The Gist

  • Rising rage. 74% of customers experienced product or service problems in the past year, up from 66% in 2020.
  • Growing anger. 63% of customers experiencing issues feel rage, commonly stemming from product or delivery difficulties, with 43% resorting to raising their voice to show discontent.
  • Revenge seekers. 9% sought revenge for their most serious problem, a tripling since 2020, with 55% feeling sad and 43% tired from the process.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, 74% of customers say they have experienced a product or service problem in the past year. That is up from 66% in 2020.

This is one of the issues resulting in an increase in customer complaints and rage.

According to the Customer Care Measurement & Consulting National Rage survey, “customer rage is mutating like a virus.” Sixty-three percent of customers with a problem feel rage, often due to product or delivery problems, while 43% of customers yelled/raised their voice to express displeasure about their most serious problem.

Additionally, 9% sought revenge for their most serious problem — a tripling since 2020; 55% of revenge seekers reported that it was “sad that it came to this,” while 43% confessed that they felt “tired/worn out from the process.”

Understanding the Causes of Customer Rage in Contact Centers

A Gartner report cites growing customer expectations as part of the reason for the increase in customer complaints. “Customer expectations for both product quality and experience quality have significantly increased over 2020 to 2022.”

“Customers' expectations are constantly evolving, primarily due to industry leaders like Amazon constantly raising the bar for customer service,” added Craig Sawyer, FS9 Tactical customer service manager. “We hear customers comparing mostly to Amazon, unfortunately. They now demand faster response times, personalized interactions, and seamless problem resolution.”

In addition to rising customer expectations, Sawyer also cited supply chain issues that cause delivery delays and increasing customer dependency on contact centers for their purchases for the increase in customer complaints.

However, below are five ways for contact center managers to help defuse these issues.

Related Article: 4 Tips to Empower Your Contact Center Agents With Empathy

1. Enhance Agent Communication Skills for Better Customer Service

It is essential to train agents in advanced communication skills that focus on empathy and compassion, Sawyer said. “Agents should validate customers' emotions, showing genuine understanding and establishing a connection with them. Reinforcing the agent's dedication to resolving the issue while acknowledging the customer's frustration fosters a productive conversation and makes customers feel valued.”

2. Quick Resolution Strategies: Meeting Customer Expectations in Real Time

Apologize for any long wait times but ensure you can provide the best and fastest resolution possible, recommended Coty Perry, CMO. “If a quick resolution is not possible at the moment, promise to reach back to the customers with updates on the same and even schedule a follow-up call date in your calendar. In the meantime, report this issue to your manager and escalate any grievances that need focused and relevant attention. Don’t forget to do the follow-up to update customers on their complaint status.”

3. Incentivizing Customer Satisfaction: Turning Complaints into Opportunities

In cases where customers remain unsatisfied despite the agent's best efforts, consider providing a shipping discount or a small product discount as a goodwill gesture, Sawyer said. “This strategy shows the company's commitment to customer satisfaction and can often help defuse tension. It is crucial to train agents on when and how to offer these incentives to ensure they are used effectively and judiciously.”

Learning Opportunities

4. Going Above and Beyond: Exceeding Customer Expectations

Don’t just meet customer expectations when resolving the issue, Perry recommended. Go above and beyond customer expectations.

“If the consumer complaint is product-related, e.g., an out-of-stock product, notify the product management teams,” Perry explained. “Request the client to be patient and schedule a follow-up call to update the status. Empathize with the customer and stay focused on their needs, thus helping them feel heard and appreciated. If the complaint concerns product quality, offer to send a replacement or provide quick product returns by asking relevant questions that ensure protocol needs but not wasting too much time on the complexities of the process.”

Perry also recommended considering integrating a ticketing system for customer complaints so that incoming requests are noted regarding complexity or importance and given attention.

5. Emotional Management Techniques: Soothing Irate Customers

Conflict training is the best way to improve this skill and practice defusing situations with confidence, according to Shiela Mie Empleo-Legaspi, Cyberbacker president. “Your team members will be able to learn from others' mistakes, too. The more the team is prepared for conflict the smoother they will be able to handle it every time. Teach your team how to identify conflict before it happens. Practice listening to understand not listening to respond and take the time to resonate to the customer with empathy and a solution-oriented mindset.”

Agents should be proficient in conflict resolution strategies and emotional management techniques to soothe irate customers, Sawyer agreed. “Such techniques involve maintaining composure, adopting a reassuring tone, and utilizing cooperative language like, ‘I can see how this situation is upsetting,’ or ‘Let's work together to find a solution.’ These methods not only prevent further escalation but also help customers concentrate on problem-solving.”

Related Article: CX Decoded Podcast: Exploring the Customer Unhappiness Factor

Final Thoughts on Defusing Customer Rage

As customer rage continues to be a prevalent challenge in the world of contact centers, it's vital for managers to adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and defuse tense situations. By implementing effective communication, quick resolutions, targeted incentives and exceeding customer expectations, contact centers can turn potentially negative encounters into opportunities for strengthening customer loyalty.

Regular conflict training and investing in the right tools, such as ticketing systems, will equip agents with the necessary skills and resources to deliver exceptional customer service. In a constantly evolving landscape, contact centers must stay ahead by embracing these best practices, ensuring customer satisfaction and long-term success.