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Handling disgruntled customers


Today we had our first disgruntled tweeter. We have been in business for about 1 year now. Since we started our actual business model.

We have a customer that came out and said our support sucks. Ouch! :frowning: especially since after reviewing our support history with the client all of his questions had been answered within 24 hours. And most of those issues were user error.

I have done the following.

  1. been kind. really stuff like this bugs me a bit so keeping a cool head is important. Remember that mitigation is important.

  2. I still want to support and turn the situation into a win. So I started a public outline to help improve the service.

  3. we only have 2 support staff, me and one of my developers. http://bit.ly/1azaj58

I fear the damage is done, at least for the next day or week right? Any potential customer browsing our twitter history is going to pick out the bad.

Anyone have any other thoughts on how they handle situations like these?


Dan - Cartalyst


Stuff like this used to bother me. We’ve had 1 or 2 cases of people being rude on twitter in the past year.

But remember, if they tweet at you, only their folllowers will see it. And unless they have thousands of followers, chances are nobody will see it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow up, but it’s not an end-of-the-world thing.

Also, it may not work in your case, but adding olark to our website cut the number of twitter bug reports by probably 90%.


With the huge caveat that I’m not currently in the position to deal with customers (disgruntled or otherwise), as a consumer that regularly looks up online reviews I would say that as long as there is an obvious attempt by you to rectify the situation most people are going to assume that the disgruntled user is being difficult and that you’ve done your due diligence.

Heck, in a number of situations like this, a serious attempt by a brand to console a user - even if it doesn’t work - gives me a lot more respect for the brand and engenders goodwill by parading the brand’s attempt to support its customers out in the open. If handled correctly, in the long run it could help your sales even if you lose this one user.


Since I was curious to see exactly what you were referring to I checked it out. In lots of cases like this I will give the benefit of the doubt to the individual business owner rather than the consumer. “The customer is always right” is a great service mantra, but it’s certainly not true. He may have raised a few points, but I understood your position and when you’re in the weeds with technical configuration gripes I think those tend to resonate with very few people. If they’re interested most will want to try for themselves. That’s your opportunity - find a way to show that trying and configuring are easy. I think the screencasts and demos you mentioned are a good way to do that. The more you clearly identify how to use your product and your willingness to help people use it, the easier it will be for prospects to observe what it will be like when they are a customer.

If you want to toy with another idea of helping people get a feel for what you’re offering, maybe you could consider developing a small component that could serve as a demo. Make it free, outside of the subscription as a standalone component, but follow the same pattern as your other components. I’m sure there are more details and you have possibly thought of this, but after looking at your site, the model made me think that it could follow the free sample / premium product model of training sites like Treehouse, tuts+ or even [Woothemes] 3 - free components or samples and premium items within the paid product. The sample doesn’t even have to be all that useful, but something for people to get a feel for what its like to work with the components and how it will save them time when they’re using the larger more robust components.

Overall though, I think you handled it well and he came off as someone who didn’t want help, he just wanted to be frustrated and complain.


Thanks mike, the customer did come back over twitter and ultimately was satisfied. So we did turn it into a win. I have a new site we are working on as well that defines are message a bit more and working to define our product.

As you suggested we actually do have a free package called Sentry which is a very popular authorization and authentication library for php that is free as an example of the our products.

I also started this for a new site we are working on. pretty much every decision we make at cartalyst goes through a public vetting, and its worked pretty well. http://bit.ly/1f7zqtB


Twitter and HackerNews seem to be the tools of choice for remote venting forgetting that there are humans with emotions on the receiving end. If you can I think one of the best ways to fix a deteriorating situation is to get on voice communication with the other party. People behave entirely different when speaking with you and may very likely go back and say positive things on Twitter once you have their issue resolved. Email/Twitter/etc are just a little too remote for a tense situation.

It’s been a while since I watched this but I remember that Kevin had some great wisdom for structuring your company around support: https://community.uservoice.com/blog/kevin-hale-wufoo-userconf-2012-video/ One thing he mentioned was adding an element to their contact form that let the customer say whether they were happy, sad, confused, or angry and it cut their personal attacks dramatically. Otherwise customers want to sound upset enough that you know it’s serious because text is the only weapon they have.

Lastly it hurts to have your work criticized. I think this tweet sums it up pretty well https://twitter.com/tomdale/status/320020014105235456


Just ignore it. Unless you are getting LOTS of these customers tweeting…

It is a fact of business, that no matter how good your product and how good your support, you will occasionally have someone not happy with the product or service. You can’t win them all.

What you can do: ask yourself, does the customer have a valid point, and can we do this better next time? Can we change an aspect of the product’s user interface so that this isn’t an issue next time? Can we change something in our support procedure so that this isn’t an issue next time?


Very true. You’ll develop a thicker skin in time. Until then this might cheer you up:


It looks as though you made a proper effort to resolve the issue. As long as these efforts are as public as the initial complaint was, it’ll be a wash.

How you handle situations like this depends on what kind of disgruntled customer you’re talking about. There are some serially dis-satisfied folk who you’d be better off walking, and then there are some folk who just grew frustrated in the moment and lashed out. It’s hard to distinguish between the two sometimes. At least, until you try to work the problem - the customer reaction will tell you which camp they hail from!


Don’t lose sleep over this - seriously. As long as you handle the situation calmly and reasonably, people are unlikely to be swayed by one person venting. It isn’t as though we don’t see those people all the time. This is part of doing business online.