Polite, dangerous customers

Watching the 'American Inventor' series the other day on television got me thinking about a retort that one of the participants made when his work was rejected by the judges. This guy's product was a walking stick that he insisted on calling a 'wand' that could keep dogs, bears and their like away while you took a walk outside your home. His retort to the judges' rejection was to say that most people he had shown the 'wand' to, said it was a great product. Then why were the judges rejecting his invention?

This very same scenario plays out in classrooms when students are awarded low marks especially when, according to them, the work they put in had been appreciated by people outside academia including industry folks.

Note what's interesting in both cases. External evaluators seem to rate something well that is then rejected by the 'purists'. Why? Is it because the purists are too judgemental? The answer is, no. The simple reason why people who saw the 'wand' and the student reports evaluated it well was because they were just being polite. They did not have the heart to the tell the guy with the wand or the kid that their work fell well short of what is top-notch.

This very same scenario plays out in service encounters. A lot of times, service deliverers are fooled into believing that their services are top notch as no one seems to be complaining and when asked, most customers seem to appreciate the service offered. Beware, these customers are just being polite. Most people, unlike the popular notion, are wired to be nice, and so are not forthright in telling you that your service sucks. They just smile and walk away. They may come back if you are monopoly in your field, else they just move away to your competitor, or wait for the first opportunity to switch to a substitute or a competitor.

Unlike what most service people believe, the dangerous customers are not the complainers, as they verbalise their feelings giving the service person a chance to rectify the failure. The ones that are truly 'dangerous' are the polite ones as they keep their mouths shut and just walk away to your competitor. To ensure this does not happen, take extra care when you meet a polite customer because he is a potential 'switcher' and he won't even tell you about it!


Sandy said…
I agree with you 100 percent!!
I fall into the "polite" category.
The hutch/vodafone service was so appaling, that even after repeated requests and visits to their office I was left terribly unsatisfied.
I switched to Airtel and I have always believed Airtel to be a superb service deliverer,both in terms of quality of service provided and post sales.

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