The Real Reasons Why People Yell at Customer Service Reps

By Aaron Crowe, dealnews writer

We've all done it at some point: Yelled at a customer service representative over the phone for bad service, a failed product or something else that has irked us about something we bought.

Sometimes the person who yells the loudest gets what they want, but it doesn't always work. It can be difficult to get good customer service, and yelling can make it more difficult. Whether you've reached the end of your rope after trying many ways to get the problem resolved, or are just having a bad day, there are many reasons why people yell at someone they don't know at the other end of the phone.

What causes some people to yell and others not to? What has gone so wrong to push them over the edge?

For most people, in fact 72% of people, they have a problem right away while they are trying to make a purchase. This is especially true for customers trying to buy online. Something makes the transaction go wrong, such as an incorrect price or a shipping choice is unclear, and they need help immediately. The rest of complainers have problems when the item arrives and something is wrong with it.

In both cases, people simply get frustrated and want to vent, says Mitch Lieberman, vice president at Sword Ciboodle, a customer relationship management software company. But picking up the phone is typically not what either party — the customer or the merchant — wants in a shopping experience, which sets the stage for frayed nerves.

A phone call, he says, sounds like the easiest and fastest way of communicating a problem, but writing a letter by hand or writing an email will actually help document the problems and solve them in a more logical manner.

Actually, only about half of people actually expect to be able to solve a problem on a customer service call, Lieberman says. In fact, many people call up customer service departments to complain, but don't really have anything in particular they want done. They're just upset and they need to tell somebody about it. Rich Redman, who managed a customer service team for five years, says he often heard from customers who call because they're upset, and not because there's something specific that they wanted.

Callers may not initially have any intention of yelling, but the frustration of the whole event can build. Long hold times, being asked to repeat the complaint again and again, getting the runaround and not being transferred to a manager after asking for one are some of the boiling points that can quickly be reached.

Brett Brohl, who runs, a company that sells hospital scrubs and has been cited for its excellent customer service, has found that people who yell are the people who are truly in the wrong — such as a customer who wears a product for a month and then calls to return it, and tries to get his way by yelling. Brohl says he associates yelling with guilt. Yelling never helps, he says, and makes his customer service reps less likely to go above and beyond to help clients.

Many also yell because they buy into the old adage "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." We all have stories of people we know who yelled at customer service reps and got some benefit out of it. So it makes it easy to say, if it has worked before, it will work again. Edgar Dworsky, who runs the consumer education and watchdog website says he's fantasized about turning to other customers waiting behind him in line and saying in a very loud voice, "Can you believe how this store is treating me? They won't take back a clearly defective product. Why should any of us continue to do business with a company that treats its customers this way?" Such a public rant is likely to get a problem fixed fast.

He also says that a friend was so completely obnoxious when negotiating with Comcast to get reduced monthly fees after the "special" on his triple play expired, that they gave him a discount — but banned him from further discounts for three years.

Next week: Ways to stop yelling at customer service representatives and still get what you want.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has worked as a reporter and an editor for newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter — @AaronCrowe.

Photo Credit: Rabble via Flickr.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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The issues only get worse when companies decide to save a buck by moving them outside of the country.
Totally agree.
Sorry, but that usually didn't make me want to do anything for anybody. It actually made this worse.
"What about being stuck on hold for over an hour?"

It's not the CSR's fault that you were on hold for over an hour. It's not as if the CSRs were napping or just hanging around while you were on hold. Most likely the CSRs were busy dealing with other frustrated customers such as yourself while you were waiting. The list of blame for long wait time is equally as long, including the upper management not wanting to invest more money into hiring more CSRs or training them to be more efficient and perhaps having bad products or unclear instructions in their manuals. But whatever the case, CSRs themselves are hardly to be blamed for long hold time in most cases so yelling at them makes no sense.

"What about dealing with service reps that can barely speak English?"

I personally have not dealt with any CSRs who can barely speak English. Heavy accents perhaps. But even then, it's the upper management who need to be blamed for this as they chose to outsource customer service to a more affordable location.

"What about unfair service practices?"

Not sure what you mean there...

"What about getting hung up on?"

CSRs usually only hang up on customers who they become abusive and start cursing. If they hung up on you before you started being abusive and started cursing then yes it is their fault, assuming they hung up on purpose and not simply got disconnected.

"What about being rerouted numerous times without any results?"

In most cases, it's the lack of training of lack of clear organization, which again, the blame lies with upper management, not the actual individual who was unfortunate enough to take your call.

"What about not being able to talk to anyone who can actually do anything?"

Depends on what you are asking them to do. If it goes against their policy then they simply won't do it, such as sending you free stuff for no reason, especially if you are yelling at them. However, as others have mentioned above, if you are polite with CSRs, they may do the most they can to do what you ask of them.
I admit I have yelled and become irate at CS reps. Especially when they say they know we were told something or explained of a cost or SHOULD have known of a fee! This is stuff they dont REALLY know but is something in notes that someone else typed. But I cannot control what another sales person/ service person etc. types or says,but I know what was told to me. What are we to do as consumers? If we refuse to apy the bill, they send us to collections. But if they refuse to live up to thier billing/products all we can do is not to buy it again, which just does not hurt them as much as us not getting the product or service we were promised! We are basically helpless to effectively punish them for thier errors. Sorry for the rant, but just had a long conversation with a CS rep. I did no yell.
The reasons why I don't yell at CSR are first, I just can't, it's hard for me to get angry... second, they're working people too

the most I'd do to get my problem fix is try to "talk down" to them to just show them that I'm the customer, and I'm in charge, but again like I said it's hard for me to get angry
How about the real reason people yell, get upset, or confrontational with customer service is that HORRIBLE customer service is being provided.

Thanks for a one sided diatribe. What about being stuck on hold for over an hour? What about dealing with service reps that can barely speak English? What about unfair service practices? What about getting hung up on? What about being rerouted numerous times without any results? What about not being able to talk to anyone who can actually do anything?

These things make anyone upset, and they're the real reason people yell at CSRs.

But maybe niche industry executives know better than the customer, right?

FYI -- the picture is lame as hell.
There's a time to remain calm and a time to get loud. For few examples check out this story from the VP of marketing at Jameco.
As a call center veteran of all too many years, I've had plenty of experience on both sides of this issue. You can usually tell if you've got someone friendly, empathetic, and professional--someone like me!--on the other end of the phone. My advice?

Be nice! The rep on the other end is professionally obligated to be at least cordial. Remember that they have to deal with angry and/or unreasonable people all day long. It can be very difficult to maintain a pleasant demeanor--and remember that almost *nobody* calls to say everything is a-okay. Be courteous and amiable, and the rep will not only appreciate, but reciprocate.

Be reasonable! Sure, we'd all like to get piles of stuff at little or no cost. But remember that the rep is working for a company, and that company is in business to make money. Go ahead and ask the rep if there are any deals going that you might be able to take advantage of; if you've set up a good rapport, he or she will be more willing to turn you on to an offer you were unaware of, or possibly even bend the rules a hair to help you out. On the other hand, ranting and begging will only encourage the rep to toe the company line. You're not a toddler, and throwing a tantrum probably won't get you your cookie.

Be appreciative! If the person you're working with delivered truly excellent service to you, be sure to let him or her know. Remember: people only call the rep when they have a problem. Trust me when I say that a little sincere gratitude goes a *long* way toward making a rep's day. If it was exceptionally outstanding, ask to speak to the supervisor--and let the rep know that it's for the express purpose of giving compliments. Again, as this is rarely done, you'll make the rep and the supervisor very happy.

In short, just be a decent human being. Imagine that you're actually dealing with a human being face-to-face. And if nothing else, bear in mind that we *do* talk about memorable customers, whether negative or positive--we'd rather be able to say positive things about you. :-)
"But i will agree, customer service is horrific now adays, most CS agents are underpaid, poorly trained, and dont care and all they offer is scripted apologies and no real help most of the times. Many companies know this but think people wont mind how crappy there support was as long as they hear and apology and get a low price."

I can't agree more. Unfortunately, in our ultra-capitalistic society, the customer service department is seen as a drain on profits where as the sales department is where you make money. Therefore it only makes sense to not spend nearly as much effort and funds into supporting CS. Sad thing is, this is an extremely short-sighted view.

I worked as a CSR when I was in college and nothing motivated me to NOT want to help someone more than picking up the line and have a STRANGER on the other end yelling at me without even clearly explain what his problem is.
I almost never yell at customer service reps. I said "almost" never because I have done it maybe once or twice but only when the customer service rep him- or herself becomes rude and/or is wrong but refuse to admit it.

In most cases these CSRs are just regular people like you and I and it's just unfortunate that they work for a company that may have caused problem for us. Just because they work for that said company, it doesn't necessarily mean they love the company or is even on their side when something happens. In most cases, they just want a paycheck.
As a tech support/customer service rep. the main problem with customer service is when customers call in and argue with the rep because of what THEY THINK a policy/warranty is or should cover in the own eyes rather than WHAT IT ACTUALLY DOES cover. As a CS rep, you can be nice and explain all day what a policy is or what it actually covers and will get yelled at because what they assume /think it should be or cover. People need to read the manual/ fine print sometimes!!!!!

Yelling will only get on the agents nerves and they will deliberately make the call more drawn out and do as little as possible to help you for yelling at them. Cursing is a sure guarantee to get your call disconnected.

Now the only way i truly condone yelling at someone is when you try everything in your powers to be nice, prepared, and respectful to the agent and you know the company is blatantly wrong and you can sense the agent is just following a script and making no efforts to help you at all knowing there wrong.

But i will agree, customer service is horrific now adays, most CS agents are underpaid, poorly trained, and dont care and all they offer is scripted apologies and no real help most of the times. Many companies know this but think people wont mind how crappy there support was as long as they hear and apology and get a low price.
I always note the name pf the person I am talking to and mention that I am writing down their name in case I need to escalate to a higher up. Worst case, I simply find out who the CEO is and send a registered return receipt requested letter that documents the issue and all names of the parties involved bad OR good. Only have had to do this three times- gets IMMEDIATE action. No CEO in their right mind wants to have deal with something that should have been taken care of my layers ago. I have also sent info like this for SUPERIOR service and again mention names. Upper management likes these letters!
First of all I am a Customer Service Rep and anybody who thinks that yelling or bullying a rep is going to get you better service is not only wrong but it is inconsiderate. The best way to get your problem resolved is have all your information ready and do not come into the call expecting to face your mightiest enemy, I want to help you its my job but yelling and ranting does not help. Remember CSR's are people too and I go to my job every day dreading that irate caller who "Just wants to vent".
I must take exception to Brett Brohl’s assertion that; ‘people who yell are the people who are truly in the wrong’. What a pompous and all too convenient position for a vendor to take - It’s almost comical.

Truth is, people will yell when they’re driven to their breaking point… Something merchants and tradesman are all too good at cultivating.
The only time I have ever yelled was after a very long discussion with a lady on the other end representing Dish Network who did not speak clear English & had nobody available who spoke clear English. If I am calling from an English speaking country I would expect my issue to be addressed by someone who spoke the same language clear enough to handle the issue! I realize it was not her fault but the fault of the company, but she was the one to get it.
I have yelled before at the local Fedex Ground depot after the driver marked a delivery as "Business closed" (it was my house, on a Saturday) and I was awarded with a special trip made to deliver it an hour later. They tried to screw me over, deny me the chance of a refund because they said it was my fault, and NOT do what I paid extra to have done, so I yelled. It totally helped.
I have one thing to say to chronic for a therapist. Your rants do nothing effective for a CSR and doesn't get your stuff done for you any faster. Having been, hired and trained CSR's I can say that they will do less for those who yell.
Usually when being nice doesn't work and my patience is running thin, I don't resort to yelling. Maybe a very firm, no nonsense, "listen, here's what you're going to do for me right now" voice, but no yelling.
Buyers are liars. Right, Brett Bohl?