A Diatribe on the Failings of Customer Care

Despite my blunt candor and sarcastic wit, I’m a stickler for good manners and customer care.  Do you have any idea how much “please” and “thank you” are forgotten in today’s world?  It’s astonishing and forces me to make facial expressions I reserve for only the most ridiculous people who stumble into my world.

While respect is earned, manners are straightforward and simple enough for anyone to grasp; yet, people miss it every day, in and out of business.  I’ve watched business owners belittle customers and tell them not to come back… publicly!  I’ve seen managers roll their eyes to a customer’s face.  I once watched an employee get into a physical altercation with a customer (the employee swung first).

We are an angry, exhausted culture.  Isn’t it time for a change?  It’s time to stop distorting the Golden Rule.  It’s not “I’m treating them how they treated me.”  It’s supposed to be “I’m treating them how I want to be treated.”

When a customer is upset, instead of pointing fingers at them, placing blame, or getting just as pissed off, try a more diplomatic approach.  Stay neutral and say things like, “thank you for your input.  It means a lot to me. We always strive for 100% satisfaction, and I understand you feel we’ve not lived up to that goal.  How can I make this right?”  Work with people, don’t shun them.

As a business owner, one of your primary skills MUST be in diffusing anger and being a genuinely well-mannered individual.  Your business takes on that personality, and so does your staff. Your customers will remember how you made them feel.

Many people think it’s okay to be rude and disrespectful to someone who they perceive was rude and disrespectful to them with the excuse of, “well, they were mean to me first!”  What, are you 6?  Do you want to throw your toys out of the sandbox while you’re at it?  We can do better than that.

I truly believe that the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ mentality is why we’re in such bad shape as a society.  We can’t seem to deal with disagreement and anger, we feel threatened when someone disagrees with us.  The mentality of “two wrongs make a right” has destroyed our ability to negotiate and work together.

There’s a time and place to fight fire with fire, but it’s never in the realm of customer care.  Learn how to fight these inevitable battles in business.  You can’t please them all, but you can take care of them all.

Customers aren’t always right, but they are always customers, and they are always the bread and butter of your business.  Long gone are the days where you could mistreat a customer and all you’d lose is one person and perhaps a couple of their friends.  Now, they’re leaving your misgivings all over the Internet, where anyone can see it, and everyone believes it! Your reputation is much more public now.

So, suck it up, buttercup.  If the customer is wrong, so what!  You’ll win more of these battles if you do it with kindness and a direct approach at settling the issue.  Take a breath, think it through, and be tactful.  Winston Churchill once said, “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

One final thought on customer care – stop using guilt and fear in your methods.  I’ve seen this a lot.  Here are just a couple of examples:

  1. I went into a restaurant for lunch by myself. I asked for a booth, like I always do, to which the hostess said, “Sure, you can have a booth.  We don’t usually let one-person parties in our four-person booths, but today’s your lucky day.”
  2. My husband and I bought a big appliance last week from salespeople who don’t receive commission. The salesperson made sure to tell us that at least three times over the course of 20 minutes, while proceeding to badger my husband relentlessly about buying the extra insurance/coverage.  He said things like “well, what will do if it breaks unexpectedly” and “don’t you want peace of mind?  What’s wrong with you?”  We didn’t buy it because we were annoyed.

Don’t guilt customers into buying something by leveraging fear or making them feel like they are somehow lesser than other customers. It’s time to change the way we care.  If you’d like to talk about how you can improve your customer’s experience, give me a shout.  It’s a free consult, and you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

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