Are Your Customers Creating Storms?

Last year, Forbes reported that businesses are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service.  93% of Americans say organizations fail to exceed their customer service expectations!  Made smarter by the internet, customers are empowered and emboldened to accept nothing short of value.  It has made them Fickle—quicker to leave if unhappy.  Forty-four percent of customers stop doing business immediately after a less than satisfactory experience and another 15% exit as soon as their contract is up!  It means we have to have a powerful service recovery capacity to fix things quickly when they go wrong.

It was a stormy night and our 5 children were awakened by the loud, shake-the-rafters thunder.  They quickly descended upon our bedroom, eager to sleep with John and Katie.  Their arrival triggered a discussion about the difference between thunder and lightning, including how to count the delay between sight and sound to know how far away the lightning was.  When they began taking turns counting, they came to discover the lightning was a long way away and was moving further away.  They went back to their own beds and slept soundly the rest of the night.

Angry customers are a lot like thunder.  It can be scary and tempt us to want to fight or flee.  But, the sound of an angry customer is not the same as the origin of their noisy expression.  Smart service providers learn to respect the customer’s thunder but learn more about the nature of their lightning.  Instead of getting defensive, smart service providers use the encounter as an opportunity to learn—like counting seconds between lighting flash and thunderbolt.  They are quick to apologize…not in a self-deprecating admission of guilt way…but as a communication of sincere caring and genuine concern.  They show humility and empathy in order to lower the customer’s wrath for a collective quest for rational problem-solving.

Customer thunder should not be the cause for anxiety; customer lightning should be our focus.  Before the clap of the thunder, the customer has already felt the spark of lightning stemming for some disappointing incident.  How can you unravel the emotion of the thunder in order to learn the origin of the lightning?  How can you turn an incensed customer into an instructive customer?

© Chip Bell Group, 2023.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.