The Rise of The Customer Offender – Ruining Profits and CX
Ask any business leader about the importance of treating customers with courtesy and respect, and you will get a resounding declaration of their relentless quest to serve, delight, and wow their customers. Yet, too often the way customers are treated is exactly the key reason for them taking their business elsewhere. There are many underlying causes for this, but one leading culprit is: “The Customer Offender”
80% of companies say they offer a “superior” customer service, but only 8% of people think those same companies really do – Lee Resources
We have all been forced to deal with disengaged, nonchalant, upset, and outright rude employees offering us a service or product. After having begged for their attention, and at best receiving only average service, we are expected to be; “oh, ever so grateful”. This is a frustrating experience one should never have to go through as a customer. “But hey, can’t you see they’re busy?”
You may wonder why I am specifically mentioning the rise of the Customer Offender, after all, such behavior has always been around. As a social behavior this may be classified as “Incivility”, defined by Merriam-Webster as: a rude or impolite attitude or behavior. Here is the interesting part: A study conducted by KRC Research in 2013 found that 70 percent of Americans believe incivility have reached crisis levels, and KRC presented similar results this year. Despite the lack of similar studies for Europe and the rest of the world, there is little pointing to a contrary trend in those regions.
Ray Williams discusses this in an interesting article in Psychology Today, particularly pointing out the fact that 59 percent of Americans acknowledge having been uncivil themselves. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201207/the-rise-incivility-and-bullying-in-america This is happening all around society, between colleagues at work, and of course affecting the Customer Experience with 25 percent admitting on taking their frustration out on customers according to another research carried out by Porath and Pearson, summarized in a Harvard Business Review article, The Price of Incivility. https://hbr.org/2013/01/the-price-of-incivility/ar/1
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated – McKinsey”
Here is a recent experience involving not one, but a whole team of Customer Offenders: We recently hired a reputable moving company. As a team of three arrived on the day of the move, we quickly realized it was going to be a tough day as they had underestimated the manpower needed for the job.
Some missing tools were soon brought to the scene together by another four members of the team. And so, encouraged to see the reinforcements we hoped it would be a job well done, worthy of a generous tip.
This was the point at which the Customer Offender symptoms not only surfaced, the entire team turned into one click of offenders, the team leader first. The truck had to be somewhere else so it was chaotically emptied, leaving with four movers. The remaining two, visibly annoyed, and no longer responsive, did not pay any more attention to where things had to go.
When done, we heard them arguing loudly with the person having estimated the move and the work required. They did move more than originally agreed, but this sudden radical change in behavior and attitude left us with a bitter aftertaste from the overall experience. I leave it up to you to guess whether we will ever recommend or rehire them.
We come across the Customer Offender in all lines of work throughout society, often with an expression of: “It’s a bad day, you’re bothering me, and I’d like to do anything but serving you right now!”
Hold on for a second you may say: “At times even I’ve had those thoughts trying to serve my customers, does that make me a Customer Offender?”
Let us make one thing clear: We are all humans, and no one is perfect. What keeps us from becoming a fully-fledged offender is our internal controls and experience to prioritize kindness, put that crucial smile on, and serve and wow our customers. If needed, Fake it and bring it!
If you have a job without aggravations, you don’t have a job. – Malcolm Forbes
Avoiding The Symptoms
I recently wrote an article offering advice for customers to maximize their own Service Experience and so before we discuss how businesses may rid themselves of Customer Offender behaviors, here are a few non-exhaustive pointers for anyone interacting with customers, keen on delighting them rather than risking to offend and sending them directly into the arms of competition:
- Face your customer in a timely and kind manner, and give them your undivided attention! Smile, this will only help recharging your own batteries!
- Do not chat away or keep talking with colleagues when you have a customer waiting for your attention, an undivided one!
- Do not seek a shoulder to cry on with your customer! They may be very nice and understanding, and you may have a world of worries and problems, professionally or personally, you should still not share!
- Never allow any unpleasant scenes to erupt in front of customers, you may need to have a serious discussion with a colleague, who may even be a Customer Offender, but the customer should not see, hear, smell or even sense any tension!
- Try to save your company’s face at all times, remember that in the eyes of the customer you are the business and the business is you!
Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln
The “Five Rights” For Business Leaders
Let us now cover a few important action points for business leaders, who not only are keen on preventing Customer Offender behavior, but also interested in increasing their chances in continuously delighting customers:
Hire Right – Paying extra attention to the attitudes and interpersonal qualities of employees with regular customer interaction should be a matter of course when hiring.
Train Right – The right behavior is not dictated by a scripted manual, but through the communication of the ways to interact, stay motivated and engaged with customers. Zig Ziglar puts the continuous need for encouragement and training just in the right way: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Team-up Right – Bring together the capabilities and traits that merge into a strongly performing unit, keen on delighting and exceeding expectations.
Treat Right – A well-implemented company policy for respect for people, followed and demonstrated exemplary by management will go a long way to encourage the right behavior within teams and their interaction with colleagues and customers.
Incentivize & Reward Right – This is a powerful way to showcase the type of behavior the company promotes, and the fact that the corporate slogans are not empty words and promises.
As a business, you may be offering great products and services to your customers and clients, but all it takes is one single Customer Offender to start ruining the Customer Experience, and if not immediately corrected, the relationship and profits may be lost indefinitely. Involving, empowering and engaging your teams in the overall Customer Journey and Experience is more than ever the right path to take.
I welcome you to share, like, comment on and tell your own Customer Offender stories below. Remember that our sheer mindfulness about these symptoms, whether we are business leaders or the ones in service transactions, will help to make a difference and bring us closer toward the inevitable rise of the Customer Delighter!
By R. Max Behesht