StressedService reps deal with lots of customers who are irritable, impatient, annoyed, and downright rude. It’s understood that behavior comes from frustration, worry, and the idea that the angry-squeaky wheel gets the grease. Here are the questions for this article:

Why do customers stay that way even when they got what they wanted? Why don’t more of these customers say, “Thank you” or even apologize for giving the service rep a hard time? Why are so many customers still grouchy when they hang up? The short answer: biology.

Working at Getting Worked Up

There are exceptions (we all know one) but most humans do not live in a continually annoyed or rude state. This applies to customers, too. Most of the time, they are pleasant and appreciative. However, when they have a request for which they think the answer is going to be “no,” they get ready for battle.

Before they pick up the phone or go down to the shop or branch, they start gearing up for an argument. This gearing-up may include getting ready to whine, yell, demand, insist on talking with the boss—whatever they think will be needed.

Pay attention to the beginning of the paragraph above: People often work themselves up before they contact customer service. Most people spend a few minutes; however, some begin this process long in advance. Some people think about the issue here and there for days, nursing a feeling of indignation or anger or whatever until they think it’s big enough.

Calming Down Takes a While

Whether the customer spent a few minutes or hours working themselves up, that has chemical and physical components. Adrenalin kicks in, our heart seems to speed up a bit (it doesn’t really), to name just a couple things. Once geared up, those chemicals don’t suddenly shut off and neither do their effects.

Even after the chemicals stop swirling around, it takes a while for the body and brain to calm down. That’s why many customers still sound angry or irritated, and may even repeat their complaint, even after the issue has been resolved. That’s also why few customers say “Thank you,” or say it with a grudging tone.

As for a heartfelt apology…well, those are few and far between for three reasons. Some customers feel embarrassed once they’ve calmed down and would rather not bring up what happened. Some people believe the only way to get results is to be rude—they don’t see a reason to apologize. Last but not least when it comes to call centers, it can be hard to find the service rep you want to apologize to.

Dealing With It

There are specific techniques to deal with upset customers, but we’ll stay general for this article:

  • Stay calm. Don’t let their bad attitude create one in you – that will just make things worse.
  • If dealing with tough customers is getting to you, get up and shake things off. If you have any thank you notes from customers, read them to remind you many customers are wonderful.
  • Don’t expect an apology. Don’t expect the bad experience to carry over, either. Next time you see or talk to the customer, smile and treat them as if nothing happened. You will often find theses customers end up as being your “best” customers!