Opinion

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Dear angry customer, you’re not always right

5 Mins

The recession has inevitably created a buyer’s market. Rightly or wrongly, everyone is convinced that you cannot do without their business and will go to any lengths to get it and retain it. They have heard the old adage that the customer is always right and apply it to anything and everything.

I hate bad customer service as much as the next man. My stress levels rise when I’m being put on hold, I despise wasting my day listening to regurgitated versions of Greensleeves. When I get through, I don’t wish to be told to ring a different number – I want to speak to the right person and I want to do it now.

Apathetic and disinterested voices down the other end make me angry before I start – and the sound of gum being wetly chewed down the telephone makes me boil. I don’t want to be asked how I am today by someone who obviously doesn’t give two hoots and more often than not does not listen to the answer before launching into their patter.

I do want to feel like I matter. Being made to feel anonymous rubs most of us up the wrong way. I want to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about, tells me what they are going to do and when and – shock, horror – actually does it.

Truthfully, I also suffer from the same prejudices as many, however non pc. I am more prone to believe I am treated seriously and something will get done if the voice down the other end is older or male. Terrible, but true. “Girlies” are immediately synonymous with ignorance and lack of authority.

All that said, there are the customers who are not always right. There are the ones who buy a product and declare your product is disgusting because they don’t like it – how tempting to tell them it is their fault for having chosen it in the first place.

Deliveries always bring out the worst in customers.  I have had customers demanding free gifts when a delivery was half an hour later than expected. This was during a London tube strike day when every road was at a standstill. Perhaps my favourite was a lady who, two hours distance away and just as the van was leaving one morning, told me she wanted her order within the hour and that she didn’t care how far I was away – because that was my problem. So sorry, superman didn’t come in to work this morning!

There are the ones who don’t pay or who demand freebies if you want their order. But strangely, continually doing work for nothing actually puts companies out of business. 

I understand that when something goes wrong, people are angry. They have the right to. But I don’t see the necessity to be overly rude to a poor person on the line who is genuinely trying to do their job. 

I also puzzle about some of the questions irate customers ask. Demanding to know why someone doesn’t care about their customers, why they provide bad service/goods is pretty futile. 

Of course, the customer is entitled to an explanation and when something does go wrong, I would vouch that I am as upset as the customer. It makes me cringe when we fall short. 

For all that I am tempted – when faced with the ridiculous – to respond, “Madam, I had been plotting how to make something go wrong with your order for months because there is nothing I like better than getting a bad name, losing money, and being shouted at!”

Jan Cavelle is founder of the Jan Cavelle Furniture Company.

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