly you solve customer problems, you’re bound to get an unreasonable demand or two, or customers with an axe to grind.

    And then, there’s always the possibility of their experience going public.

    It may seem impossible to control every little thing that happens online. However, you can surely minimize collateral damage of a nightmare customer by understanding where he or she is coming from.

    After the fallout, there isn’t much you can do except reach out to the customer after some time has passed. If anything, you could try to satisfy the “why” from both sides. Why isn’t this company taking action? Why is your solution unsatisfactory to them?

    Not only this can help you salvage the relationship – even if it doesn’t you’ll definitely get a better sense of where they stand. Treat everything as a learning experience: understand and refine your target audience better, identify opportunities and set your business on the path to customer service greatness.


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