While most customers are willing to tolerate reasonable levels of inefficiencies and errors, the old adage comes into play, “To err is human but if the eraser wears out ahead of the pencil, you are overdoing it”!
Mahatma Gandhi, in a speech in South Africa in 1890 is believed to have said:
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
Your customer is your lifeline. Your reason to exist. Who will buy your product and thus provide sustenance to you and your employees. Yet, so many startups take their customer for granted as they build their young company. Their focus is on technology, on human resources, on making the workplace exciting so that people stay and sometimes on managing cash!
Upset customers have little patience. Annoyances that a person usually tolerates become intolerable when that individual is upset. You cannot control another person’s behaviour. But you can change your behaviour to avoid causing annoyance.
Some of the common reasons that I have seen and experienced which make customers angry and therefore complain or reject your brand are as follows:
Commitments Not Met
The very common refrain of most customers is that commitments are made by staff members at the time of placing the order and then forgotten. Whether these are in the form of a commitment to deliver a product at a certain time or it is to provide a service at a certain level or it is for the visit of a plumber to your home, a commitment once made must be kept. Most customers are also willing to accept a change in commitment if a communication has been made to them and, more importantly, the customer has agreed to this change.
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If a commitment is kept you have a happy customer. If the commitment is not kept you have a very unhappy and dissatisfied customer. If at this time your staff attempts to give a “smart” answer or offer an insincere apology then the customer is in his right to get really angry and upset.
Any store member, in an attempt to save his own skin, must never pass the buck to his head office or factory since this weakens the perceptions of the brand in front of the customer. Internal issues of a company must be addressed internally and not in front of any customer.
As our retail chain grew, there were several staff members who did not recognise me when I walked into one of our stores. The best way to understand your own staff is to call your company help line and understand what a customer has to go through each time he has a complaint.
Most of us have experienced poor service levels often in various stores. An indifferent store staff can irritate any customer.
Shoe salesmen would have definitely tried to entice you to buy a “slightly tight” shoe with a response “When you start using the shoe it will open up” and fit your foot much better.”.How often have we purchased a tight shirt or coat because the sales staff member did not have a larger size and encouraged us to buy it because “you are sure to lose some weight”!
Arrogance And Sarcasm
If a staff member is arrogant the customer picks up such body language very quickly. Staff members who face your customers are your ambassadors and must have humility. Customers need to be heard and do not like to repeat themselves. If a staff member does not know the customer then being overfriendly or passing a funny comment can also be misunderstood.
Sarcastic remarks only heighten anger, they seldom ease tension. There is no place for one’s ego in front of your customer.
Questioning A Customer’s Intelligence
I am sure a lot of us would have experienced a situation where we go to a restaurant and ask for a glass of cold water. When the water arrives and we don’t find this cold, we tell the waiter to change the water. How often have we seen the waiter touch the glass from the outside to show the customer that in his view the water is cold enough? The same applies when you ask for a cup of hot tea and on complaining the staff member touches the cup to check if you are right!
These are classic examples of a staff member questioning a customer’s intelligence and conveying distrust. Anyone in the retail business has to accept a customer’s viewpoint as long as the customer is fair and reasonable.
Arguing With A Customer
Arguing with your customer is a cardinal sin for every business. Arguing with a customer may enable a store staff member to win a small battle but in the long run, he would not only have lost the sale but the customer forever.
My advice to most customer-facing staff members is that every morning when they leave for work, they should “remove their watch” and leave it on their bedside table and they should “take off their cloak of ego” and hang it up. There is no place for time or ego when it comes to handling your customer.
People get upset for a variety of reasons, many of which are under your or your organisation’s control to prevent. The easiest way to calm upset customers is to not make them angry in the first place. At the same time, it is very important to understand that a customer is not always right. If the customer is unreasonable, then a firm but very polite tone is needed to handle such irate customers.
About The Author
[Ashutosh Garg is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.]