Four levels of customer frustration

It’s been nearly 8 years since I started with IT service. Having faced with many customers, I’ve received number of different complaints and compliments. I receive compliant every time if something does not meet a customer’s expectation. On the contrary, if I get a compliment, that is something I completed reaches customer’s expectation.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend of mine, sharing a message he got from his customer about frustration. He then asked me what was a customer’s feeling when writing such a message to him. I looked back myself, remembering as much as possible when I got a complaint. Finally there are four levels of frustration I’ve realized, based on the message (e.g. email, IM…) customers have sent to me.

You may be interested in reading my own three letters to be successful in IT managed services

“I’m not happy”

When a customer says he is not happy. He happens to see something he does not like. This can be a missing something from your side. This can be a missed deadline in a project. This level sometimes is acceptable because nothing is perfect. Moreover, you have to deal with a fastidious person you cannot imagine. We cannot satisfy every of kind of person in our life. This level may get you pay attention more, but it still does not tell you in a sign of red alert. Perhaps it is a unconsiderable mistake. You need to see why he is not happy and try to address that thing.

“I’m unhappy”

This literally sounds like the previous one. Yes it’s but it is a quite different level of frustration. Such a message to you is an automatic reflex which tells you that the customer didn’t think about putting “Not” before “Happy”. He purposely used a negative verb “Unhappy”. It’s an upper level of the previous one when the reason has not been explained in a formal way. The customer in this case doesn’t seem to stand enough. When you receive this message, this can be a sign of warning alert which requires you to have an action plan to see what is really happening in your case. In a software project, it can be a defect which is present to  end users not only one time, but several times. Another reason could be the case when you don’t directly address to the customer’s concern repeatedly.

“I’m disappointed”

When something the customer even does not hope to be solved, he gives you such a message. When a customer has nothing to hope, perhaps a long-lasting error you haven’t fixed yet, or something you cannot seem to solve. This is a red alert that requires a managerial level review to see how things can be solved. In a software project, if that is a technical issue the escalation is still in the management level. This can result to a contract termination or penalty agreement. There can be a meeting between both parties to review the entirely project. I got this kind of message a few times in the past when I could not deliver a good software project or was unable to complete a milestone. The meeting at that time was just only to bring out the question “WHEN” until the customer expressed frankly that he was totally disappointed.

“I’m frustrated”

Have you ever heard from your customer? The level couldn’t be better explained by itself, and from Google : feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. When a customer says that he is frustrated, he wants to tell you he is painful totally, and he feels sadly when working with you. The reason he feels that is very often because his direct manager seems to be disappointed to him. That is why you receive the highest level of frustration.

In a software project, if your delivery makes a big impact on the total plan, resulting to business loss, the customer finally is frustrated. They do not want to do business with you. The termination contract decision may be quickly made if the relationship between you and them is not good.


Every of level frustration has an action plan to follow. The more flexible it it, the less frustration you manage to achieve. I’d hope my article can be a good point to share with you signs of frustration to help improve service.


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