Paolo Fabrizio
August 7, 2017

How To Effectively Deal With Customer Rage

Ccustomer Rage

A couple of weeks ago I was on a train heading to Florence, Italy. Unfortunately we remained stuck inside a tunnel for over 2 hours. All of the passengers were stranded, as the train crew literally disappeared. Desaparecidos (that’s how we say it in Italy!). We could barely understand the ‘train voice’, which gave us (unsatisfactory) updates every 30-40 minutes. As you can imagine, it was an awful experience – not only because the train arrived in Florence with 122′ minutes delay. As you can also imagine, this was greeted with customer rage.

Customers react digitally. Are you ready to handle them? 

I’m telling to you about this story because for two reasons. Both the reaction of passengers on the train and the train company’s reply to my complaint via Twitter, could be helpful in providing you with actionable tips to prevent customer’s rage.

Passengers reaction. As soon as the screen showed the delay, all passengers, one after the other, stood up and took pictures of it. They did it without speaking to each other. It was a sort of a silent, digital procession, the intent of which was clear. People used social networks to share and amplify their anguish as customers. As you can see below, I did it too.

Train displays delay

The screen during my train ride to Florence displaying 2 hours delay

This example testifies that wherever an experience takes place – offline or online – customers react instinctively when they feel angry with a brand. And of course, the easiest and most powerful way to do it is grabbing their smartphone to vent their frustration.

What Should Never Lack In Your First Response To An Irate Customer

The response to my complaint.  Back to my train nightmare-experience, I sent my Tweet to the train company to complain and after about 30 minutes I’ve received their response. Unfortunately, they denied and disputed my version instead of apologizing.

That’s a terrible mistake! Especially when you know that your customer has valid reasons to complain. In fact, in such cases, you should always apologize at the very beginning of you response. This helps the customer / reader know that you acknowledge your fault. At the same time, it shows that you put yourself in your customer’s shoes. The rest of the answer should then be focused on fixing customer’s problem. See a Q&A example below:

Reply to an irate customerHow To Circumvent Customer Rage

As customer rage overcomes rationality, he/she won’t listen to you unless you send empathy signals to calm him/her down. The above answer works well because it:

  1. Starts with an apology
  2. Shows empathy (including the customer’s name is essential)
  3. Clearly explains actions taken and follow up
  4. Provides help to get reimbursement for delay (link)
  5. Includes agent’s name / signature at the end of it. (Customers prefer to have human interactions instead of just dealing with cold brands)

TIP: Always be careful when you write your first response to an irate customer. And make sure to avoid creepy answers.

 In case you’re not sure whether the customer is right or not, I suggest you to dive into this Customerthink’s article here.

Your turn

Even the best organized brands sometimes fail to deliver good customer experiences. However, it’s their first response that makes the difference. Here’s the question for you to think about. What are you doing today to prevent/mitigate customer’s rage?


Featured image: Copyright: ‘‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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Paolo Fabrizio

Digital Customer Service Consultant, Trainer, Author, Speaker. Paolo has been helping companies to harness digital customer service as a business driver. Founder of CustomerServiceCulture, author of books and speaker at conferences in Italy and abroad. Lecturer at the Bicocca University of Milan