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Nasty online customers

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Sunday January 7, 2007 )

“The customer is always right” myth is dead and and it’s time they realized it. Sometimes the customer can be wrong and no amount of aggression, swearing and cursing on their part changes that fact.

What really cheeses me off is the number of people who try to strongarm customer support in the online world; and often they are the people who should know better – other online business owners.

I don’t know whether it’s the moon phase, time of year or just a sign of the times, but I’m seeing increasing levels of aggression in customer/vendor relations these days. I’m not referring to justified and properly expressed frustration, I mean the cyber equivalent of king-hitting or an online drive-by tirade.

Imagine having someone coming up to you in the street whom you don’t really know who suddenly starts hurling expletives at you, issuing half-assed threats and getting rather personal in the process. The last time it happened to me in the “real” world, the assailant was a paranoid schizophrenic off his medication.

Are they giving these sorts of people internet connections now and setting them up in business? It would appear so at times.

This is a big peeve of mine. It’s *somewhat* understandable when an ignoramus launches into a tirade, because you can brush it off as just that; ignorance, but in business-to-business relationships; it’s simply not on and I have a zero-tolerance for it when another business owner abuses me, or the team I’m responsible for.

As I’ve stated in the past, I feel the somewhat anonymous nature of email and live chat gives some people a measure of Dutch courage to express their underlying infantile nature. I don’t particularly care if their dog died that morning, their house is being repossessed or if they have a migraine. I treat people with respect and I expect the same in return, regardless of the situation.

The whole point of this post is to get across the message – don’t take crap from your customers, even if you’ve screwed up. Stand your ground without sinking to their level and get them to focus on mutually resolving the issue (be it real or imagined) rather than their moronic power play.

It’s fine for people to vent frustration, but it needs to be done in a civilized and measured manner. The only reason why people usually resort to crude and aggressive behavior as a means of conflict resolution is because they’ve done it before and it’s achieved the results they wanted. Break their cycle; you’ll find most of these people will back down really quickly or disappear altogether. Either works for me.

Read more about handling aggressive customers.


1 comment for Nasty online customers
  1. Yes, this is very common nowadays. What amazes me is how quickly some people get this way. I mean, it’s one thing if you have been doing a bad job for a long period of time and the customer has a right to be ticked off, but some people get nasty so quickly, for almost no reason.

    On the other hand I don’t agree with a blanket policy where a customer can never raise his voice or show any emotion. If you do a lousy job for a client, don’t fix problems over an extended period of time and cost him or her money, they have a right to get pissed off. If employees know the boss will automatically side with them, they can even deliberately provoke a client they don’t like to get them “fired.”

    Comment by laundryman — January 14, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

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