How To Deal With A Chronically Unhappy Customer

Once the perpetually aggrieved customer has latched on to you and begun their demands, it’s time to step away and get back to the business of serving those...

Great customer service can make or break your company’s reputation. And we all know the statistics on how much more vocal unhappy clients can be in comparison to their content counterparts.

But what about those clients who are never pleased? Let’s call them the perpetually aggrieved. As you know, they require an entirely new set of rules. These leads and customers can be found across every industry and within every business. Their primary trademark is a constant state of habitually displeased feelings with any offer, service or product that crosses their path.


The Endlessly Unhappy Customer

Unlike the person who cares about high standards and receiving what they paid for, the perpetually aggrieved customer believes that nothing is ever good enough and finds satisfaction in complaining (and winning) — not in receiving great service.

The perpetually aggrieved client will never be happy because their satisfaction has nothing to do with your business. It’s an internal malaise that can’t be fixed externally.

They are the folks who, as my dad would say, “would complain if they were hanged with a new rope.” These are the customers who will always want more access, faster service and additional products for a bigger discount, longer payment plan, or even free as a “scholarship.”

Dealing with them, therefore, is a much different challenge than dealing with an ideal customer.


Identifying the Perpetually Aggrieved

The vast majority of people will not fall into this category, which makes spotting the perpetually aggrieved customer harder when you’re engaged in customer service.

Most times your correspondence with the aggrieved will begin innocently enough with clarifying questions or complaints about some aspect of their experience. With a great customer service team in place, you’ll have experience smoothing ruffled feathers, giving support or clarification and empathizing with concerns.


Photo: © dreamerve, YFS Magazine
Photo: © dreamerve, YFS Magazine

For the perpetually aggrieved, nothing will calm their fire. You’ll often find these clients or leads “rotating complaints,” which means that if they’re not getting anywhere with complaint No. 3 they’ll circle back to their initial whining.

Once you realize that the person you’re addressing loves to complain and will never be satisfied, no matter what you offer in return, you can move forward constructively.


There Are Always More Fish (and Hooks) in the Sea

It can feel a little devious to remind a perpetually aggrieved customer that there are other businesses that might serve them better, sending them off to your competitors. But it’s an essential strategy.

In truth, another business might be willing to put up with continual complaints and change their policies on a whim and it’s helpful to remind this type of customer that they have options. If someone cannot be satisfied, then you must realize they cannot be served and move on to the other fish in the sea.

This type of customer seems to excel in is sucking up your time and energy in the process of wearing you down physically and emotionally until you give in to their demands. Resist, dear friends, because this won’t resolve the issue. It will simply identify your business as an easy mark and they’ll push harder next time.


Stand Your Ground, Politely

There’s no need to get angry. Once you understand the mindset of the perpetually aggrieved customer, you can handle their subsequent requests with understanding and grace.

Repeat after me: “I’m sorry, we are not able to meet that request at this time.”

You don’t need to give an explanation or excuse. Simply state your policy and move on. The more you engage in “because of” or “we think that,” the more you invite argument. This is the business equivalent of the silent treatment because, while polite, you’re not giving them any space to continue the complaint.

Bonus tip: Never, ever credit this rule to the business owner by saying “the boss says.” All you’ll do is create a target for them to argue with over the policy you’re enforcing. Instead use “the company policy is…” exclusively. You can’t argue with a policy or ask to speak with a rule. It just is.


Running a Hassle-Free Business

In the end you’ll need to decide if your business packages, prices, hours, services and policies are up for negotiation or not. I can guarantee that no price will be low enough, no turn-around time fast enough and no payment plan generous enough to please everyone.

So stop attempting to placate and work with everyone.Use your policies as a filtering process. You’ll get push back from the perpetually aggrieved customer because that’s their way. But you don’t have to play their game.

Once the perpetually aggrieved customer has latched on to you and begun their demands, it’s time to step away and get back to the business of serving those who appreciate and value your contributions.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Kelly Azevedo is the founder of She’s Got Systems, a custom coaching program that leads clients to get support, documenting and dominating in their fields. She has worked in startup, successful six-figure and million-dollar online businesses, helping owners create the systems to serve their needs. Connect with @krazevedo on Twitter.


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