It’s hard to be empathetic with customers who are wrong.

They blame you for not sending you information (that you sent), or are acting on assumptions with emails tell them otherwise (that they didn’t fully read). They get angry because a product isn’t working correctly, when the actual issue is that they’re operating it incorrectly.

But that said, no one is 100% wrong, or 100% right.

Maybe they have a learning disability, so your 2- paragraph email would take too long to digest for them. Maybe they’ve never used your platform before, or if they have, they personally don’t find it unintuitive. Maybe it is their fault that their lives are such that they aren’t used to reading things for themselves. Maybe they just didn’t want to process the information that might put them in the wrong.

Usually, angry/upset/asshole customers are acting out because they’re in a deep sense of shame…they bought a service or a product, and it’s not working for them. They probably suspect it’s their fault, otherwise they wouldn’t be making a huge stink about it.

At worst (best?), they understand that it is not for them, and they’re frustrated and in pain, because they took a chance and want to be treated with the dignity and respect everyone deserves, but their own failings are making it seem like they’re too stupid, or incapable of using it properly, or that they’re an outsider – someone this thing isn’t for.

Regardless, we can take the posture of understanding, or the posture of getting upset and lashing back out. We can see them and their pain, do the emotional labor, and see them as people. Or, we can let their pain transfer to us, spit in their coffee, and push them out the door.

It seems like it’s more work to take the posture of empathetic individual, but when we take on their pain and give it back, they’re in more pain, you’re in pain, and you both will sit with that for longer than you would if you had moved on. It’s actually MORE work to retaliate than it is to forgive and seek to understand.

This does not mean I advocate for taking abuse from customers. Set your boundaries, and if you need to fire a customer, fire a customer. However, there is a way to do this with grace and respect, and a way to do it that shuts people down.

Which method will you choose?

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