Hammer Time – Angry Customer Style

A recent article in the Washington Post titled Taking a Whack Against Comcast tells the story of a 75 year old Virginia woman, who, after receiving poor and indifferent service over the course of four separate incidents, decided to draw some attention ftom her cable provider’s service department by taking a hammer to a service rep’s PC and telephone. 

While I am sensitive to the plight of angry customers everywhere, and believe that businesses can learn a lot from listening to their angry customers, and while I believe that being ignored and mistreated by businesses can rightfully elicit anger from customers, I must draw the line at violent reactions to the service.

And I am a little bit disturbed at the smirking, cavalier tone of the Post’s article.  In this day and age, violent outbursts are not really a laughing matter.  The fact that this woman is 75 years old does not mean she was incapable of inflicting pain or injury to Comcast personnel.  OK, she busted up a keyboard, monitor, and telephone, as a way of getting "attention."  Cute.  What if some of the splintering equipment hit a Comcast employee in the eye?  What if Granny’s backswing of the hammer caught someone in the face?  What if she hurt herself while wreaking havoc on the Comcast office?  Would she then sue Comcast for the pain and suffering? (Fact is, her blood pressure did go up to a dangerous level, and she began hyperventilating, and required an ambulance.)

And the Washington Post, who really should know better, chose to highlight this woman as a great American outlaw, going outside the boundaries of the law, yet striking a blow for "justice."

Let’s get this straight.  I love angry customers.  My consulting practice and the articles I write are all about getting businesses to take heed of their angry customers, and learn how to improve their service, products and operations by hearing, and then addressing, customer complaints.  But their are limits to the appropriateness of customer anger.  I tend to draw the line after the first use of profanity.  Violent actions?  Forget about it!  You just lost your complainin’ priviledges, is what ya did.

  — Chuck Dennis

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