The customer is always right?

I know, I know … the customer is always right … or at least ought to be treated as though they’re always perfect. But, when and where do you draw the line?

The question comes up after talking to a frontline sales person, Ted. A few days before, he had difficulty with a customer. The customer was being vague and Ted simply asked for clarification. From then on the client was rude and kept sniping at Ted. She even had a telephone call on her mobile phone and proceeded to talk about Ted and how “rude” HE was to the caller. Then when Ted had to interrupt her conversation for payment, he was even worse than rude, based on her. When he asked the client to sign her credit card, a company requirement, he became a “jerk” and an “a_____e.” Ted says, “I do not know what her problem was, but I surely didn’t like being called names. I couldn’t think of anything I could do to make the situation better. I felt so helpless.”

There are two elements of this scenario. First of all, cellular phones: what exactly are sales and support personnel doing about cellular phone calls? I was buying stamps the other day in the post office and the individual directly in front of me was carrying on a conversation while the clerk behind the counter was trying to help her with a purchase.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has signs posted at its information desk stating: “Please, turn off your cell phone so we may better serve you.” I asked a clerk about the need for the sign and she said, “People were just driving us crazy.” When people are on the telephone they seem to be in their own little world. “It was not just people at the counter on the phone that was the issue. The phones also cause a rise in general sound making it increasingly difficult to carry on meaningful conversations in the counter.”

Let us hang-up on mobile phones for awhile and go back to rude customers. Personally, I think What does Possum Poop Look Like once a client moves into violent behaviour, they no longer deserve support. I really don’t like to be called names (even when it is told to a third party and not directly done like with Ted) and I wouldn’t subject any employee to this treatment, either.

I do think Ted handled the situation nicely. He kept his cool and obtained through the trade. His next step should be to discuss the situation with his supervisor and allow the supervisor draw the line and provide alternatives in dealing with rude customers.

For rude cell phone users, I really like the easy touch of the sign. The sign says it all. It’s polite with a, “please.” It tells the customer that we do want to serve them. It is non-threatening … and it draws the line … somebody has to.

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