Learning From “Bad” Customers

I recently read a delightfully sarcastic article in the Huffington Post, Maybe You Get Bad Customer Service Because You’re a Bad Customer by Matt Walsh.  It was as entertaining as it was true, and naturally got me thinking about the topic.  Being in and managing customer service my entire adult life means I have certainly seen my share of obnoxiousness and have had to let customers go on occasion – so the article was pretty cathartic as well!  While some things are beyond our control, I did get to brainstorming on what could be done to prevent and diffuse these situations when there is still a chance to recover the situation; sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t – but I like improving ratios.

The problem with being ill prepared and/or doing nothing is that the scenes are embarrassing, they instill doubt in other customers, they demoralize your staff, and they are a tremendous waste of your time. So why not add some processes and skills that help manage these situations rather than letting them manage you?  My disclaimer here is that some people really are impossible, but I think that using this excuse too much is a slippery slope that provides rationalization for lazy customer service.  Maintaining that “impossible” situations are few and far between is the higher and truer road – and remember, it’s not personal – it’s business.

1 – Tweak your processes. The article I mentioned talks about a fast food restaurant that put ketchup on a hamburger when woman requested none, which she claimed had happened multiple times.  If you are in an industry prone to human error, consider posting something that tells customers their feedback is welcome and that you’ll do all you can to correct errors.  Don’t wait until a customer is demanding the moon to provide a solution – and make sure that complaints are logged.  Processing issues are usually far more consistent than you’re willing to admit – so commit to reviewing and correcting regularly.

2 – Consider the human psyche.  Most people aren’t actual psychopaths looking for people to beat up on.  They suffer from far more common and annoying personal issues like entitlement, bullying, anger, fear, and control.  Understanding this is half the battle because it’s easier to stay calm when we recognize that the situation has little or nothing to do with us personally.  Switching off the anger will always be a challenge, but it is often within our control and demonstrates tremendous professionalism.

3 – Prepare your people.  Employees are more likely to handle bad situations with confidence and professionalism if you arm them with information and help them practice.  It is awful to get beat up by customers and the morale in your organization will show it.  Empowerment and education, on the other hand, help people feel poised to handle difficulty.

I am a firm believer in solutions – so while I accept that there are bad customers, I think they still provide lessons.  Would you agree?



  1. Stephanie you are right on what are some of the ones that are out there in the public sometimes you’re out there to give the public trouble being trained and relaxed keep your job longer customer have to have more patience makes it easier on employees
    I enjoyed reading your blog.

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