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MarketingProfs has 242,471 members, and I love 242,468 of them. A few are jerks.

I communicate by email and phone with a huge number of our customers, and once in a while someone knocks me sideways with hostility. As much as I'd like to sometimes, I know NOT to respond with an equal "up yours" attitude.
Here's a perfect example: Today I got a white-knuckling message from a gentleman who forgot the correct email address he used when he registered on our site. Allow me to share...

I am angry as hell.
Tried your service for 1.5 days, after subscribing. Then tried to unsubscribe within the week and you still billed my credit card. AND your system, if it's not a scam, does not recognize either of the only 2 email addresses I ever use.
If you do not re credit my credit card with the $$$ you scammed off me I will make it my mission in life to have your site shut down.
Or failing that (coz I see you laughing) you will be amazed at how much damage I can do to your customer base via the internet.
Don't try me.
Just re credit my account and you will not hear from me again.

If you've read this far, I bet you are mentally writing this guy a reply of your own. It's got a choice obscenity or two. A verbal smack in the chops, right back at ya, mister. Or maybe it drips with brilliant sarcasm.
Forget it -- that never solves a thing (although crafting well-slung dirt does make me feel better for a few seconds, even though I end up deleting every word). You have to be nice in your response, no matter what. Okay, let's say CIVIL instead of nice. And brief, definitely. Like this.
Hello, Simon --
You signed up on our site as [correct email address here]. I've refunded your membership fee and removed you from our member list. Thanks for trying us out!
Customer Service Samurai

The strongest front-line brand ambassadors for your company might be in customer service. It's easy for them to talk to the normal people.
Think about this: What do you want them to say to the rest of them? My three rules are

  • Say nothing at first. Take a few minutes to calm down.

  • Never respond with anger or sarcasm. Jerks expect that, and they'll escalate the situation.

  • Send a brief, clear, civil reply. This doesn't mean you're a wimp, it means you're a professional.

Funny thing is, when I follow these rules, the customer almost always apologizes for being a jerk. Go figure!
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image of Shelley Ryan

Shelley spent over five years at MarketingProfs, playing Den Mother to thousands of paid subscribers. She programmed, produced and promoted weekly online seminars featuring the biggest names in marketing. The result: More frequent broadcasts, increased participation, and higher ratings — 65% of the seminars last year earned five stars from the audience.

Shelley recently launched Killer Webinars to help organizations launch their own webinar programs. She also blogs, speaks, and assists clients with live event production. Her new mission is to rid the world of lousy webinars, one broadcast at a time.