When to fire your customer

Have you ever experienced the proverbial “customer from hell?” You know the type – they complain constantly … about any thing … and every thing. You try to please them … appease them … make peace with them … Nothing works. Nothing will ever work – for them. And yet …

  • They continue to purchase your product
  • They talk about your product – in person and on-line
  • They send you detailed reviews about your product after each purchase
  • They even purchase stock in your company
  • And they drive you “nuts” because they will never be completely satisfied – and they tell you that (in so many words and actions)
  • And they tell others (in so many words) on Internet websites and chat rooms

What would you do?

Well here is what Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines told a couple from Cleveland, OH – “We do not want your return business – EVER! You are “banned for life” from our cruise ships.” True story – click here to read it.

In other words, “You will swim with the fishes” before you ever step foot on our ships!

Now, this couple did complain constantly. And… Royal Caribbean showered them with discount vouchers and cruise ship credits if only they would give them another chance. And they did. ..

They claimed the vouchers and cruised again. Then they complained – again and again. And Royal Caribbean gave them even more vouchers to come back… And this continued for several years.

The bigger problem, however, was that the Cleveland Cruise Couple wrote about their experiences on the Internet. To some – including Royal Caribbean – it seemed that they were bragging about how they were (almost) able to cruise for free twice a year – simply by complaining about the service!

“Hint, hint,” they seemed to say, “why don’t you try it too?” It worked for us! It can work for you!

That was the last straw for Royal Caribbean. They telephoned the couple and “deep-sixed” them!

What would you do in a similar situation?

  1. Tell them to “take their business elsewhere.” Perhaps you could even give them the phone number of your competitor!
  2. Do exactly what Royal Caribbean Cruise Line did – push them overboard! And pray that they never write about this experience on any website. (Hey, maybe the Internet will stay down… forever!) After all, cruise ships know that all storms, no matter how severe, eventually pass on. What do you think – “This, too shall pass?”

My own feeling? I think that Royal Caribbean was “embarrased.” They felt that they were taken advantage of and humiliated in public. And… they lashed back in anger. They poured fuel on the fire. They threw a tantrum.

Oil and water will never mix. The Cruising Couple from Cleveland and Royal Caribbean will never mix.

If I were the Customer Service head at the cruise line, here’s what I would have done. After reviewing the client history file, I would have answered their next letter of complaint with a simple, “Thank you! I am sorry that we did not meet your standards.” No discount voucher, no plea to give us another chance. Just say, “You’re right! We did not meet your expectations.”

Here is a related post that I wrote earlier this year on this topic. empathy-serve-it-to-your-customers/

What would you do? Please share your customer service stories with our readers. Add your comments below:


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