Seven Ways to Keep Angry Customers (Like Me) Happy

I recently came across a couple of tip lists for how to deal with angry customers. I found them interesting, because all too often -- confession time --  I find I am that angry customer.

When companies are incompetent, it throws me into a rage. When I have a problem, or a company has done something wrong, and they can't or won't fix it, it makes me insane.

In other words, I am the customer from hell. (Just ask my husband, who designs my website graphics. That's my nickname.) Maybe it has something to do with writing about business for 20 years, but I'm deeply familiar with how a good business should work -- and always disappointed when it doesn't happen.

Though I've had my blow ups, I believe you can salvage a relationship with an angry customer and turn them into a happy one. Here are seven ways to keep angry customers like me from storming out of your real or virtual store, never to return:

  1. Realize my time is valuable. If you're putting me on hold and transferring me three different times, you are losing me. I'm getting madder with each transfer. And that's what happens all too often. As John Tschohl, author of Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, puts it, solve my problem quickly, or find someone who can. You can only do this if your employees all understand the chain of command and are empowered to solve problems. They should also know who to send problem customers to if it's beyond their scope.
  2. Get real about outsourcing customer service. You think your customers can be helped by people with almost impenetrable accents and limited English skills in foreign countries. But the reality is quite often, we can't.
  3. Actually care. Yes, you're staying calm. But if I don't sense real empathy for my situation, your calmness is only making me crazier. It makes me feel you don't understand that I'm in crisis here, and you need to make it better.
  4. Reach out on Twitter. If you are not monitoring your business name on Twitter, you are losing a big opportunity. I've had companies respond to me immediately about a problem, including a massive website outage that affected hundreds of customers at my host. That is an instant anger defuser. 
  5. Go above and beyond. Once you've made a customer mad, you need to do something to fix the relationship. It's like a spat with your spouse. You need the customer-service equivalent of the nice card or the flowers. 
  6. Don't just file a support ticket. These are the Internet age's slow boats to China. You might get back to me in a day, or a week, or never. While tickets are fine for minor or non-critical problems, they won't work for emergencies. You need another option -- live email chat, Twitter support or something else that moves faster and gives me more confidence that you understand the urgency of my situation.
  7. Fix the broken policies. You can avoid angry customers in the first place if you figure out what's wrong with your process. For example, my husband and I recently opted to have a new shower installed, but canceled instead. It took 45 days and multiple conversations with two different people to get our deposit refunded, even though the company installs showers in a single day. You can bring a whole crew and remodel my home in 24 hours, but your bank can't do a transfer this week? 

How do you appease angry customers? Leave some tips, so fewer companies will annoy me.