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What Color Is the Sky in Your Customer’s World?

We speak a lot in customer experience and customer service about dropping the ball. About…

Our failure to provide adequate service.

Our failure to communicate.

Our failure to meet or exceed customer expectations.

However, sometimes it’s not us; it’s them.

Some customers simply live on another planet. Even when they are nice, their rather tenuous relationship with reality proves an impediment to providing them great customer experiences. When these customers are less than pleasant, they are among the most difficult that you will encounter.

A recent exchange I had with a subscriber to my email list provides a great example of the disconnect that can occur.

We held our first webinar, Mastering the 7 Service Triggers, earlier this month. We had been signing up participants for over a month, using a really nice landing page that enrolled people for both the webinar and our email newsletter, The Customer Conversation, with one click.

I received this email shortly after a subscriber (we’ll call her Eve) signed up:

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Of course, we have an unsubscribe link at the bottom of all of our emails, but not everyone is savvy in that regard. I did what any good steward of an email list would do: I manually unsubscribed her.

As our webinar approached a few weeks later, GoToWebinar began sending out a series of scheduled reminder emails. It was then, on the day of the webinar, that I received another email from Eve:

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I average well over 100 emails a day, so I did not at all connect this email with the person who unsubscribed from the mailing list on December 22.

I was confused. How could anyone be signed up for a webinar and not know what it’s about? The landing page was bold and clear. Maybe Eve forgot, but this was the third notice about the webinar — original registration, one day before, and one hour before — how could someone not know “what it is regarding”?

I’ve been working with customers a long time. I quickly put aside looking for a logical explanation and embraced one of the most important concepts in all of customer service: people can be really strange.

Now, I would like to add a bit about our mailing list philosophy. Our list is a double opt-in, manual subscribe only list. I have had friends and colleagues add me to their list without asking before (and with true friends and colleagues I have not minded), but we stay away from even that.

Our approach to list building is simple: You either sign up for the list or ask to be signed up for the list — otherwise, you don’t get on it.

Since this was our first webinar and our first time using the landing page/webinar system, Eve’s email concerned me a bit. I wanted to make sure that we did not have some funky technical thing happening. After doing some research, I sent Eve the following reply.

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After a sending that email to Eve, I realized there was one more thing I could search. I did, and figured out what likely had happened. A few minutes later, I sent her the following email:

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Now, I understood that Eve was probably sick of the hassle of being added to this list (even though she added herself), so I did not expect a response. Sure, a response would have been nice, but such is customer service — you do what you do without expectation of accolades or even appreciation. I took the time to help Eve because I thought it was the right thing to do and to make sure that some weird technical glitch was not turning us into spammers.

And what happened when Eve received the inevitable, forewarned final email from GotoWebinar? After my taking over a half hour to research and explain in detail what had happened?

I received this final missive:

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To use the lingo of kids everywhere:


I often speak about the reality of customer service, but I rarely speak about the reality of customers — and that is a different matter entirely. Sometimes you simply get a customer who has difficulty grasping the thread.

When this happens, you have three basic choices:

  • Customize Your Communication — With the correct language and psychological approach, you can often help customers navigate the areas they find challenging.
  • Tolerate It — Sometimes, the problem is simply not that bad. Sure, the customer might be a little out there, but the issues do not create obstructions of any import.
  • Move On — Not every customer is saveable, or profitable. On occasion, the best course of action is to encourage them to seek a great customer experience elsewhere.

When you run into a customer that is not quite sharing the same reality the rest of us are, do your best to work with them and accommodate them. However, do realize that you will not win them all.

And in case you were wondering what color the sky is in my world — well, it’s orange of course.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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