Ever been yelled at by a customer?

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gurd3v
gurd3v Member Posts: 70 Expert
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edited September 2020 in CS Org Conversations
Hi team!

I started in CS almost 4 years ago right out of college and had a couple experiences where the customer made blatant discriminatory remarks towards me. At the time, I thought it was all apart of being in CS. Fast forward 6 months ago in a company all hands, another CS member point blank asked our CEO what his stance is on customers who make discriminatory remarks towards our team and he said we will not allow for that and would be open to firing the customer. The brave person who asked created confidence among others to speak up about their experiences as well. Knowing that this wasn't just an isolated situation, our DEI Committee worked with our VP of CS, CEO's and legal to craft a policy that allows for our team to document these experiences with customers, and intervene to address the issue with confidence. 

So far, we've actually had to use this policy a bit more than we would like, but it's been very satisfying hearing the countless members in CS who have confided in us that this was a real problem that needed to be addressed, and so far our process is providing the support our team needs. 

Anyone have any experiences with verbally abusive and/or discriminatory customers? Does your organization have a process/policy around handling these instances?


Comments

  • Alex Farmer
    Alex Farmer Member Posts: 62 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    No formal process on our side, but I really believe in the ability to use business engagements as a way to take a stand and call bad things out.  We spend at least 33% of our hours at work - its a major part of our life.  So it should follow that things we wouldnt tolerate in a personal relationship similarly should not be tolerated in a working one.  Great to hear youve implemented this process and its providing the support and backing all team members should expect
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    It's OK for customers to express anger, but nobody should put up with abusive behavior. Ever.

    Report the incident to their HR department. They will deal with it, and if they don't, drop them as a customer.
  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 185 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    I am sorry to hear about your experience.  That is unfortunate.  Our CEO is similar to yours in that we would consider firing a customer but we don't have a formal policy in place.
  • Dan Conroy
    Dan Conroy Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited September 2020
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    Brian, that is such an interesting question and I feel badly that you had to endure such a situation, but I feel better knowing that this did not happen to me alone. It happened only once, but I did have a client yell at me over the phone. It was when I was an Account Executive working with a very large and well respected company to try to close what was to be the largest sale in the history of the company for which I was working at the time. What made it a bit more uncomfortable was that my colleague who was to be the Customer Service Manager for this prospective client was on the phone as well. I took a deep breath (several) as the client was yelling at me. When she had gotten it all out, I waited a bit and then calmly asked her if she was finished. She confirmed that she was. I then calmly told her that she had made it clear that the issue that over which she had been yelling at me about (price) was clearly important to her and that I would like to help her. I suggested that we have another call with my manager to discuss it further as I did not have the authority to address her concern. We had that call the next day. I was hoping that a little time in between the calls might give her time to reflect on her behavior. I was wrong. The next day, she just yelled at my boss instead of me. I had wondered if this was merely a negotiation tactic to secure more favorable pricing. A friend of mine who worked at the same company as this woman confirmed to me that it is a tactic that they use with regularity during negotiations to their procurement team. I found that interesting and enlightening. Thankfully I have only experienced a yeller once in my career. The good news is - we did win the deal - the bad news is that they secured more favorable pricing as a result of the yelling - i.e. it worked on my manager. A happy ending - sort of;)
  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    @Gurdev Anand, sorry you were on the receiving end of that.  Discriminatory remarks (and discrimination) have no place anywhere and I'm glad your company created a policy.  

    Discrimination aside, unfortunately most of us who have worked in a customer facing role job have been yelled at by a customer.  It's especially troubling in a B2B relationship, because as a vendor you need to be professional, but your customer represents their company too - and why shouldn't they have professional standards?

    My most memorable experience was one of the first escalations I took as a new manager, from a customer unhappy about their renewal quote.  I took the call and he immediately launched into personal attacks, except the only thing he knew about me was that I was located in the Bay Area.  So, he bizarrely accused me of price-gouging so I could gorge myself on expensive abalone.

    The bottom line here is that, like @Dan Conroy said in his reply, customers often do this stuff because it works and they're often formally trained at it.  Rewarding bad behavior only reinforces it, so do all you can to stop rewarding it: from not giving the discount, to firing the customer if needed.  On the positive side, reward the good behavior.  Your customers will be more loyal to you if you treat them with humanity. 

    On that note, sometimes they aren't yelling as a tactic.  Sometimes they're legitimately upset and that puts you in a unique position to solve their most painful time.  Keep an eye out for those times.  My most loyal customers were ones who saw how we responded when things weren't perfect.
  • Sunil Nair
    Sunil Nair Member Posts: 7 Seeker
    edited September 2020
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    @Russell Bourne nails it - 'Rewarding bad behavior only reinforces it, so do all you can to stop rewarding it: from not giving the discount, to firing the customer if needed. On the positive side, reward the good behavior. Your customers will be more loyal to you if you treat them with humanity.'

    While this hasn't happened to me, it has happened to my CSMs. They know to start with 'I understand everyone is frustrated, but please mind your tone', and also that I will back them up if they disengage/hang up/walk out. 

    I've usually followed this up with a phone call to a senior leader at the customer, and this hasn't happened again. While some of our customers can be a bit sweary, it's never at a person. "This $)*&% thing doesn't work" is completely different to "YOU are a &^$%&$"
  • Anna Alley
    Anna Alley Member Posts: 69 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    I agree with what's been said so far. While we don't have a formal process in place, if a customer is yelling at a team member to the point of offensiveness, discrimination, cursing at the person (agreed there is a distinction), etc. the teammate is within their right to ask for more professional behavior or notify the customer that they're going to end the call. We've had a few situations where we've looped in senior leadership to set expectations with the customer that they either need to start behaving more appropriately or we will have to look at terminating the relationship.
    Another tactic, depending on who the person is in the company, is to engage their executive sponsor and let them know that this person's behavior is damaging the relationship and we may not be able to continue services.
  • Bri Adams
    Bri Adams Member Posts: 16 Thought Leader
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    edited September 2020
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    Hi Gurdev, I so appreciate your question, and I'm absolutely delighted to hear that you have a formal policy in place to handle these situations. After all, everyone sees this at least once in their careers. 

    In my last three roles I have had the joy of being a point of escalation for my team. I use the word "joy" because that meant I had the authority to tell my team that they are not ever required to tolerate being yelled at or treated disrespectfully, and in those cases they need to end the call as quickly and politely as they can (of course, if they need to hang up, they can and should), and then escalate to me to set up a call between me and the customer. While we don't have a "formal" road to firing a customer at ChurnZero, we do have unofficial pathways where the team is empowered to handle the situation on the call for as long as they are comfortable (whether that is the entire call or not, as soon as they feel uncomfortable they can end the call), and they are aware they can immediately bring this up to their team lead or manager and escalate. 

    I have ended only one relationship (not at CZ) because of the personality of a customer, as the hostility had grown to a point where I was uncomfortable with any member of our team interacting with the customer. At my current role at ChurnZero, I am in an incredibly unique position because I work almost exclusively with CSMs, VPs/Director's of Customer Success, and other Customer Success professionals. In this atmosphere, I interact with others who share my experiences, and I find that the relationships now between Vendor (myself) and customer, are always incredibly respectful and productive. (CS is the best, isn't it?)

    Certainly, we have had situations here where frustrations have taken over and it has led to yelling, but it's almost exclusively a situation where the customer is so frustrated with so many other things going on in their life that they need a moment to yell into the ether (I like to think they are yelling in my direction and not directly at me) and we have been able to calmly listen and quickly get the call and relationship back on track. 

    A coworker of mine likes to circulate the video THIS IS WATER! by David Foster Wallace after discussions of rude or hurtful customers, and I think it's a beautiful reminder that people likely have a lot of other things going on in their lives, so you shouldn't take any of the comments or rudeness to heart. Regardless, you have done nothing wrong and you don't ever deserve to be treated this way.

    ------------------------------
    Bri Adams
    Team Lead
    ChurnZero
    Washington, D.C.
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 09-10-2020 23:38
    From: Gurdev Anand
    Subject: Ever been yelled at by a customer?

    Hi team!

    I started in CS almost 4 years ago right out of college and had a couple experiences where the customer made blatant discriminatory remarks towards me. At the time, I thought it was all apart of being in CS. Fast forward 6 months ago in a company all hands, another CS member point blank asked our CEO what his stance is on customers who make discriminatory remarks towards our team and he said we will not allow for that and would be open to firing the customer. The brave person who asked created confidence among others to speak up about their experiences as well. Knowing that this wasn't just an isolated situation, our DEI Committee worked with our VP of CS, CEO's and legal to craft a policy that allows for our team to document these experiences with customers, and intervene to address the issue with confidence. 

    So far, we've actually had to use this policy a bit more than we would like, but it's been very satisfying hearing the countless members in CS who have confided in us that this was a real problem that needed to be addressed, and so far our process is providing the support our team needs. 

    Anyone have any experiences with verbally abusive and/or discriminatory customers? Does your organization have a process/policy around handling these instances?




    ------------------------------
    Gurdev Singh Anand
    Sr. Customer Experience Manager
    ------------------------------

    Bri Adams

    Director of Customer Success, Commercial

    badams@windfall.com

    www.windfall.com

  • Andreas Knoefel
    Andreas Knoefel Member Posts: 74 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    Unfortunately it's almost a Badge of Honor, @Gurdev Anand.

    I always coach my team as follows:
    1) Frustrated customers ==> QTIP (Quit Taking It Personal). I even supply the Q-TIP's. Empathize with their problem, and validate them.
    2) Abusive customers ==> Tell them that that I (the manager) will call then back and inform me. I may have to escalate this up our and their chain
  • Julie Pine Parker
    Julie Pine Parker Member Posts: 6 Seeker
    edited September 2020
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    Hi Gurdev, so sorry you experienced this. It is uncalled for! Working in hospitality I have had MANY, MANY customers shout at me both in an operations and sales capacity. The hotels I worked at were overseas and had a very diverse staff- 20+ nationalities. Unfortunately, there are a lot of extremely discriminatory customers that come in all shapes and sizes and go into full rants when they can't have their way. Luckily the management teams did not tolerate this behavior from our guests and our team was always supported.

    Bottom line, there is NO EXCUSE for discrimination and inherent rudeness.

    We work in Customer-Facing roles because we genuinely care and enjoy helping people. 

    You get a bad apple once in a while, but once a line is crossed disrupting one's dignity, you have to ask yourself if that one client is worth it- when there are so many wonderful clients out there!