On Angry People

Seth Godin out up an interesting post on dealing with Angry people. One of the things I like about Seth is his use of small illustrations and he uses one here to point out the separation between angry people and everyone else (even other angry people!)

I've been an angry customer, I've dealt with angry customers. I have to say that my experience being an angry customer did not really prepare me for dealing with an angry customer. The divide Seth talks about is always unique.

How do you deal with angry people?  " That's our policy sir . . .?" "Sorry you feel that way . . ."

David Lincecum

Published 06-05-2008 8:16 AM by dlincecum
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# re: On Angry People

Oh man, you are so right about it being easier to be an angry customer than to help an angry customer.  For a while, at Production Arts, I was more than occasionally an angry customer of ETC. Now, sometimes people (usually ETC's President) ask me "How did you let this happen? You would never have let us do this when you were at PA!"

Weeeell.....I just have a few more facts now.

It's easy to be an angry customer, because you are only focusing on your one (or n) problem(s). On the other end of the phone, we're worrying about 430 other things, all of which we think are important but don't mean diddly to the angry customer.

I remember a classic meeting years ago where Sarah Spencer was explaining to me in my office at PA all the 430 reasons why something was wrong. I let her go on for a good 15 minutes, and then replied "I don't care--when is the problem getting fixed?". Not that I didn't care about her or ETC, but in that transaction, it was not my job as the customer to get wound-in to Sarah's 430 reasons why. I try to remember that moment when dealing with ETC customers.

My technique of dealing with an angry customer is to totally focus on their problem and its solution. Some other stuff will just have to wait.


Friday, June 06, 2008 7:09 AM by sterry

# re: On Angry People

My years of being yelled at, mostly many years ago when we had product that didn't always work, have caused me to approach things differently when I am the customer.  It's fun to have a candid conversation over the phone with a helpdesk and instead of just concentrating on the product ask them how they are, where they're located or in the case of telemarketers, ask them what their quota is for the day and how far they gotten.  I just think back to calls I've received and try to relax.

Some basic tenents have emerged from this experience.

1. It's not personal.  Don't take it personal.  Understand that they just need to finally have someone to talk to (or yell at) because the little elctronic thing or the purchase order or other inanimate object can't really reply.

2. Listen.  If you don't listen it makes them even madder especially if your not the first person they've talked to.  It's amazing how many times angry people relent once you've given them the chance to talk it out and you have shown your listening skills.

3. Don't tell them "the policy." (from your post David).  They may or may not already know but the policy at this point but they certainly don't care.  If you are going to mention the policy, tell them what it is followed immediately by why that's not what your going to do for them.  In other words, make their solution personal and unique.

4.  Ask them what they would like done...but only after you've done #2 above.  If you start with this, angry people may ask for something irrational or well beyond your control to again prove that you can't help them either.  Often after they've calmed down from #2 what they want is reasonable.

5.  Take care of the issue immediately and personally if at all possible and follow up to let them know progress and then follow up afterwards to see how they're doing.  Waiting only proves the customers point and allows the relationship to fester.

6.  Don't forget the adage that one bad event is spread to ten others.  Own the relationship personally.

7.  Find ways to relax.  David L. is working on this and others might wish to take his path too.

Now if I can just find a way to stomach all those bad drivers on the beltline....they don't listen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:15 AM by dnorth

# re: On Angry People

David - Thanks so much. I really learned some good stuff from you! I especially like the part about not taking it personally. Somehow I find it difficult not to personalize it - even though I always give the same advice to people not to do that!

But about those bad drivers . . .

David Lincecum

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 5:44 PM by dlincecum