Mad as Hell: How to Soothe Customers Who Are Ready to Blow

A recent survey shows economy-stressed customers are fed up with businesses. Here's how to keep enraged customers coming back for more.
Contributing Writer, SmallBizTrends.com
April 01, 2013

There’s a new mindset among your customers, and it’s not a happy one. More consumers are in a state of generalized rage—not necessarily about your customer service, but about, well, everything, according to The Futures Company’s Global MONITOR survey.

Conducted late last year, the poll of consumers in 21 key global markets uncovered a new consumer group it calls “The Global Enraged.” Still struggling to recover from the Great Recession in a world of economic stagnation, enraged consumers feel that both government and business are hopelessly flawed and bent on ripping them off. “The sense that 'the system' is broken and isn't about to be fixed anytime soon has consumers alternating between helpless despair and righteous fury,” the report states.

But while these consumers clearly present new challenges for businesses, they also offer some opportunities. What do you need to know—and do—to provide standout customer service to customers who are ready to blow? Here are three key issues the study uncovered, and constructive ways you can respond to each.

1. Stress

Nearly half (49 percent) say they suffer from ongoing stress, up from 46 percent who said so in 2011.

What it means to you: Offer customer service that doesn’t raise your clients’ blood pressure.

Provide realtime human interaction. Give your customers ways you can get in touch with a real person quickly whenever they need to—whether that’s a toll-free phone number, live chat on your website or using your Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Make the purchase process simple. Is your website easy to navigate? How many screens do customers have to click through to check out? Do they have to go through a ton of registration steps just to do something like save items in a cart? Streamline, streamline, streamline.

Create a soothing environment. From the colors used in your office decor or on your website, to the music you play in your store and the way your sales clerks speak, think about how every element of your business can work together to provide a happy, relaxing, enjoyable experience for your customers.

RELATED: 7 Things Your Customers Want But Won't Ask For

2. Suspicion

There’s a widespread belief among The Global Enraged that businesses are ready to cheat customers whenever they can get away with it. Between 2010 and 2012, the percentage of survey respondents who agreed with the statement, “If the opportunity arises, most businesses will take advantage of the public if they are not likely to be found out” rose from 63 to 71 percent.

What it means to you: You’ve got to build customers’ trust.

Ease their fears. Almost two-thirds of consumers prefer not to take unnecessary risks. Offer no-questions-asked guarantees with your products or services. Create advertising that focuses on how your products provide safety or security.

Be trustworthy. Don’t put tons of fine print on your website, ads or guarantees. Legalese destroys trust.

Deliver the goods. It goes without saying, but make sure your product and service quality is up to snuff and your marketing promise isn’t exaggerated. That means doing regular quality control checks on your systems, processes and suppliers.

RELATED: Are You Making Your Customers Uncomfortable

3. Anti-business Attitudes

Consumers have a lot of rage around big, global corporations, and they’re taking action on those feelings. For instance, in the past year, 47 percent of The Global Enraged have been buying locally sourced products as much as possible; 36 percent avoided buying from companies they feel are unethical; and 29 percent decreased the amount of products and services they buy from global corporations.

What it means to you: Emphasize your small-business status.

Be present in your business. You don’t have to man the front lines, but you should be visible in your marketing, advertising and community events.

Be flexible. Empower your employees to make changes to “policy” as needed to satisfy the customer—it’s one of the differences between your business and the big guys.

Tell your story. Let customers get to know you and your staff by name and face. Post pictures and bios on your business website; let your whole team participate in blogging or social media; post photos or videos of you and your staff online. This way, even customers who don't come into your physical business will see the real presence behind your company.

Get more tips and advice: Check out these customer service articles.

Photo: iStockphoto