Professors Identify Different Types of Ticked-off Customers

Professors Identify Different Types of Ticked-off Customers

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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioWhat kind of a ticked-off customer are you? That all depends on what you want after a company makes a mistake.

Professors at Brigham Young University say they have designed a new way to think about customer service.

Seemingly, everyone has a story in which a company has let them down. A woman at University Mall says employees at a store didn't treat her well when she had to return something.

"They said to bring it back, and we brought it back, and they weren't even apologetic or anything," she said.

"What would have been more important to you; the fact that they gave you more money off, or did you actually want the ‘I'm sorry?'" I asked.

"The ‘I'm sorry,'" she said.

One man basically just wants the problem fixed, no more, no less.

"What do I want them to do? Maybe just let me return it," he said.

Another woman says if a store messes up, she wants to know how they'll go out of their way to make her happy again.

"Offer to help me fix the problem instead of letting me go and look for something else," she said.

Professors at BYU say these three people represent the three different kinds of angry client.

BYU Marriott School of Management Assistant Professor Glenn Christensen said, "We originally set out to get a deeper look at consumers' recovery expectations. When I say recovery, I mean what do consumers expect companies to do to make things right after things go badly?"

Christensen says what they found defied current business logic. He says companies can't treat all angry customers in the same way. For example, "the utilitarians," as he calls them, just want the problem to be solved.

"For them, saying you're sorry was actually a negative thing because it felt like they were trying to buy them off with emotion," Christensen explained.

Then, he says, there are "the oppositionals," who see themselves as fighting against the large company that wronged them.

"Because they feel so small in an uneven relationship, it's about control," he said.

He says you might have to throw in something extra to make those people happy. Then there are "the relationals." They see their relationship with a company as almost personal. Christensen says some people in this group may blame themselves when a company wrongs them. He used the example of one woman who went to a store to find out they closed earlier than expected.

"When she's relating it she says, ‘If only I would have organized my time and got there at 8:30, it would have been fine,'" Christensen said.

"It sounds like she needs consumer therapy," I said.

"It's possible," he conceded.

Christensen says these people are looking for the apology.

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