I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I decided to write another blog. I don’t want to feel compelled to put something up just to do it. With that being said this topic is something I can no longer ignore.
I’m not sure who came up with the phrase “The customer is always right” but I would love to take a running start from 20 feet away and kick them as hard as I can in the balls. Yes.. I assume it was a guy because we have a tendency to say stupid stuff without thinking. It’s in our DNA.
Having been in the customer service business for 25+ years Ive seen an evolution that no longer looks like it did back in 1992 when I started delivering pizza for the local fox’s pizza shop. I can hardly remember a time that customers would get so pissed off and irate at a mistake that you would question whether delivering pizza was the right job for you.
Seriously, just because your life sucks, you cant manage your finances, and your spouse is cheating on you doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole with people that are in a position to help you. I doubt people in customer service wake up in the morning and say “ I cant wait to get to work today so I can not help you with your problem.”
Everyone out there has heard of the 80/20 rule. It’s no different when it comes to dealing with the general public. 80% of the frustrations, issues, drama, and anger come from 20% of our clients. What makes this small group of people so angry, entitled, and rude? More importantly why do we tolerate this behavior and continue to enable them by allowing them to wreak havoc on those trying to help?
Here is another quote I heard recently that sends chills down my spine.
“The customer is at the center of our business”
Wrong! My employees are at the center of my business. By keeping them happy everyday they will in return make you happy Mr. & Mrs. Customer. If you continue to act like a undisciplined child you quickly lose credibility and every time you call the office and your name pops up on the caller ID. They will pretend to be busy in an effort to not talk to you. Not because they don’t want to help you. Its because you have wore them down to a point in prior interactions that dealing with your behavior is worse than any discipline they face from their manager.
With unemployment at an all time low its not hard finding a new customer service job. Companies are spending billions trying to create great customer service. Go search the job websites and you will see for yourself that 75% of the jobs out there are for customer service. Why? Because companies are having an issue-keeping people happy daily in what is becoming one of the worst jobs in America.
Disrespectable customers will eat up all your time, energy, and money. Im going to focus on the money part first. I’m in an industry where clients pay a lot of money on a monthly basis to hopefully have a policy in force in the event they need to use it. The reality is 90% of the money does not go to me. It goes into a pool of funds designed to pay claims for those that are actually using their policy. That leaves a very small amount of money left for me to run my business on a daily basis. Its not until I have a very large client base that I have a steady enough revenue stream to run an effective business. What this means is that one client contributes very little to my overall revenue stream yet we continue to allow them to suck up the majority of our resources. Trust me when I say it’s the same people every week or month.
Just this week I had a belligerent client call the office 8 times to complain about her bill. She can’t pay the amount she owes because she hasn’t made a payment in 2 months. Because of this it’s our fault that we wont accept a partial payment on what has become very large sum. She yells at my team because we wont work with her. She threatens to leave us, yells at my customer service team, and only after shopping around for another company realizes that in fact she is getting a great deal on her insurance. As you can imagine the last call is a very calm and civil. She thinks its totally acceptable for us to forget the prior seven conversations with no apology to anyone that tried to help her. Its too late… the damage is done! You have lost respect by everyone that has tried to help you. In the end all we want are client to engage us in reasonable conversation. I have no problem using my limited resources on those that are reasonable and can have a normal conversation without getting all bent out of shape. When you escalate the conversation to yelling, rudeness, and threats Im done. Move along.. your business is no longer welcome here. No matter what my team does it will not be good enough for you. I can no longer allow your interaction with my team suck up energy and put everyone in a mood that will cheat the next person out of a great experience.
Management must defend their employees and keep them away from these toxic customers. If you don’t show them that you have your back you will quickly lose credibility with your own team. No amount of money is worth having an office full of miserable employees.
I don’t want to give the impression that these interactions are always bad for the business. If done in the proper way it’s a great way for us to learn how to correct our mistakes. The only way we can get better at servicing our clients is through reasonable dialogue. I don’t claim to always know the best way to serve our clients. With some many needs and personalities we have to remain flexible and in tune to their specific needs. In order to get to this position we have to remain open minded and willing to learn. A satisfied client base is just as detrimental to a business that wants to grown and get better.
So, stop enabling this behavior. Stop allowing them to threaten you with negative reviews on social media if you don’t bend the rules. Stop allowing them to suck the life out of your team. And more importantly start managing the client’s expectations early on in the relationship. Tell them that it is our job to help them and we will do everything in our power to make them happy within the rules but we will not tolerate rudeness, threats, or childish behavior. Sometimes the best way to brighten the room is to leave it. There are a lot of businesses out there that are desperate for your money. I sir am not one of them.