Telling your customers they are stupid

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, fa...

The Marx Brothers: Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo (1931)

The other day my Mother-in-Law’s TV went wrong. It was only about four years old and was a well-known brand. It wasn’t cheap. I know because I was there when she bought it.

The lady is not able to get out of her flat any more. My wife and I needed a quick solution because being housebound and getting on a bit Mum relies on her TV quite a lot. We went to Britain’s largest supermarket and selected a TV off the shelf, having done a little on-line research first.

We took the TV to Mum’s flat and started installing it. We couldn’t get the stand on the fitting on the base of the TV. We read the instructions. Always RTFM if in doubt of course. There was plainly something the matter with the plastic moulding. It wouldn’t fit.

We telephoned the number on the receipt for technical help and were told to take the TV back to the store. This was a nuisance as we are busy people, but that’s what we did.

We arrived at the customer service help desk for electrical equipment. We explained our problem to a young gentleman at the desk and he took the TV into the back room. In the next five minutes, another four people asked if we were being helped. I thought that was a good sign of proper attention to customer service.

The woman who had been second to ask us if we were being helped emerged from the back room. She said that the plastic moulding on the stand was damaged. We said we knew that, and she then said that we were not covered for accidental damage. We naturally inferred that she thought it was all our fault, which of course was her intention.

At that point we were into the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup”. I thought “I didn’t come here to be insulted”.

My wife and I were insulted. I have been assembling gadgets since I was at school. My wife is good at DIY and can assemble flat-pack furniture very capably. Unlike me she does not have an IKEA phobia. If we couldn’t put this base on the TV there was something wrong with it.

We were left fuming for another five minutes after which the original young male assistant and the woman who had insulted us emerged from the back room. The latter said “part of the fitting was bent”. Yes, we knew that. She then produced the TV complete with fitted stand and said they had managed to fix it.

Well, of course we all had what we wanted. The supermarket had not suffered the cost of replacing the item or refunding our money. However we had been accused of vandalism and, effectively, dishonesty as if we had broken the item and tried to get a replacement by underhand means.

This is not the way to run customer service. The training should go beyond making sure that customers don’t have to wait and that they are being “helped”. It should make sure that customers are comfortable throughout the whole process.

The customer is not always right but, even when she or he is wrong, should not be told that. Customers should be treated with courtesy throughout. Don’t you think so?

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2 Responses to Telling your customers they are stupid

  1. Garry says:

    To be fair, when someone comes into a store, the people on the service desk do not know you are this great, nice person and all that. When you deal with customers, even on the phone, you only hear a voice on the other end that, but you have no clue who they are, what they are about or anything, plus you are only with them for a short period of time. You can only go by the facts in front of you and make judment about that. There are people out there who are not very plesent and knowing who is ok and who is not is a difficult job, one thing I have learn’t is to judge the situation by it’s merits, never to trust a smiling face, as I have been hit by smiling, nice, plesent people. When dealing with customers I do like to give the the benefit of the doubt and approach the situation fairly, plus not to jump into any jugment to early, before all the evidence has been look at. But when someone says to me “do you trust me”, unless you are a close friend, a close family member, or someone I have built up trust with, the ansewr in my head is no, but I will look into it for you and give you the the benefit of the doubt and have a look at what you are saying.

  2. Jon Stow says:

    Thanks for your comment, Garry. I appreciate that you may have been on the wrong end of abuse on the service desk. However, in dealing with customers we all need to be courteous so that they will say good things about our business. “They couldn’t have done more to help when my new laptop refused to boot” rather than to say “What have you done to cause this?”

    Rude customer service loses the company business because word gets around. That could cost jobs and is why it is essential that all customer-facing staff have good training which of course means amongst other things learning to deal with difficult customers, and of course when to call security.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

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