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The Customer is always right, is WRONG!

In response to my post titled, 'Acknowledging a complaint', one of my students narrates an incident that she witnessed at a retail store in Bangalore. The billing clerk accidentally billed a customer who was not exactly the first in line. This got another customer furious, as he felt he should have been billed first. He got to point of being abusive even though the billing clerk, a lady, tried her best to explain why the mistake had happened. This customer then went on to call the store manager, resumed the shouting spree, telling the billing lady to shut up and bill. The store manager on his part, kept mum, and did nothing to manage the situation.

I guess most of us have witnessed such rude customers venting their anger in the most inappropriate of ways. How are such situations to be managed?

I am reminded of the case of Mrs. Crabapple and her patronage to Southwest airlines. She frequently flew on Southwest and was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere. Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’ In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

Now that's the best response to some idiots who as customers make employee lives miserable. In this particular case, I am sure it would have been impossible even for the store manager to tell off the rude, abusive customer. I am pretty sure the management of the store would not have taken kindly to such an act. Plus the billing clerk had erred. Therefore trying to calm the situation down would be the best approach. For this, the store manager has to take ownership of the 'situation' and control the rest of the proceedings, whatever they may turn out to be. From what was narrated to me, I feel the 'calming effort' may not have worked. In such cases, the store manager must later direct his efforts to helping the billing clerk cope with the trauma that lingers from the encounter.

But remember, at times, it makes good sense to give the customer the boot!

Read the Top 5 reasons why “The Customer Is Always Right” is wrong here.

Comments

EASY said…
YES, the customer is always right. There vare always oddball examples to the opposite, but people in sales should see the bigger picture, like this:
http://www.ronmartin.net/blog/archives/559
Ray Titus said…
Hmmm....
Check out the book, 'The Customer Comes Second' by Hal Rosenbluth...
( http://www.amazon.com/Customer-Comes-Second-Hal-Rosenbluth/dp/0688132464 )

Lotsa truth in what he says...

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