Re: Bad Customers!Like a lot of you ladies and gentlemen, I've worked in retail/customer service a long time, and gotten terrible customers. I work at one of the largest cable/internet/phone providers in Canada - I started on the phone and now I'm a trainer. I've worked at hardware stores, office supply stores, clothing stores, etc.
- I've had people assume that I'm an immigrant to Canada, because I'm Asian (never mind that I have no accent and my English is better than that of most people that I encounter).
- I've had them tell me how much they hate my company and how we're all there to rip people off, that I've scanned the item in incorrectly (because somehow, I'm able to change the price of inventory through telepathy - the money goes right into my pocket! Blast, they've figured it out!).
- I've had men twice my size ask me to lift a 75 lbs concrete slab into their trucks for them (more than half my body weight - my spaghetti girl arms must be deceiving in their strength).
- I've heard a friend get into an argument with a customer on the phone because he was insistent that she come over and fix his toilet.
- I've had customers screaming at me because their bill is overdue and their cable/phone/internet is about to be cut off, and it's somehow, not their fault (it's certainly not the fault of the customer, who 'forgot' that Christmas happens every year and that their bill is 3 months overdue, and that perhaps she should not have left her 14 year old son money to pay the cable bill while she was in England).
- I've had them threaten to complain to my manager and get me fired for my attitude and poor customer service.
I've never been fired once and I've never once had a manager tell me that I've ever given poor customer service, or that I had a bad attitude.
I train Customer Service Agents on how to deal with irate/confused/frustrated customers, and here are a few things that I've learned in the past 10 years.
You can't choose your customer, but you can choose your attitude. Yes, you will get people who are bitchy and confused. You'll get the screamers, the complainers, the scam artists. You'll get the attitudes and the dumb looks. You can't really control who you get at your register, your table or your phone -but you can choose the attitude with which you deal with them. You can be pleasant to them and kill them with kindness. You can use the "Mom voice" when they start yelling; speaking in a soft, low voice so that they're forced to quiet down and listen to you. You can look at it as a challenge to make that grumpy customer's day a little bit better by making them smile. Service with a smile!
Take accountability. You can take accountability and apologise, even though it's not your fault, and you can choose to not blame the customer, your coworkers or yourself. One of my favourite lines is, "I'm sorry that you feel that way." It acknowledges the person's feelings and validates them, but it's not saying that you're taking the blame for the situation. However, you are making yourself accountable and credible.
Validate others. Haven't you ever been so frustrated that you could explode and no one would let you speak? Have you ever had a poor situation at a store and some rude customer service agent just brushed you off without hearing your side of things? You can let them rant and get everything they need to say off their chest before you start to calmly explain things. Validate your customer by listening to what it is that they have to say - sometimes, people just want the chance to be heard.
Likewise, if you have a customer who is displaying great manners, let them know how much you appreciate that with a thanks or a smile. I had one gentleman come to my counter while he was on the phone, and actually say to the other person, "I'm sorry, I'm just at the counter, can I call you back?" Then he hung up and apologised to me for being on the phone! I was so impressed that I thanked him for being so polite and rang him through quicker so that his other party didn't have to wait. Reinforce the good behaviours.
Be empathetic Put yourself in that person's shoes. People are going to be touchy and sensitive - you're dealing with one of the most personal things in their lives - their money! Especially in this economy, people are concerned with money. Imagine what it would feel like to be in that person's shoes and try to use empathy to relate to them.
Behave with integrity. You are a representative of the company that you work for, and regardless of whether you love or hate them, you are still a representative. Yes, you are supposed to be customer focused, we've all heard "the customer is always right". My addendum to that is "... unless they're wrong." Stand firm with your company's policies, and realise that you can stand firm against a bully of a customer Don't budge if you've got policies and procedures backing you up. If you're a manager, stand behind your people, don't undermine their decisions. They were hired for a reason. Validate that reason.
Realise that some people are just... assholes. You can't please everyone, and there are some people out there that no one can please. They were born as jerks, and they'll always be jerks. It's not your fault and it's not anything that you can necessarily fix. Don't worry about it. See the point below.
Don't take it personally. When that customer leaves the store or hangs up, they're gone. Let it go. Take a deep breath, get a drink of water, go for a nice dinner or a drink after work and rant with customers. Laugh about how crazy people are. It sounds funny, but my mom rants, and then sprinkles salt outside of her store to ward away the bad energies from that customer and to purify the area. Me, I prefer to just rant and laugh. Whatever works.
One day at work, I had a really horrible lady in my store, who was just rude for no reason. She put me into such a bad mood for 5 minutes afterward that I didn't want to be around anyone. Then I thought to myself, "I've had 200 amazing customers today, and 1 horrible bag of a lady. Why am I letting 1 lousy person affect my mood, when 200 great ones couldn't? Why would I let 1 single person, a stranger, have that much power over me?"
My boyfriend doesn't know how we can do it. He's never worked customer service/retail and he doesn't know how anyone can do it.
Did you know that good customer service/retail people have the same mentality and skill set relating to interpersonal interaction as nurses? It's just that we don't go to school as long, and we don't like the sight of blood.
We've all been there, and we'll all be there again. We'll all have the good, the bad and the ugly. The important thing is that you keep on smiling and know that you'll always have people who are in the same boat, who can share stories with you and pour you a drink when you need it the most.