The customer is angry and it's not your fault: customer service strategies

Shep Hyken
May 22, 2019
By Shep Hyken
A customer's complaint may not be your fault, but it is an opportunity for your business to shine, writes customer service expert Shep Hyken.

Imagine this. The customer on the phone – or in person – is raging mad. You can hear it in their voice – or see it in their eyes. You brace yourself. You’re ready to take the lashing this customer is about to give you. You know you personally did nothing to offend and upset this customer.

But somebody did something, or something happened, that made this customer want to lash out at you. Then you find out…

Your company did nothing wrong!

The anger had nothing to do with anything related to your company. Something else caused the customer to become upset. I’ve seen customers scream at servers in restaurants, flight attendants on airplanes, and customer service reps – for things that they and their companies had no control over.

Perhaps the customer had a flat tire on the way to an important meeting. Maybe they lost an important sale. Maybe they didn’t sleep well the night before. It doesn’t matter. The company and the employee were not at fault.

So, here’s the lesson. Typically, when a customer is upset, it is a problem or complaint caused by the company. That’s when we put our best customer service skills to use, turning the negative situation around and restoring the customer’s confidence. Once in a while, the customer’s problem is out of our control. What do you do then?

You may have heard this line from me before, but it is truer than ever in these circumstances:

It may not be your fault, but it is your opportunity.

That line typically refers to a customer calling with a complaint or problem that is the company’s fault – or at least one that is perceived as such – and the person helping the customer becomes the face of the company, even if the complaint had nothing to do with them personally. However, his time the line refers to outside circumstances that have nothing to do with the company. The sentiment still applies. It’s still an opportunity to listen to the customer, empathize with their problem, give a little sympathy, and then show them how good you and your company are – regardless of whatever the problem is and who is to blame.

That’s what the best companies do. That’s what the best customer-focused people do. They make their customers feel good… in every situation, regardless of who’s at fault! Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you? The companies and employees that succeed are the ones who keep this in mind and treat their customers how they would want and deserve to be treated.


Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, visit www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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