FRIGHTENINGLY TOUGH CUSTOMERS.
Customers are the lifeblood of your business.
Lady with the plastic bag.
‘ I was working for a well known book retailer, and it was the week that the plastic bag charge came into force, we had to charge everyone who asked for a plastic bag 5p. It’s not a lot of money, and the whole idea was that it would wean people off taking plastic bags unnecessarily. It was an unusually busy day, and we were short staffed, so things were a bit harder and busier than usual anyway. As I am serving at the till, the queue is getting longer by the second, it’s hot, and people are losing patience, especially as the self-service tills keep breaking. Behind the till we often had to do other things beside serve customers, such as check lottery tickets, give out vouchers, sell cigarettes etc, so some transactions took a long time. Eventually a woman comes up to the desk and is buying a card a single greetings card, nothing too fancy. I ask ‘would you like a bag?’ since they came in various sizes (such as greetings card size) she says ‘yes please’ perfectly politely. I then say as it states in the law ‘ok, that will be 5p extra, is that alright?’ The woman looks at me defiantly and says ‘no, I refuse to pay’ that’s fair enough, so I offered her the card and asked for the next customer. She refused to move. I offered her the card again. ‘I would like a bag’ she says. I say ‘well, you have to pay 5p ‘ She refuses. I say ‘ I have to charge for the bag, it’s the law now.’ She says ‘ I know, but I refuse to pay.’ The queue has now doubled in length at this point, and is getting restless, a woman 3 places back shouts ‘I’ll pay the f*****g 5p’ and chucks it at me. The woman still refuses to move. ‘I’m making my point’ she says. Making a point about what? And why? It’s 5p for a plastic bag, not some profound political statement. I eventually caved and gave her a bag. It was amazing the lengths some people will go for something so trivial. ‘
What did you learn from this?
Customers are savvy, and know their rights (or think they do), customers really have their choice when it comes to retailers and are not willing to compromise in their experience, if they have a bad one, they will go somewhere else. So your service is the difference between them coming back or not. In this kind of situation you can only stand by company policy for so long, you ultimately have to use your own judgment, and sometimes it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask permission to give the best experience.
Tech company phone horror
‘ I worked for a large computer company that had in-house servicing. There were not that many stores in the area where I lived, so people came from miles around to visit, mainly for the servicing. You had to book in advance really, because it got quite full very quickly. But we often got people who hadn’t booked in advance turning up for whatever few spaces we had remaining.This one afternoon a family of four turned up and the father explained to me that he was desperate to get his phone fixed, as he needed it for work. There were a few basic things we could do to see if that solved the problem, (hard resets, plug into power etc.) But his phone refused to turn on no matter what we did. With suspected battery failure we looked at the next available appointments with our tech team and that particular day was very busy with no spaces. The only available times were for the next day, so that’s what we said. ‘You don’t understand the man said..’ visibly irritated. ‘ I came all the way from Plymouth! (plymouth didn’t have a store yet, it now does.) Now, anyone who has worked in this kind of environment will tell you that you feel powerless in this situation. There is basically nothing you can do. ‘ Well, I’m sorry sir. We are fully booked, other people have come from all over and the fairest system we have is first come first served.’ This didn’t appease the gentlemen who proceeded to berate me in front of his wife and children. The rest of the store was shocked, I can’t say what he said. I eventually appeased him by booking him in with a friends business that did similar repairs nearer to where he lived, it wasn’t a company sanctioned solution but I had to do something to stop him. My friend told me he was just as bad at their place. ‘
What did you learn from this?
Customers rely on their devices, sometimes they can’t live without them, and if they have travelled a long way in a need to get it fixed then it’s obviously frustrating. But there is no excuse for his attitude. I feel like I went above and beyond really. You try to help everyone, but sometimes it’s out of your hands. I was lucky this time, as I had somewhere to send them.
As an extra, we got a quick comment from a designer, who has spent a fair amount of time freelancing.
‘ I’ve had plenty of nightmare customers, unpaid invoices, bad briefs, conversations that never happened, being blamed for their own bad judgment. Once being told i won’t be paid because i’m a FREE lancer. I wish I was kidding. Most of my customers were lovely, but all it takes is one severely bad experience to put you off them for life.’
What did you learn from this?
‘Always be clear what you are providing, for how much, and get any formal agreement in writing, whether that be an email or something else. It’s useful for clarification and for proof when a dispute occurs, and it occurs more often that you’d like. Best be prepared ‘
Got any other customer horror stories? Get in touch with @memberoohq on Twitter or Facebook !
Give your business a loyalty boost
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