eCommerce Insiders

How To Prepare For Angry Q4 Holiday Customers

The holidays are a time of community and cheer; a time for gathering together with family and friends.

And, of course, the holidays are the time of year when people express their love and concern for others in the form of tangible, valuable gifts.

Yet it’s guaranteed that by the end of the Q4 holiday shopping season (and into Q1 of 2016), your customer service phone lines (and email inboxes) will be jammed packed with customers who seem to have sparks flying out of the top of their heads!

Why does this phenomenon occur every year, and is there anything you can do to help your customer service team brace themselves?

Why Do Customers Become So Furious?

With all of the good cheer in the air, why in the world are your customers furious with your company when they call to order their products, check on their orders, or call to replace their thoughtful products?

There are actually a lot of issues that can take place that ruin your customer’s holiday shopping experience, but here’s a list of the most common three issues:

  • Fulfillment issues
  • Incorrect product issues
  • Pricing issues

Let’s break down each of these issues.

Fulfillment issues are some of the most common that drive your customers mad, and the frustrating thing is that fulfillment issues are often out of the hands of your front-line customer service team.

Examples of bad fulfillment issues include:

  • Incorrect products are sent out
  • Incorrect sizing/colors/patterns are sent out
  • Incorrect quantities (too many, too few) are delivered
  • Items are torn, ripped, cracked, or smashed during the packaging process
  • Perishable items aren’t stored properly during the packaging and delivery process

Incorrect product issues and incorrect pricing issues are self-evident. However, incorrect pricing issues make shoppers feel especially prickly, because they often have a set budget for the holidays to spend. In fact, ABC News reported that credit counseling agencies see a 25% increase in consumer debt during the first quarter after the Q4 holiday shopping season. While increased consumer spending might be music to your ears, it often produces anxiety in your customers.

These issues prevent your customers from gifting or enjoying the products they’re looking forward they’ve ordered. Add that to the fact that Q4 holiday shopping is the equivalent to a gifting Superbowl, and you can bet that customers will become passionate and emotional when their ordering experience doesn’t turn out exactly as they’ve hoped and planned all year long!

Customers often develop holiday gift shopping strategies at least six months in advance. It’s very common for shoppers to create special holiday shopping savings funds. They’re very serious about the process and they expect their product vendors to take their orders just as seriously.

With all the planning and anticipation that goes into holiday shopping, it’s understandable why a shopper’s emotions reach fever-pitch when things don’t turn out the way they’ve planned.

Are Angry Customers Worth Your Attention?

For every angry shopper who calls your customer service line, there are at least five who call in with happy reports, and many shoppers won’t bother to call (or email) if they (or their gift recipients) are pleased with their purchases.

And, no matter how many angry customers call or email your customer service team, there’s no doubt that your company will generate its bumper-crop of revenue during the Q4 shopping season. So, with these in mind, is it even worth it to pay attention to those angry customers?

You bet it is!

There’s one word to keep in mind when you consider customer management and maintenance:


In order for current shoppers to become lifetime customers, they have to feel motivated to continue shopping with your brand. While it’s relatively easy for shoppers to feel motivated to continue shopping with your brand if they’re happy, they’ll feel especially motivated when they’re angry.

However, they won’t experience the type of motivation that will make your company look good or generate revenue. Their anger will be the type of motivator that makes them leave nasty testimonials on your product review website pages.

Their anger will also motivate them to send out nasty, embittered Tweets, posts, pins, etc. Worse, their anger could in all probability motivate them to start reputation-crushing hashtags that turn into viral responses, bandwagoning, and horrible public relations.

Needless to say, this is the opposite of what any business wants.

So, if you care about proactively saving your reputation while creating a long database of lifetime customers (along with company sustainability), then rebuffing the responses of angry customers is something to avoid at all costs.

How to Defuse Anger and Generate Revenue

So, you understand why holiday shoppers are angry when their shopping experience doesn’t turn out as planned. You understand the need to pay close attention to the reasons why they’re angry (even if your customer service team doesn’t enjoy how the anger is delivered).

Now, what should you do to defuse shopper’s anger while hopefully turning things around, so you can continue to generate revenue for months and years to come?

The first tip is to train your customer service team to address consumers with empathy. Understand that shoppers place a heavy amount of emotion into making sure that their holiday purchases are ordered, fulfilled, and delivered exactly as planned, and as promised.

Velaro offers seven tips on how to professionally, effectively, and empathetically address angry customers. A few recommendations include:

  • Don’t take things personally
  • Don’t argue back

And most importantly:

  • Know how to apologize

The last tip is the most crucial factor in deciding whether a customer will give your brand another chance, or angrily take to their social media accounts to slam your company.

Help Scout offers specified scripts that customer service teams should use when they are faced with heated customer scenarios. In general, it’s important for your customer service/resolution teams to maintain their composure, take ownership of any mistakes made, and promote a spirit of genuine problem resolution.

While your company might not be able to guarantee a perfect shopping experience for consumers, it’s possible to prepare your consumer teams to handle shopper fury in a manner that leaves all involved feeling resolved, ready to move forward, and able to continue a respectful business relationship.

*Lead image source

Terri Scott

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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