Some Customers Should Be Shown the Door
Occasionally in life you run across people who apparently believe that it is not only their right but responsibility to say whatever comes into their heads — no matter how obnoxious.
A point made by RetailWire BrainTrust member Carol Spieckerman in yesterday’s discussion about retailers that excel in customer service reminded us that many of these people find their ways to stores.
"Customer service is such a hot button, but another dynamic continues to strike me — more times than I can count, sales people, when I have remarked on the great service they have given, have replied that they appreciated how respectful and nice I was as a customer and how they weren’t used to it," said Ms. Spieckerman. "When I’ve probed further, the details are often shocking. Perhaps it’s time to have a conversation about the effect that rude, abusive, or entitled customers have on salespeople? I’m amazed how many salespeople keep their cheer and professionalism in spite of it."
We too have heard about and witnessed retail associates attempting to serve individual customers only to suffer verbal abuse for their efforts. On a number of occasions, the incidents went beyond what any self-respecting individual should have to deal with. But, in the land of the customer is always right, bad behavior is often rewarded by store management. Perhaps it’s time to apply the intelligent loss of business strategy to these types of customers, as well. It would do a world of good for the morale of the associates and, perhaps, improve job performance in the process.
A specific incident that we witnessed several years ago is a case in point.
A talented young woman who created all the chalk board signs and built displays for a local store (part of national specialty grocery store chain) was working the checkout one day. This particular woman had multiple tattoos (few that were visible) as well as a small nose ring.
On one particular occasion, an older woman, well known to store staff for her hostile attitude and small purchases, chose the associate’s checkout lane at the same time that the store manager happened to be there. Taking one look at the young woman, the customer sneered and announced in a loud voice how disgusting it was that a "freak" was touching her things and somehow contaminating them in the process. The manager stepped in and told the associate he would finish the transaction and she should go attend to some other duty.
Much of the breakroom talk following the incident centered around the manager’s action. While many of the workers appreciated that he would remove the worker from a hostile interaction, most were disappointed that he didn’t do more to stand up for her. What they wanted was for him to show the customer the exit door. Had he done that, he would have been a hero to his staff. Instead, he was just a manager; a nice guy, but not someone deserving of fierce loyalty from his staff.
Discussion Questions: Are consumers ruder today than in the past? Should some customers be called out by store management when their behavior passes the line of common decency?