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Failure to Listen Fuels Customer Anger

When customers have paid for a product or service, they have specific expectations of how they should be treated and valued. When poor service is encountered, regardless of whether it is a proportional response, they become outraged over their treatment. How the customer is regarded is of the utmost importance and is based upon personal attitudes and competent communication skills.

Many service representatives’ attitudes and professional behaviors are a reflection of their company’s service culture. A negative and demeaning attitude toward customers and their complaints impacts service representatives’ application of listening and communication skills. In these circumstances service representatives don’t see the need to listen and respond to what customers have to say.


The stress and anxiety many service representatives experience is a direct result of their attitude toward their customers. A negative view of customers breeds a negative reaction, which produces stress and increases the anxiety levels of both parties. When specific expectations of how customers should be treated are not met, problems will occur and lead to a downward cycle that ultimately destroys the customer relationship and harms the company’s profitability and credibility.


Representatives can greatly compound service-related problems with a poor attitude that prevents them from listening, uncovering the problem and finding a solution. Unfortunately, the following pitfalls are often typical of customer service responses:

The Rigid Response

It is not uncommon for customers to deal with cool and surly service representatives who can often be described as bureaucratic. These individuals are unwelcoming in their responses to problems, complaints and concerns, feeling that a strict businesslike approach is the proper way to handle customers. Many of these individuals hide behind the company’s policy book and refuse to accommodate customers, even when such a response would be considered logical and appropriate.

The perception these service representatives create is decidedly negative. When dealing with customers they appear aloof and uncaring. They often exhibit poor listening and communication skills. Customers are made to feel more like a number than people who, by virtue of their business, deserve care and attention. Consequently, these service representatives experience higher levels of customer frustration and dissatisfaction.

The Inappropriate Response

Since customer frustration and dissatisfaction levels are markedly higher with the bureaucratic service representative, emotional responses are often triggered. This typically occurs because these service representatives fail to listen and respond to their customers.

Rather than be accommodating and professional when challenged by the customer, these service representatives immediately become defensive. Instead of being of service, they refuse to listen to what the customer has to say. As the customer’s frustration and hostility escalates accordingly, the service representative may even terminate the phone call/contact. They feel that the customer has no right to talk to and deal with them in such a manner. They fail to understand that their own glaringly deficient service has triggered the customer’s response.

The Counter Response

Every action has a reciprocal reaction. The bureaucratic response to a customer’s emotional reaction is to terminate the call. Rather than deliver customer-friendly service, the bureaucratic service representative has triggered an escalating emotional response in the customer. Having their problems remain unresolved and the contact terminated by a rude service person has left the customer angered and in a quandary as to what to do next. The knee-jerk response is to quickly redial the company and talk to the next bureaucratic service representative, who also feels he or she does not need to deal with the customer’s heightened level of frustration and hostility. Appeals to talk with a superior are ignored, or if the customer is “fortunate” enough to talk with a supervisor, their concerns are minimized. 

The Consequence

Due to the bureaucratic service culture that permeates many companies, customers are left with few choices. These include refusing to deal with these companies, making complaints with governing agencies, or filing lawsuits. Unfortunately these service attitudes are deeply entrenched in many public utilities and other types of monopolistic companies where customers don’t have a choice but to accept poor service standards. However, based upon recent research, they are becoming increasingly apparent in many larger companies.

The consequence is a poor service reputation that drives customers away and saps revenue. If new choices and options become available, these customers understandably flock to them; otherwise, the cost of doing business increases as they are compelled to deal with government agencies or lawyers to resolve their issues. If the atmosphere is sufficiently poisoned, offending companies become targets for increasing numbers of class action lawsuits. Regardless of how the cost is manifested, companies will always pay the price for poor service.


  1. What is the service attitude in your company?
  2. How does your company’s service culture affect your perspective of your job and responsibilities?


Take inventory of your service attitude and typical response to customer complaints.

  1. Determine if you view customers as enemies or as sources of revenue deserving care and attention.
  2. Identify how your attitude impacts how you handle your customers’ complaints.
  3. Determine how your attitude affects your listening and communications skills.
  4. Identify the impression you create on your customers.
  5. Determine the consequences of your actions.


About Majorium Business Press

Majorium Business Press is an independent publisher founded in 2010. It is in the business of helping people to be better at what they do, whether they are employees, managers, trainers, business owners, or consultants. It supplies expertise through its unique professional development library of over 125 books that educate individuals to learn new skills, or enhance existing ones to solve problems and improve their performance, providing flexible materials to use for developing training, discussions, coaching, or to supplement existing training.

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