5 Ways You’re Accidentally Making Your Customers Hate You

July 18, 2013

Social Media, SEO

5 Ways You’re Accidentally Making Your Customers Hate You

You have customers, and potential customers, who hate you as we speak. I can almost guarantee that there are far more of them than you realize, and that you are obliviously losing business. The only way to capture those lost customers is to realize where you’re making these easy mistakes, and change your behavior.

Let’s get started.

1. Not Saying Anything

This is one of the easiest ways to make a mistake, because we don’t typically think of silence as an insult. But in the right circumstances, it’s a huge let down. Here are a few examples:

  • Ignored Complaints – This is the obvious one. When a customer complains, they expect a response. So do your other customers. The way you respond says a lot to your audience about how they can expect to be treated.
  • Ignored Compliments – This one’s less obvious, and possibly a bigger problem. A customer who pours their heart and soul into a positive comment is likely to feel cheated if you never respond. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to go straight from idolistic admiration to seething hatred after seeing no response. Obviously, you can’t please everybody, but it’s good to at least be aware of this phenomenon.
  • Ignored Questions – When you leave a customer hanging, it can look bad, especially when it happens out in the open where other consumers can see it.

It’s impossible to please everybody, but you will save yourself a great deal of alienation if you invest as much as you can in audience interaction. Most of them don’t intuitively understand just how busy you are and the sheer number of communications you need to deal with it, and an uncomfortably large minority of them will take your inability to communicate personally.

2. Complain-Bragging

This one doesn’t really become a problem except for those brands who decide to get into the more “chatty” side of social media marketing. Any complaint you share with your audience is probably going to be interpreted by some of them as an assault on their self-esteem. Here’s why.

Regardless of your level of success, some of the people in your audience are going to either be less successful than you, or feel less successful than you. There are some people in your audience who would kill to have the problems that you have. That’s a fact of life.

Think of the corporate executive who complains about how his private valet forgot to put the mirror back in position for him. To somebody in your audience, that’s how your complaints sound to them.

This is, in general, why it’s often a bad idea to mix personal anecdotes with blogging and social marketing. You’ll tend to forget that many of your customers have a different level of success and will take your complaints as thinly-veiled boasts.

3. They Think You’re Indebted To Them

Think of the proverbial married couple: the husband who thinks he busts himself while his wife sits at home doing nothing, and the wife who thinks she slaves away in the kitchen while he daydreams in his corporate office. Each of them feels like the other person owes them something, because in the world of emotional transactions, there are no fair balance sheets.

A lot of your customers feel like you owe them something too.

This can happen a lot easier than you think. The member of your audience who willingly spends some of his time actually reading your blog is going to feel like you owe him something worth reading. The commenter who keeps writing a response to every blog post is eventually going to feel like you owe her a thank you.

The more effort somebody puts into your brand, the more they’re going to feel like they deserve something for that effort.

We all keep mental tallies of who owes who what, and none of us agree or come right out and say what we think the tally is.

To maximize audience satisfaction, you really need to assume that everybody feels like you owe them something. That’s why it’s so important to keep giving. It’s only when people feel like they owe you that you’ll start to see the benefits.

This kind of giving doesn’t come easy. You’ll need teams of people and serious project management skills to make it work. It’s worth investing in MS Project or a simpler alternative like WorkZone if it’s in your budget. The last thing you want is a team of representatives damaging your brand with little or no cultural management in place.

There will always be some people who always think you owe them. Thankfully, you can make these people look like the parasites they are by killing them with kindness. The less they have to complain about, the more they’ll look like idiots to your average consumer. See point #2 to remind yourself why.

(Hint: “If that’s the kind of problem their customers have to deal with, sign me up.”)

4. You Made Their Life Busier

People are busy and this makes them feel powerless. It’s not your fault that they’re busy, but if you make their life even slightly more complicated at the wrong time, they will resent you for it.

Think of how busy you can start to feel after dealing with thousands of blog comments and emails. Think of the weariness that starts to set in, and the way that you can start to resent every new message if you aren’t careful.

It might not take much time for your customers to delete your latest “HALF OFF SALE!” from their email or skim past it in their Facebook feed, but it can easily be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Think before you waste your customers’ time.

The slightest trespass can be enough to push them over the edge and resent your brand if they happen to be busy enough at the time.

5. You Didn’t Realize There Was a Conflict

Nothing is more aggravating then having something that bothers you get dismissed with a smirk.

When you don’t realize your customers are mad at you, this is exactly how they feel.

You didn’t realize there was a conflict?

Many customers will be willing to let points 1 through 4 slide if you at least recognize the problem, acknowledge it, and try to do something about it. But if you never respond, argue that it’s not a problem in the first place, or otherwise dismiss them on the basis that things are fine for you, problems are going to multiply in a bad way.

The problem is, most upset customers will never let you know about it. If you’re lucky, they’ll complain about it in a public arena like Twitter, so you can respond and fix it. Most customers won’t do that. You’ll lose them and they’ll never say a word, frustrated by the fact that you never even noticed the problem to begin with.

Very few customers feel like they need to express their concerns for you to realize that they exist. They feel it’s your job to recognize problems before they develop, and they’re right.


Whenever a bubble of anger manages to make its way to the surface from one of your customers, you need to assume that a large portion of your audience feels the same way, and let them know that you are going to do something about it.

When customers see you acknowledge a problem that they never even mentioned to you, you will earn their respect in a way few brands ever have.

Do you have anything more to add in the list? – Let’s discuss in the comments.

[Images- Flickr: Phil KingBring Back Words, Creative Commons Licence]

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About Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M, OnlyDesign and Moveo. He’s passionate about fitness, start-ups, entrepreneurship & all things digital marketing. Catch him on twitter @DholakiyaPratik or by emailing on web@pratikdholakiya.com to discuss on any of these topics.

View all posts by Pratik Dholakiya

8 Responses to “5 Ways You’re Accidentally Making Your Customers Hate You”

  1. Kris Olin Says:

    Great post, Pratik! This is a clever angle to the topic ‘How to make your customers love you’ which is the usual approach. Some of these points are actually quite hard to pick, and I’m suspecting lots of businesses do find themselves guilty as charged.

    “General Arrogance” and “Showing Unnecessary Superiority” would be suitable candidates for this list as well.


  2. Martin Says:

    Following these things you may not get any readers at all, so no one will hate you without having any)) Thanks, that makes sense.


  3. Melissa Wood Says:

    I completely agree, I think many business owners get too caught up in who is “right” and who is “wrong” when a dispute comes up. It’s much better to take the high road and resolve things with the client amicably. You certainly don’t want a bad review haunting you.


  4. Gareth Ellis Says:

    Hi Pratik, very enjoyable read and valuable info! never though about my posts/blog as taking up other peoples time. Thinking like this makes you re-asses the quality and value of a post. Do we all check if our posts/tweets/comments add real value to our customers?


  5. Josh Light Says:


    First off…great headline. Got my attention and made me smile.

    Your comment regarding emotional transactions is very interesting. I see this phenomena in every aspect of human interaction that I deal with in my life…I even fall fate to it myself. I’ll have to consciously watch out for that in the future.



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