Tuesday December 15, 2020
For as long as humans have been exchanging goods and services, there have been dissatisfied customers.
But does it seem to you that customers today are on a shorter fuse? They’re more easily angered than they have been in the past, issues seem to escalate more quickly, and they’re making their anger much more public.
In short, we have an upswell of CustoMonsters on our hands.
The “Dissatisfied Customer” vs. The CustoMonster
A customer who states their dissatisfaction, expects accountability, and is ready to look for reasonable solutions is not a CustoMonster. CustoMonsters want to crucify you disproportionately for a small mistake.
How to Spot a CustoMonster:
- Wants to punish you more than they want a solution
- Overreacts to small mistakes
- Gets inappropriately angry and emotional
- Screams at you or your staff
- Defames you on social media & review sites
CustoMonsters and Small Business
Small business owners are particularly vulnerable to CustoMonsters. In the days of online reviews and social media, a single customer’s overreaction could cause serious damage to a small business’s reputation. For that reason, a CustoMonster must be handled very carefully.
It is my opinion that a CustoMonster’s emotional outburst of anger stems from a deep dissatisfaction with the way business is generally done today: impersonally, automatically, and without a lot of accountability.
The good news is, as a small business owner, you have a unique opportunity to turn CustoMonsters into loyal, happy ones — if you can understand where they’re coming from and capitalize on your advantages.
Customer Service Isn’t What It Was
Let's take a step back and look at how business in America used to be done, even just fifty years ago. Business was based almost entirely on relationships: tight, local bonds built upon years of trust.
Each consumer had a few trusted brands, shops, and service providers they used consistently. They would have had a banking representative who knew their name and financial history. Their grocer would know their weekly order and would ask about the health of their family.
Business may have been less efficient, but accountability and transparency were considerably higher, especially when a customer was dissatisfied.
How Customer Service Has Changed in 50 Years
I believe that the reason many customers are on such a short fuse today is because of the way customer service has changed in the last fifty years.
Today, many customers end up feeling they haven’t been heard when dealing with customer service representatives. One reason this happens is because there’s very little direct communication between customers and the people who actually have the authority and means to solve their problems.
Customers have learned that they must turn into the dreaded CustoMonster to get what they want. They see screaming as the fastest way to get their issue in front of someone who can actually do something about it.
Customers have learned that they must turn into the dreaded CustoMonster to get what they want
Loss of Accountability
Many businesses today hide behind punching-bag representatives, deliberately opaque policy, and other tactics that break down accountability. Because consumers have been treated poorly before, they become jumpy and aggressive in dealing with smaller businesses. They assume turning into a CustoMonster is the only way to get what they want from a company of any size.
Understanding Customer Reactions
When a customer turns into a CustoMonster, they’re protesting, without even realizing it, against our new society of impersonal instant gratification. At the same time, these customers have grown accustomed to this super-efficient world, expecting instant, perfect service at all times of day or night.
The Small Business Advantage
The good news is, as a small business owner, you have one huge advantage in solving this particular problem. Simply put, you are not the kind of faceless corporation that values efficiency above your relationship with customers.
You’re a small, local business, active in your community and led by you — an individual customers can talk to and deal with one-on-one.
When customers lash out, it’s because they are defaulting to the method that seems to work with cold, corporate customer service. Remind them that you’re different — and then walk the walk to prove it.
How to Respond to a CustoMonster
The key to dealing with a CustoMonster is to break them out of their script of righteous anger, where they have to scream to make you listen and force you to be accountable. If you play into that script, such as by denying the problem or getting angry, it’s not going to go well.
The key to dealing with a CustoMonster is to break them out of their script of righteous anger
But, by reacting in a way they don’t expect (that is to say, by being transparent, humble, and working diligently to make it right), you can set a new tone for all your future interactions.
5 Steps to Tame a CustoMonster:
- Listen. You don’t want to make any assumptions at this stage, or you might miss the full scope of the problem. Sympathize, and try to understand the full impact of the issue and why it’s causing such an emotional reaction. Don’t talk, except to recap and ask questions.
- Voice your apology. You don’t need to apologize multiple times, as long as your first apology comes after listening and is followed by action. When you’re making your apology, use clear, simple language and accept blame. Don’t say, “Mistakes were made” — say, “I’m sorry we made a mistake.”
- Propose solutions and offer options, for both short term and long term. Prioritize to solve the immediate problem, and make a plan to prevent issues in the future. Often, that means giving them permission to call you, or offering to call them yourself at a later time to make sure they’re still satisfied.
- Put systems and processes in place to stay on top of the ball. Consumers have high expectations for quality, speed, and accuracy for even the smallest of businesses. Create an organized system of SOPs that staff can follow to achieve the best product or service. When issues do come up, It can also help you to identify and make adjustments.
- Critically evaluate the relationship. If a good customer gets irate one day and temporarily turns into a CustoMonster, use these steps to heal the damage and return to a strong relationship. But if a customer continuously abuses you or your team, it’s probably time to fire a customer (yes, it is not just employees who can be fired from your company)time to say goodbye for good. Click here to read “When & How to Break Up With a Bad Client.”
Overall, remember that the CustoMonster is attacking you personally because they don’t feel like they’re being treated personally. They’re seeking a type of customer experience that isn’t common in our increasingly digital world. As a small business owner, you stay competitive by offering that personal touch, alongside the efficiency, speed, and accuracy your customers expect.