Why Being the Demanding Customer Won't Always Get You What You Want
You Could Shoot Yourself in the Foot
Most companies and customer service representatives truly want to please their customers. Many customers are reasonable and make this easy. However, there are thousands of people who never seem to get what they want from the merchants they deal with. Although this can be the businesses' faults, often customers inadvertently create situations which actually prevent them from getting everything they're entitled to.
There are a number of difficult customer situations which usually end up in a deadlock, leaving everyone unhappy and the customer getting less than they could have otherwise. Some of them are:
- Screaming at a representative
- Double-teaming a representative
- Being extremely inconsiderate
- Constantly interrupting a representative
- Insulting company employees
- Bullying employees
- Requesting magic from the company
Many customers seem to feel that using methods like these make them seem powerful and effective. They don't. In fact, the long-term affects of the unpleasantness frequently erode a customer-business relationship, or even end it.
Basic Manners Go a Long Way
Yelling and screaming doesn't work:
No one can help you if you are shouting over the phone or in person. All this does is cause a disruption for everyone and delay a resolution to your problem.
What to do instead:
Take a deep breath before you walk into a store or call a business and decide to remain as calm as possible. Explain your situation. If you do not get results, ask to speak to a supervisor or manager. Basically, escalate the issue as far as you have to, but don't lose your cool.
Double-teaming a representative doesn't work (this is the practice of one or more people calling representative on a conference call):
When you call a company and put two or more people on the phone, it confuses the issue, extends the time it takes to resolve it, and creates confusion. If there's arguing between the parties, it becomes almost impossible to provide a clear resolution.
What to do instead:
Try to deal with issues one person at a time. If two people need to weigh in, have one person state their case, then the second, but let the rep know up front this is what you'll do. Avoid arguing while on the phone. If you must use a conference call (for permissions, etc.) make the connections before you call instead of asking the representative to wait while you call someone else.
Being inconsiderate doesn't work:
This is a general category, primarily focused on phone reps.
- Many people pick up a crying baby, then dial the phone to speak with customer service. The representative may not only be unable to hear, but, as a bonus, is treated to shrill sounds coming through a headset which she cannot take off.
- Very difficult customers who argue with a second, third, or fourth party while also arguing with the rep. Needless to say, in this situation it's a miracle if anything gets resolved well.
- There are callers who wait until they have five or ten minutes to call, then blame the representative for making them late.
What to do instead:
The short version is - for the best possible outcome, call when you're alone and have time to deal with the issue.
Nice Guys/Girls Really Don't Finish Last
Why interrupting a representative doesn't work:
No one ever called customer service hoping to be on the phone for a miserable, contentious half hour, but that can happen when you constantly overtalk and interrupt staff who are trying to help. Not only can they not determine your issue, but they cannot ask needed questions or explain your results.
What to do instead:
State your case as clearly as possible, then listen. Repeat yourself politely, if necessary. If you feel the representative did not grasp the problem, ask to speak to their superior. By keeping calm you have a better chance of getting what you want, minus the headache of an extended call.
Why insulting and bullying customer service doesn't work:
Customer service reps are just human, and all the training in the world doesn't stop them from feeling bad or resentful when someone insults them or their company. Bullying staff has about the same results. This can affect your outcome in many ways, such as:
- In an effort to end the unpleasantness and conflict, reps will probably give you exactly what you demand, then politely wrap up the call. You may feel you got the best of the person or business, not realizing that a different attitude might have netted you a better resolution, or even perks.
- Reps have more discretion than you think and often bend over backward to find ways to please pleasant customers. This doesn't mean they will give you poor service if you insult them, it just means you may forfeit some extras when you don't give them a chance.
- Some companies have a low tolerance for abuse and instruct customer service staff to release calls when a customer becomes abusive, especially if the attack is personal.
- There are companies which eventually "fire" customers who repeatedly abuse or bully staff or constantly make unreasonable demands.
What you should do instead:
Remember that customer service staff are willing and trained to help you. They want to correct your issues. As tempting as it may be to blame the person who answers the phone or is behind the counter, your problem is typically with the company. Give the company representative a chance to make things right. You may be surprised at how much they are willing to do for you when you approach them with a sincere, rational attitude. Mom was right - you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar (Although why anyone would actually want flies is beyond me.)
Businesses Can't Do Magic
Why asking for the impossible doesn't work:
This should be self-explanatory but, oddly, isn't. Everyone who has ever dealt with customers can tell a "customer from Hell" story:
- There's the woman who abuses the clerk because her two-sizes-too-small dress doesn't look good on her.
- How about the website user who reads nothing. creates a paid membership, then calls to abuse the website owner due to the bank overdraft charges he got as a result
- We all love the furious parent who returns the bike his child used as a battering ram. He claims it's defective because parts are falling off
Businesses cannot control customers' lives or the way they use products and services. Even so, most will try to help them anyway.
However, there are limits. Airlines cannot control the weather and get a passenger somewhere when planes are grounded. Grocery stores cannot produce items which they do not carry (although many will try to get it for future use). Utility companies cannot provide electricity during a hurricane. The list of impossible demands is endless.
What you should do:
Before making impossible demands of a business, consider whether there is another way to make it happen. If not, your energy might be better used trying to find an alternative or creative solution.