addressing customer rage

Addressing Customer Rage: Are You Doing The Right Things The Wrong Way?

As customer service professionals, we experience it every day: the dreaded customer complaint. There is no way around it and no channel that is off limits. If someone is unhappy, you are going to hear about it – or are you? Statistics show that for every customer who complains directly to you, there are 26 more unhappy customers that are remaining silent (1). Silent to you, that is. You can be sure they are telling their friends, family, and social media networks at an alarming rate. And, with social media, there is no stopping the wildfire.

With all of our knowledge about the effects of online reviews and social media, and the damage they can do to a brand, it should be assumed that corporations are stepping up their efforts to improve customer service. Is it working? According to Mary Jo Bitney, Executive Director of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University, it doesn’t appear to be.

She and a team of researchers have completed a study showing 56 million American households experienced at least one problem as customers during the past 12 months. What’s more, the rate of “customer rage” appears to be growing rapidly. In the same study, conducted from 2004-2007, 52% of those with customer rage felt unsatisfied with how their complaint was handled. Customer rage dropped by 5% in 2011, showing that companies were getting better at seeking out and understanding complaints. But, two short years later, the percentage of customers unsatisfied with how their complaints were handled skyrocketed to 56%. Bitney says many companies are throwing money at the problem without fixing it (2). So, the questions stands: do we truly understand how to solve our customer problems?


We listen

We can begin to find a solution to this issue by understanding the delta between what customers want versus what they have actually gotten during their experiences complaining to customer service channels. Such results were collected through an independent study conducted by Dialog Direct, in partnership with CCMC and Arizona State University, in which phone interviews were conducted to 1,000 households. The study is based on one originally conducted by the White House in 1976, offering a clear comparison of customer satisfaction over the years. The results clearly showed that there are 13 consistent solutions complainants are telling us that they want as a resolution when they complain. The responses and differences between what they wanted versus what they got may be somewhat surprising.

The #1 thing that people wanted? To be treated with dignity! How do you accomplish that? Simply listen. 94% of respondents stated that they wanted to be treated with dignity by just being heard. While this might seem obvious, only 35% feel like they were actually heard.

All too often, we respond by going on the defensive. We believe we are right, and this is why we are right –right? This strategy, while most likely creating an even more infuriated customer, also limits our ability to truly understand why a customer is not satisfied. They will tell you the problem, how they think it should be resolved, and give you a critical view into their thoughts to make a change happen. So, before you try to explain, contest their complaint, or offer a solution to the situation, listen.



1) Lee Resources International
2) Freeman.D. (2013, November). New Customer-Rage Study Out for Holiday Shopping Season. Retrieved from:

Published by

Sara Wright

Sara Wright is the Marketing Director at Dialog Direct, where she plans, produces and oversees the marketing activities at Dialog Direct. She is passionate for branding, digital marketing and the customer experience. Outside the office, she is the stylist of her lovely daughter, who takes her accessories very seriously.

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