Meet the 5 Types of Customers, From the Gandhi to the Trump

4 min read · 6 years ago


In 1949, the American scholar Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This landmark book argued that despite being separated by vast distances of time and culture, mythological stories around the world share a number of common characteristics, especially within the class of myths he identified as “the hero’s journey.” These parallels include some archetypal characters—such as the wise sage and the trickster—that typically befriend or thwart a hero during her epic quest.

Every day in enterprise contact centers around the world, brave customer service agents (CSAs) engage in a hero’s journey of their own, encountering all manner of people in their quest to deliver a great customer experience. Just look at the trials and travails recounted in Reddit’s “Customer Service” and “Tales from Call Centers” chronicles. And like the characters of mythological lore, the types of customers engaging with an organization’s customer service department tend to correspond to a few distinct archetypes.

Here we’ve highlighted five of the most common. If you see yourself in one of the following archetypes, you can at least be assured that you’re not the only one:

1. The Gandhi

mahatma gandhi

Following the example of the renowned Mahatma Gandhi, this customer impressively abides by the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, no matter how dissatisfied she may feel by the customer experience she’s having. The Gandhi is every CSA’s dream, the kind of customer who keeps calm, friendly, sounds genuinely appreciative, and makes an agent love coming to work every day. She may even take to social media to tell others about what a great customer experience she had, rallying others to support a good company or cause.

2. The Scholar


The Scholar knows her stuff and may have once spent a summer working in a customer service role herself. When calling her internet service provider, she’ll have already tried to reset and reconfigure her router, and tech support agents can expect that she may ask to be escalated to “tier three” or a manager if she senses she knows more about how to resolve her situation than the agent she’s currently engaging with. Fortunately, the Scholar is generally reasonable and usually needs just a bit of extra help to get an issue resolved.

3. The Gollum


Much like the cave-dwelling creature of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, the Gollum is a sneaky customer, keeping agents on their toes throughout chats, calls, emails, or sometimes, confoundingly, across multiple channels at once. This is the kind of customer who tries to find a way out of paying her cell phone bill, explains her situation in the form of extended riddles, or insists that her discount code should remain valid even weeks after its expiration date. Agents must always beware of the Gollum.

4. The Drone Pilot

drone operator

This customer probably doesn’t wear black leather jackets and aviator glasses, but she’s still cool as a cucumber as she launches strategic, calculated complaints and inquiries from a safe distance and precisely targeted for maximum effect. Rising out of the ranks of the Keyboard Warriors, the Drone Pilot can issue a single strike—a tweet tagging the right audience, an email to a CEO—that sends entire contact centers and PR departments scrambling to take cover. Only the most proactive customer service can prevent a Drone Pilot encounter.

5. The Trump

donald trump

Much like a certain U.S. presidential candidate, the Trump is famous for being unabashedly outspoken, belligerent, and used to getting her way no matter what it takes. Every CSA knows what it’s like to deal with the Trump, and although she typically hails from America, where “the customer is always right,” even agents working in India or the Philippines have learned to bend over backwards to appease her. In fact, it usually takes a manager just to get her to stop shouting. Only other aggrieved customers support the behavior of the Trump.

The Five Archetypes in Us All

While small pockets of the consumer population embody each of these customer archetypes in their pure form, those purebred types tend to be the exception. As an average customer, you’re more likely to express the qualities of each of the five types of customers at different times, depending on the circumstances.

Sometimes those circumstances have nothing to do with the organization we’re contacting for customer service, but more often than not these archetypes overtake us in direct response to the specific customer experience we’re having. It’s therefore up to any organization to deliver the best customer experience they possibly can, proactively and consistently.

After all, no one wants to see a Gandhi turn into a Trump.

U.S. Navy photo republished here under CC BY 2.0. Donald Trump photo by Gage Skidmore, republished under CC BY-SA 2.0.

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Meet the 5 Types of Customers, From the Gandhi to the Trump

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