I was standing in a lineup at a customer service center, waiting to return a cable service unit. There were three people ahead of me in line. Without really wanting to, I ended up listening to the interactions of all three with the customer service rep.
In a nutshell, two of three were what customer service people probably refer to as “customers from hell”. Both were angry and impatient right off the bat. To my ear, the service rep did a credible job in listening and trying to do what he could – not the best I’ve ever seen, but far from the worst – but these two were apparently intent on not being satisfied, no matter what, leaving more agitated than when they came.
I know it’s fashionable to carp about the “death of customer service” and I’ve undoubtedly had my own moments of stubborn customer intransigence to satisfaction. But I wonder if “the customer is always right” is a business principle needing some retooling.
What you permit; you promote. Politely turning the other cheek to rudeness, unreasonable demands and incivility generally doesn’t do anything but licence it as acceptable social behavior.
In my line of work, the obvious example is judges. With few exceptions, they’re pretty much immune to censure for anything they do in their courtrooms. Being bristly, rude and impatient doesn’t even earn consideration as a minor infraction in the realm of judicial misconduct.
Often, right before your eyes, it’s possible to watch a previously social and civil person evolve into something quite odious, akin to a spoiled child prone to tantrum behavior – not all judges, mind you, but enough to note that it’s not an isolated phenomenon. Around the profession, it’s called “judge-itis”.
I don’t know if my impromptu sampling merits the conclusion that 2/3 of customer service encounters are with difficult and strident people, but it does keep me wondering whether customers are increasingly reaping what they sow.