Fun with Customer Service, and I Mean That Sarcastically

The customer might not always be right, but at least give him or her a chance to be wrong.

Infinite Target Registers

Photo by Patrick Hoesly

1. My mom was wrestling with a baby registry at a popular superstore:

An employee was walking through the department. Mom asked, “Can you help me?”

Employee: “I’m busy right now.”

“Can you page someone to help me?”

“Is it an emergency?”

Mom said, “Never mind.” She looked around without success, and gave up. On her way out of the store, she stopped at the service desk and shared that exchange. The employee said, “I’m sorry.” Pause. Mom said, “OK, I just wanted to let you know.”

2. My husband and I overestimated our ability to take the heat at a local restaurant:

Manager: “How do you like it?”

Me: “It’s spicy.”

Manager: “Not too spicy, right?”

Doug: “Too spicy for me.”

The manager smiled and backed away from the table.

3. I had to take my dog to the vet for a follow-up:

The next day I got a postcard from the clinic that said my dog was due for a shot. Wouldn’t it be great if the software had alerts, or the employees manually check a field every time you’re standing in front of them?

They’ll say, “Oh, by the way, she’s due for a Bordetella shot, so let’s do that, too.”

You’ll say, “Wow, you’re making it very convenient for me. Thank you!” and we all live happily ever after.

So when I called, after making the appointment, I said, “Can I offer some feedback?”

The defensiveness in her voice came through loud and clear: “About what?”

All these experiences were, in a word, poor. The first one in particular makes me very sad, because I LOVE that store. Sigh.

I did a lot of time in restaurants and retail, and was trained that the customer is always right. My husband works in the hospitality industry, and it wasn’t until he gave me some examples of guests trying to work the system in some very shady ways that I realized that’s not always the case. However, the customer ALWAYS deserves respect, and you have to hear them out. Yes, they might be in weasel mode. But you have to start from a positive place.

Even if the pace is between frazzled and crazed in my office, when the phone rings, I will take a minute to take a deep breath and go into calm mode before I answer. And I smile. You can hear it through the phone! It helps me focus on the call.

I’m not saying that you need to give your customers a free dinner or hold their hand every time they come in the store. We all get so busy and distracted, it’s worth taking a minute to remember how awesome it was when that employee you encountered greeted you so warmly and was very focused on helping you. We CAN do that.

What’s your customer service story? Whether it’s a plus or minus, I’d like to hear it!

P.S. The customer isn’t always right, but you don’t have to go totally insane about it, Samy and Amy! See:

The most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever

Comments

  1. Andrea Elkins says:

    Customer service has been a huge topic of conversation among friends and family lately. You’re so right – the really good ones bring us back to purchase again and again!

    Now for the lighter side: I spend hours on this site and its sister sites: http://www.notalwaysright.com

  2. Andrea! You cannot introduce me to more internet crack! I had enough trouble resisting the Atari Breakout on Google yesterday! Also, thank you for your comment.

  3. Hi Jen,

    Thanks for sharing the smile post! There seems to be a common theme through your three examples: defensiveness. Employees trained, or conditioned, to see the customer in an adversarial role — at customers that are voicing negative feedback.

    I think it all starts with leadership and culture. Of course, the execution is more complex, but organizations have to start from a place of serving the customer — everything else follows from there.

    • Hi Adam,

      Thank you for weighing in. I fully believe that most of the time employees are approached, it’s because a customer is complaining about something, so I understand how that negativity starts. I think you’re right, though: If the management can establish a culture where the employees believe they have a good product and want to do the right thing, the company is going to get through those rough spots with flying colors. And probably move the customer from someone who’s upset to someone who’s a fan.

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