Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Customer is Not Always Right


“The customer is always right.”

“Good service is what keeps the customer.”

If you’re a manager, you probably have used these words with your employees. If a customer is snotty to an employee, too bad. If a customer tries to return merchandise that violates the return policy, the employee must remember “that the customer is always right,” even if it causes him or her to lose a commission.

And if a customer becomes hostile and throws coffee because it’s not hot enough, the employee is to smile and fix a new cup because “good service is what keeps the customer.”

But what toll are your words having on your employees? When you tell them to "smile" through experiences that shake them emotionally, then it affects more than their souls -- they suffer physically, as well.

What can managers do to help keep customers while not placing more stress on workers? Try:
• Providing a supportive environment. An employee who has been put through the wringer by a customer should be supported by a manager by being allowed to step away from the job for a while. A chance to take a short walk, or even take the afternoon off, can show the employee that the manager is sympathetic to the situation.
• Recognition. A manager needs to make a habit of recognizing the contribution that workers make to an organization, and the emotional stresses faced every day. Rewards and incentives show that the employee has worth.
• Show where to draw the line. It’s important that a manager stand behind an employee when dealing with an especially difficult customer. No employee should have to smile when they have food thrown at them by an irate customer. If you tell them they have to take it, then you’re showing you don’t value them.
• Providing coping skills. Many employees are not educated about how to handle abusive customers. They need information on how to stay calm when faced with an angry customer -- what words and body language to use and how to recover their composure after a tough time.


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Erika said...

This is a great post. Customer service is an important aspect of almost every job and can be the source of a lot of on-the-job unhappiness.

I think support from managers and co-workers is one of the best ways to help employees deal with problem customers.

Anita said...

You're exactly right. ALL of us have customers in some form or another, and some of them can be spawns of the devil. Managers owe their employees the knowledge that they have their backs.
Thanks for adding your comment.