The Truth About Angry Customers


angry customers are preventableThere is a recent story about an angry customer in a Zara store who became so upset that employees called mall security.  The end result was physical injury and a social media explosion.

On the surface it is a story of a man who was insisting on getting a refund, then became progressively louder and disruptive when he was refused.  Crazy customer, right?  An unreasonable, entitled Customer From Hell.  Easy to believe that he probably deserved what he got.

Until, that is, you understand the whole story…  (You can see it here  and here )

It turns out he had been trying to resolve this issue for some time, and not treated very well in the process.  The final incident was the last – and most egregious – straw.  When you hear the story you can empathize with his massive frustration.

Angry Customers Are Almost Always Avoidable

Research done by Ann Bitner  digs into the reality of this type of dissatisfaction.  In most cases, the root of a problem is an employee’s responses to an issue – not the issue itself.  Most people understand that things can go sideways and mistakes can be made.  We may not be happy about them, but as long as we have the sense that an employee cares about us and wants to make things right, we’re okay.  But when we feel that employees don’t care or that we are unimportant – that’s when we start to get grouchy.

It’s good news and bad news.  The good news is that if we are the ones making customers upset, then we have the power to fix things.  The bad news is that when we have an angry customer, there’s a good chance it was us who made him (her) angry.

It Wasn’t About The $80

The customer in this Zara incident said that after a while “it really wasn’t about the $80.”  Again, most of us can understand that.  It was about respect.  Unfortunately the ultimate cost to Zara will be much higher – if only in the form of negative viral publicity.  It’s a case study in the critical importance of  conflict prevention and resolution skills  for people in every industry.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of this story plays out.


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