Posts Tagged ‘angry customers’

I am normally a complete and total advocate of the customer, even when he or she is angry.  But I get challenged on that occasionally, by this type of customer.  But the service provider is not without fault here, as well – as is the case with the majority of angry customer cases.

This clown, apparently drunk and full of himself, became enraged because the JetBlue flight attendant on his coast-to-coast flight, following the company’s credit card-only policy, would not accept cash for the rental of some headphones to take advantage of the airline’s cool individual TV / radio in every seat.  Yeah, that’ll piss a guy off, for sure.  So, when you can’t get what you want, you order a drink, right?  Well, because he was already pretty toasted and belligerent, the flight attendants refused to serve him alcohol.  As you can imagine, this did not go over with our loud, tipsy friend.  He fussed so much that passengers around him requested he be moved.  So our grumpy intoxicated friend was moved to another seat, where, unfortunately, he was accidentally hit by an item that fell from the overhead bin when an attendant was retrieving something for another passenger.  Naturally, this was more than our disgruntled drunk could handle, and he just went off, repeatedly yelling out the magic words: “I will take this plane down!”

Really?  Bad move there, sport.  You may have heard that the airline industry is a tad leery of people even talking about disrupting flights.  Still a bit touchy over that whole 9/11 thing, and rightly so. It’s one thing to be a drunken ass, but when you start spoutin’ threats about endangering the lives of others, sorry mate, it’s time to go.

So the flight made an unscheduled stop in Salt Lake City, where this guy was removed from the plane, where TSA and law enforcement officials took him into custody on a federal charge of interfering with a flight crew.  Hopefully, he will be given a penalty that will make him think twice about travelling without his own headphones again, and maybe a little introspection about his drinking problem.

OK, obviously, we know what this customer did wrong.  He brought his problems on himself and deserves his punishment.  But JetBlue, whom I love, is not without blame here.

Now, one reader of the article detailing this situation suggested that the flight attendant could have disarmed the entire situation by simply giving the inebriated imbecile a headset.  Not a bad idea, except for the other passengers who had already given their credit cards in payment for the headphone rental.  Would it be fair to them to be billed for something that the airline would simply give to a whiny drunk?  Um, no.

But it does raise the question of why JetBlue  feels compelled to charge for headphones when they tout their personal TV for every seat.  I mean, if you’re going to give a perk, give the whole enchilada.  I mean, it’s like a restaurant offering a free dessert, but if want a dish or utensil to eat it with, that’ll cost ya.  Can you say “bogus?”

But, aside from the kinda bait & switch-y thing, when exactly did cash become unwanted?  Credit cards charge the businesses that accept them a service fee on every transaction.  I’m wondering why JetBlue prefers cut the credit card companies in on their “take” on the headphone scam… if you’re gonna shake your customers down, why not keep all the loot?

So JetBlue’s nickel and diming of their customers, and their misguided ideas about forcing customers to pay only a certain way notwithstanding, their policies do not warrant threatening to force a crash of a commercial airline.  I mean, beyond this petty little fee and payment method thing, JetBlue is a pretty awesome airline.  Their flights are typically less expensive than most of their competitors, their jets are spacious and comfortable, and if you bring your own headphones, you get free TV on every flight!  Their service personnel and crew, in my experience, are well-trained and friendly.  I would bet that they tried to deal with the belligerent boozer as professionally as possible, but when he decided to pretend he was a terrorist, all bets were off.

Most customers deserve courtesy, even if they are nasty about a perceived slight.  But there is a line which, once crossed, the customer forfeits their right to courtesy, and simply deserves getting bounced.  Hey, as nicely as possible.  But bounced, nonetheless.

This wonderfully droll comic strip, Wondermark, clearly demonstrates how most customers actually behave in the aftermath of a disappointing experience with a business or vendor.

Many people do not like confrontation of any kind.  So as customers, they will avoid it by simply glossing over a service problem.  While that may be “fine” with the service provider (because, really, who likes to be hassled?), the business will never know how poorly their product or service was delivered.

But many others will know.  Disgruntled customers are way more prone to talk than their more “gruntled” counterparts. They’ll tell their friends and their family.  If they’re particularly chatty, or inebriated, they’ll tell complete strangers.  Or if they are computer literate, they’ll tell the legions that follow their blogs, tweets, and facebookings.  And they will definitely tell the business’ competitors, when they patronize them instead of the offending business that they chose not to confront about a poor experience.

So, the offending company loses customers, its competitors gain customers, and they never knew what hit them. Because either their customers decided not to complain.  Or maybe the business isn’t making it easy for customers to complain or critique.  Because who wants to be hassled, right?

Certainly not your angry customer.  He’s got you in his rearview.  

But you should want to be hassled by your dissatisfied customers!  You need to know what irked them, so you can resolve it and not do it again.  You need to know how upset they are, so you can make it up to them in a way that will help rebuild their trust.  You think I am being dramatic here?  I am not.  Every customer is precious.  Stay in front of them!

Reader of this space, and other articles I have written regarding the handling of Angry Customers, know that I value the opinions of Angry Customers.  They may not always be charming, but very often they will give you things to think about, in terms of providing better service for your customers.

That said, I acknowledge that criticism from an angry customer is not always easy to take.  I have seen people reduced to tears after being castigated by a disgruntled customer.  I have witnessed shouting matches between employees and customers.  But I have never witnessed this: a service provider so angry that she used a gun on a customer.

Now, I know (from personal experience) that customers can get nasty sometimes, especially when their expectations are not met.  McDonald’s employees can also tell you about this and that.  However, in these high-strung days of uncertain economy, tempers do run high.

But, geez louise!  Bustin’ a cap in the ass (or arm, as the case may be) of a mouthy customer is a tad over the top, dontcha think?  And we’re talking about a waffle house, here!  All this mess over some greasy, fattening, crappy-tasting breakfast.  What happened to the good old days, when food servers used to simply secretly desecrate the food of obnoxious customers, and then serve them with an evil smile? (Oh, the stories I’ve heard!  Enough so that I will NEVER, EVER make a waiter or waitress mad.  Trust me on this one, kids.)

Anywaaaaay… violence is not the answer.  Not only has this particular waffle house lost a customer for life, not to mention her friends, family, and anyone who ever speaks to her), but the affronted waitress will lose her freedom for awhile (although, in a move guaranteed to to make you smile, she was back serving tables when she posted bail, awaiting her trial)

Hey, anyone else notice the pure poetry in that last sentence?  Totally unintentional.  Creativity just oozes out of me!

OK, back to the matter at hand.  Dealing with angry customers… Lesson for today: leave weapons out of it.  (Unless you work at McDonald’s – them customers is crazy!)

Nice to see (hear) that Tom Peters agrees with me, vis a vis the value of Angry Customers.

He was the first guy whose articulation of the importance of caring for the customer really resonated with me, back in the day when I was a young buck who thought I knew everything.  I saw a video  that he made on PBS one evening, based on “In Search of Excellence,” which excited me so much that I ran out and got the book and devoured it.  And since then, I have considered customer service to be the cornerstone of every successful business, and the bane of every unsuccessful business.  Good to know that Tom and I are still on the same page.

I’ve written several articles on the importance of angry customers, including this one.  You know, while a customer who has had his problem swiftly and courteously resolved may end up being your most loyal customer, the customer whose anger is unresolved, or even inflamed, can chase other customers away from your business.  And a business without customers ain’t a business; it’s an expensive hobby.  Chew on that for a while.

Sad to see that major banks still don’t “get it” regarding customer service, even when nearly half of the organization is owned by taxpayers after a HUGE bailout.  Arrogance, they name is Lloyds!

The largest bank in the UK receives more than 2000 complaints per day, and rejects, oh, about 90% percent of them.  Now there’s a nifty way of shutting the rabble-rousers up – just ignore ’em!  Hah!  That’ll show those whiners, who are constantly complaining about overdraft charges, and the handling of their accounts and credit cards and insurance products.

A sniveling, affronted representative of Britain’s recently named “worst bank for customer satisfaction” said, “Like every organisation we know there are areas where we can improve and we’re working with our customers to do just that.”  Really?  Who does your PR, the same group that works for BP???

By way of contrast, the Royal Bank of Scotland, while receiving over 1600 complaints daily, satisfactorily resolved 80 percent of them.   No reason was given for this huge disparity.  Just a big “hmmmmmm…”

I touched on this issue regarding US banks in an article back in 2008.  Nice to see I have single-handedly made absolutely no impact in the quality of service in the global banking industry.  Please, hold your applause.  Really.

One would think that in this day and age, where the economy is still like walking on salmonella-infested eggshells, that banks would understand that they are in the “people” business, not the “let’s take as much money as we can” business.  But one would be wrong.

Teachable moment: OK, this is an easy one.  Listen to your customers.  Hear what they are saying.  Act like it means something to you.  Pull your collective head out of your collective behind!  If this many customers are disgruntled with your service, that should tell you something, yes?

Contrary to popular belief, the Angry Customer is not your business’ worst nightmare. Frankly, the Angry Customer can be your business’ best friend.  If you can just get past the snarling, and the whining, and the threats, and the name-calling – charming things, all! – and actually take a minute to figure out what turned your customer into a beast, you may learn something about how to make your business better.  I’m serious!

No one likes to be yelled at, or insulted, or sneered at.  And there are many customers out there who engage in these activities.  True, some of them are just buttheads, and can be dismissed as such.

But not all of them!  Some of these folks are angry with good reason.  Your business has not treated them well. Your business deceived them with inaccurate marketing or advertising.  Your representatives were rude or simply disinterested.  Sometimes, the customer gets angry over something that simply could not have been helped or anticipated, but you got defensive over it, and the situation deteriorated from there.  Most situations like these can be avoided, or at least rectified.

The customer’s anger is simply identifying for you what needs to be changed or improved with your business.  You want a successful business, don’t ya?  Well, stop getting all defensive, and stop arguing with your customers, and stop whining about all the jerks who patronize your business… and start listening to them! The angry customer is giving you some free business consulting!  Take heed.