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Why People Go Public with Their Customer Service Nightmares

Vitaliy Verbenko
8 min read
May 7, 2019
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:

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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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