Customer Service: We do it your way…but don’t get too crazy!

A humorous look at the state of customer service in America.

[For entertainment purposes only.]

Special Webinar Teaches How to Handle Difficult Customers

How to Get Angry, Irate or Unreasonable Customers to Back Down

Imagine your next phone call is from an angry, irate customer and you’ve only got a few seconds to gain control.

Are you 100% confident you can handle it?

If not, I’ve got the perfect program for you.  Attend my special webinar entitled “Stop Screaming at Me” and you’ll be able to Handle Any Difficult Customer. Learn more about this special webinar.

20 WOW Telephone Techniques: Tip #17

What to say to the yelling or cursing customer

Bored Telephone Worker

  • “I’m trying to help you, but if you continue to yell and swear, I am going to ask that you call back another time. It’s up to you…which would you prefer?”

  • “I’m sorry. It isn’t possible to help while listening to that language. If it stops, I can help.”

  • “If a few minutes helps you calm down before we continue, that would be okay. You can certainly call me back.”

  • “I want to help you, yet the language is getting in the way.”


Note: Your tone is critically important with the above statements. You must come across calm, neutral, and non-threatening.

If you liked this tip, you might also like our customer service eLearning, which is loaded with phrases, approaches, and templates for how to handle challenging customers. 

The Secret of Socrates


How to get irrational customers to think rationally


The diplomatic communicator builds a psychological path toward an affirmative response by strategically getting their “opponent” to say “yes” a number of times.

Get the customer to say yes and keep them, if possible, from saying “no.”

When a person says “no,” all of their pride demands that they remain consistent with themselves. And it is very difficult, once they’ve said ‘no’, for them to change their mind and become “agreeable” with you, because their sense of pride is now involved. And we invest so much in our pride.

Let me give you an example of how this works:

Years ago when I was heading up consumer affairs for a car rental company, I had an escalated call from a very upset customer. The customer was demanding that the company pay him three thousand dollars and some change because our mishap caused him to be three hours late to a meeting. He explained that he was a consultant and his billable rate was $1,000 per hour.

The problem was our fault; there was no way around that. But the demand was unreasonable, and I knew we weren’t going to be able to give in. So, I used the Yes, Yes strategy on him…and here’s how it worked.

“Mr. Jones, you are an astute businessman, are you not?”

 I knew he’d say yes, as he boasted proudly that his clients paid him $1,000 per hour, for his services.

Next, I said…”And, as an astute businessman, I’m sure you only make decisions that make good business sense.”  “Absolutely!”, he said.”

I knew I had him, because I had built an affirmative path. Each of the questions I asked him yielded a positive ‘yes’ response.

So, finally, I said. “I am quite sure that if you were in my shoes, talking to a customer in this situation, that you would not simply give a customer three thousand dollars, because they experienced an unfortunate delay.”

After about three or four seconds, he said, “Ms. Golden, you’re right. If I were you, there’s no way I’d give a customer three thousand dollars for waiting three hours.”

It was that easy…and it will be that easy for you!

Build an affirmative path by asking your customer two simple and obvious questions that you know will result in a YES response. It’s very much psychological…your customer won’t feel comfortable disagreeing with himself…and will feel compelled to say yes so that he agrees with himself!

How to Resolve Problems Without Giving the Store Away



This training video is from our Golden Method for Complaint Resolution online video course…

The Golden Method for Complaint Resolution Online Video Course
This multi-media online training program positions customer service representatives to regain control of difficult conversations and to regain customer goodwill after even the worst has happened. Full of specific tips to handle difficult customers, as well as tools to completely restore customer confidence in the wake of problems, the Golden Rules Training System guides customer service representatives as if Myra was right there with them.

This program includes 25 video modules with Myra Golden leading customer service representatives through field-tested and proven strategies for regaining control with angry and difficult customers.
View details.

The Consumer Vigilante

How to Defuse Aggression and Steer Clear of Danger with Consumer Vigilantes


There’s a certain degree of extremism that’s popping up, a sense of “I’m going to get results, whatever means necessary.”

 Pete Blackshaw

Executive vice-president of Nielsen Online Strategic services.

Last August a 76-year old retired nurse named Mona Shaw walked into a Comcast office with a hammer and smashed a computer keyboard and telephone switchboard to smithereens and then screamed, “Have I got your attention now?” Why? Because, according to Ms. Shaw, Comcast failed to install her service properly.

Mona Shaw has become a media sensation, appearing on the Oprah show, podcasts, and television news broadcasts.  T-shirts with her silhouette holding a hammer with the tagline: “Have I got your attention now?” have been created.

Ms. Shaw’s behavior is the textbook definition of Consumer Vigilante. This is real, very serious and potentially dangerous for those of us serving customers.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know: on average, 5 retail or service employees are murdered and 4,500 are assaulted on the job by customers each week in the U.S. (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.)

Consumer vigilantes are nothing to play with. Psychologist, Dr. Terry Riley, offers this observation: “Today’s customers are more harried, more demanding, and more dangerous than ever.”

With an apparent trend toward more incidents of vigilantism and rage, “the safety of your employees, your customers, and your company’s assets takes on new, urgent, and challenging dimensions.” (Riley, 2002).I want to help you protect your employees, your customers, and  your assets and in this article I offer 8 tips to help you protect your employees and your assets from today’s consumer vigilante.

There are some proactive approaches you can deploy to intercept an escalation in aggression. These approaches are no magic formula, but they can assist you in keeping the hostile customer from escalating into rage. Following are 8 tactics to help you.

  • Avoid the appearance of a physical challenge. Body language is powerful in any human interaction and especially so with angry or hostile customers. Your body language needs to send the message that you are cooperative and open. The best stance is going to be to the side of the customer. This way, you pose no physical challenge to the customer and you’re also in a less vulnerable position should the customer become violent.
  • Help customers feel they have choices, options and control (Bacal, 1998). It’s very important for customers to feel they have some control over the outcomes of their situation. Give them options and let them make choices, even small ones. Reducing choice and removing privileges tends to encourage aggression.


  • Immediately isolate the customer.  Terry Riley in C.H.A.R.M. School (Lessons in Customer Hostility and Rage Management) gives this advice: “The customer’s increased state of agitation warns of potential violence. If he has not already been isolated, do this immediately. Then make sure that a backup notifies the local law enforcement authority of the situation. If backups are not available, you must alert security or the police. It will probably be necessary to use a coded message to request assistance so as not to further enrage the customer.”
  • Use a calm tone and non-inflammatory words. Deliberately use your voice to create calm. Speak slowly (so that you can think before you speak). Avoid escalating your voice, and never threaten the customer with inflammatory statements like: “If you don’t calm down, I can’t help you.”
  • Strategically deploy “delay” tactics. Robert Bacal, in Defusing Hostility, says “As long as the aggression is not escalating and shows signs of lessoning, there is an advantage to allow a “time-out”. Look for an opportunity to interrupt the escalation process by creating a time out. Asking for further clarification of detail of the issue, for instance, both refocuses the customer on the issue and causes time to pass.
  • Don’t leave the customer. It is best that you don’t walk away from an angry or hostile customer. Your departure may infuriate the customer or leave him feeling abandoned. If you absolutely have to step away, your delays should be brief (no more than 30 seconds). It’s better to call on a co-worker to conduct research/carry out business for you than to walk away.
  • Don’t make the customer feel quarantined. The customer should never be made to feel punished, ignored, or alienated, as these feelings will lead to increased escalation in aggression. 
  • Get help.  If the customer expresses rage on any level, you must immediately get help from a backup, security, etc. Do not attempt to handle an escalated customer by yourself.

Deploy these strategic tactics if ever you are face-to-face with an aggressive customer, and you’ll have a far better chance of defusing aggression and steering clear of danger.

Sources Cited

Bacal, Robert,  Defusin g Hostile Customers: A Self-Structional Workbook for Public Sector Employees by Robert Bacal, Bacal & Associates, Winnipe g , Mb , Canada .

Riley, Terry, Ph.D, C.H.A.R.M. School : Lessons in Customer Hostility and Rage Management, Applied Psychology Press, Santa Cruz , CA, 2002.

“Cancel my AOL please!”

Most companies don’t realize they are putting a significant amount of revenue at risk by letting customers leave without trying to save them.

A recent study by Marketing Metrics has shown that companies have a much better chance of winning business from their lost customers than from new prospects. On average, companies have a 20% to 40% chance of selling to lost customers, and only a 5% to 20% probability of selling to new prospects.

Clearly, the executives at AOL have read the research and they know it’s smart to work to try to save customers who call requesting a cancellation of service. But, there is a right way and a wrong way to try to save a customer. The short video below illustrates the WRONG way to try to save a customer. Take a few minutes to watch this video to see what I mean.


This employee’s attempt at saving a customer is shocking and appalling. You will NEVER win back a customer by ignoring their requests, using sarcasm, or being rude. Never. This 21 minute phone call just affirmed in the customer’s mind that he had indeed made the right decision to cancel his account.

Here’s the right way to try to save customer…


 By most people’s definition, I am a frequent flyer. Being a frequent flyer, one becomes accustomed to the many delays: weather, mechanical problems, last-minute refueling, announcements stating that the flight crew is en route from the East coast while you’re sitting at an airport in the Midwest—you name it and it has happened. Several thousand miles ago, getting upset about delays disappeared and an attitude (see Chapter One) of just “deal with it” to be proactive and productive developed. That was until I was forced to spend 12 hours in an airport.

I was in route to D.C. for a big event, in which an electrical lighting storm erupted while coming into the airport. Consequently, the airport shut down for about 35 minutes. This short shut down threw everything into total chaos. An hour and a half later, the eight letters no traveler ever wants to see illuminated in red next to my flight number— 

          C A N C E L E D.

I got booked on the next flight out which didn’t leave for another two hours. Two and a half hours after that flight was scheduled to leave, it was canceled!

The next flight I got booked on also canceled. It was a full 12 hours and nine minutes after the initial arrival that the departure for D.C. occurred. Livid, I vowed never to fly this airline again. That is until eight days later when I got a letter in the mail from an executive with that airline. The letter read:

Our manager in Dallas/Ft. Worth was concerned and asked us to follow up with you regarding your flight with us on March 11. We can understand how frustrating this trip must have been. Simply, we are very sorry for the inconvenience as a result of the delayed departure of flight 1808.  

As a frequent traveler, you know that good customer service sets us apart from the other airlines. So, when we don’t provide it, no excuse will do. Although we will never compromise safety for the sake of on-time performance, we sincerely apologize that your travel plans were disrupted while traveling to Washington , D.C.

We don’t want to lose your confidence in us and hope you won’t let this trip do so. Therefore, as an indication of how important your patronage is to us, I have added 7,000 Customer Service Bonus miles to your AADVANTAGE account. You should see this adjustment on one of your next two summaries.

Please continue to travel with us often. It is always a privilege to welcome you aboard.  

WOW! Four things absolutely WOWed me in this letter!

    1. First, the airline actually monitored my flight and knew that I had experienced a mind-boggling delay. Sure, they knew the entire airport was shut down, but this was personal. They acknowledged my inconvenience.
    1. Secondly, the airline apologized for an initial event that was completely out of their initial control.
    1. Next, they asked me to continue to be their customer. The letter ends with: “Please continue to travel with us often.”
    1. And finally, to ensure my loyalty, they gave me something—7,000 miles. And that’s something to talk about. Seven thousand miles is one-third of the miles required to earn a round-trip frequent flyer ticket!

Do you think American won back this temporarily disgruntled customer with a letter like that? Oh yeah! In fact, I fly American almost exclusively now, rarely even rate shopping for competitive airline service. And my loyalty is based entirely on this highly effective save.

In business, it’s not how many customers you win,

it is how many customers you keep!

The average company in the U.S. loses half of its customers every five years (Frederick Richheld, The Loyalty Effect, 1996). Considering it costs four to six times more to acquire a new customer than to retain or win back an old one—and given the significantly higher probability of successfully selling again to lost customers than to prospects—it only makes sense to develop a customer win back plan.

 Here are Six Easy Steps to Win Back Customers: (the right way!)

  1. 1.     Track customers who leave. The first step of a win back program is to know exactly which customers are leaving and how many. Tracking defection is not just counting the lost, but it’s what those numbers are telling you. It’s about identifying the defected customer’s buying patterns, tenure and net worth to the company. This tracking prepares you for step two.
  2. 2.     Develop an at-risk profile. Analyze lost customers and look for common denominators, patterns and trends among the defected group. For example, the bank in our earlier example found that more than 20% of its lost customers were over 55, had been with the bank for more than ten years and had held multiple accounts. This valuable information must then be disseminated to the group responsible for customer retention so loyalty marketing efforts can focus on communicating with current customers who match the profile of high defectors. Those (at-risk) customers can then be protected from defection.
  3. 3.     Identify early warning signs of defection. In many industries, customers on the brink of defection can be detected by one or more factors. For example, a banking customer who has stopped her automatic drafts and direct deposits and whose average monthly balance drops significantly might be tying up loose ends and heading to a competitor. Discover what factors suggest your customers are on their way out, so you can proactively communicate with them and entice them to stay.

American Airline’s WinBAAck intelligence told them that frequent flyers that experience serious delays might be on the brink of defection. Therefore, the company quickly initiated communication with me and offered a goodwill token (7,000 bonus miles) to entice me to stay.


  1. 4.     Choose win back candidates. Determine which defected (or on the brink of defection) customers the company wants to win back. Not all defected customers will be a love loss. There are some customers you’re not positioned to create superior value for, and let’s be honest, some customers you just don’t want back. By selectively choosing win back targets, you can focus and maximize your efforts by going after only your best-fit customers.
  2. 5.     Go get ‘em! Develop and hold regular customer win back campaigns in order to win back customers, and learn why customers are leaving. Put together a team to personally call your best customers who have left and survey. (What’s prompted you to leave us? Where are you going? What attracts you to___?) Next, invite the customers to come back. Overcome objections they give you and assure them that you can and will deliver the level of service they expect and deserve.
  3. 6.     Follow-up with all win back candidates. When you win customers back, follow-up 30, 60, and 90 days after reuniting to ensure you are delivering the level of service they expect—service that will keep them for life. For the customers you don’t win back, follow-up with a hand-written note thanking them for their past business and for the information they provided you after leaving.

Don’t do what AOL did, but don’t just let customers leave. Get proactive, set up processes to analyze lost customers and look for common denominators, patterns and trends among the defected group. Then, strategically use this new information for loyalty marketing efforts that will focus on communicating with current customers who match the profile of high defectors so those (at-risk) customers can be protected from defection.

When “Service Leaders” combine acquisition efforts with a strong win-back program, they can create a competitive advantage based on the strength of their service strategy.