You have to be mad to deal with customers, don’t you?

via BBC

via BBC

NewtalkZB publishes an AAP piece

A woman on a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea has complained about the noise of the sea, saying she had not been able to sleep well.

She demanded cabins be better sound-proofed against the sounds of the sea, while another who had booked an inside cabin, complained about not having a view of the sea and asked for a window to be installed.

The complaints are among a number listed by UK-based cruise travel agency Bon Voyage, and also include one from a man who complained about not getting a tan while on a cruise off Alaska.

Bon Voyage cruise development manager Steph Curtin says he comes across a few quirky complaints from time to time, like the passenger on a Celebrity Cruises ship, who wanted a refund because there were no celebrities on board.

Having just spent some time in public hospital, I’ve observed the amazing sense of entitlement people have when there is a server/served relationship.  The sense of entitlement changes the service relationship to a servile one, and highly trained, well intended people are treated like slaves.

I had a stint as a Customer Service support person standing in for someone on holiday, and I ended up internalising my need to tell people to go #### themselves to the point I needed physio to undo the knots in my skull, neck and shoulder muscles.

I really don’t understand people who can take that plain unreasonable abuse all day and come away happy at the end of it.  To me they’re amazing.  I’m actually suspicious of them at some level:  are they storing up all the evil to one day come out in some explosive way?  I hope not.

So what category do you fall in?  Are you the type to want to throttle customers as soon as they get a little demanding or can you take someone wanting you to turn the sound of the sea off while on a sea cruise in your stride?


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  • johnbronkhorst

    Understand one thing:…”The customer is always right!!!!”….No exception!!!!
    WHY???? …The answer is easy…because they are the ones PAYING the bill and without them you have no business or job!!!!

    • Seems to me

      Seems to me that you are regurgitating some crap from a management book read by an academic. As a general statement it has some validity. On case by case basis its quite often bollocks. Have run business to business and business to consumer(succesfully if I dont mind saying so myself) over the last 40 years and I can assure you that its good business to cut some crap customers loose(ie tell them to go away) as they are NOT RIGHT!!

      • johnbronkhorst

        Then you are obviously too stupid to understand……..NO CUSTOMERS….EQUALS no business and no business equals NO JOBS!!!!!!
        Staggered you survived 40 yrs with a crap attitude like that!!! Send away customers and the bad news (rightly or wrongly) travels fast!!! I run business to business and have won countless customers off of idiots that think the customer is an inconvenience to doing business!

        • Kimbo

          They are not right if their expectations are unreasonable.

          If so, a charging goods or service provider is entitled to cut them loose – and if they don’t they may end up wasting too much time and resources for it to be economic, including a downgrade in service to the reasonable customers while waiting hand and foot on the ingrates.

          But if a customer’s expectations has been created and nurtured by the poeple charging them money, then, other than in exceptional circumstances, they are right!

          • johnbronkhorst

            The richest and best in business have ALWAYS either met “unreasonable” expectations. or skillfully moderated customer expectation into the sphere of what can be achieved!!
            Always under promise and over deliver!!!
            I even tell my customers that’s what I am doing, if delivery can be made in 2-3 weeks, I tell them 3-4 weeks and tell them I am exaggerating for reasons a, b, c…or what ever.

          • Kimbo

            “The richest and best in business have ALWAYS either met “unreasonable” expectations. or skillfully moderated customer expectation into the sphere of what can be achieved!!

            Always under promise and over deliver!!!”

            Yep, that I can agree with. That is the difference between a lazy order-taker and a skilled salesman.

          • johnbronkhorst

            Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment!

          • Kimbo

            The problem with much of the “production-line” nature of customer (dis) service as the corportates implement it is that there is often little scope for exercising initiative and variation outside the, “you can have it in any colour so long as it is black” mentality.

            Which leaves more opportunity for the small and nimble….unless a future Labour-Green Minister of (stop) Trade and (lack of) Industry decides to regulate against that nasty thing called competition. My God, why hasn’t Wussel Norman demanded an enquiry?!

          • johnbronkhorst

            Agreed, one electronics retailer, sold electronic components along with TVs, DVDs computers and sundry box product. My complaint was always, when I wanted one component or other, I would go to the counter and ask. They would say” have you got the code for that” and I would say…”am I going to get paid your wages for doing your job?” Now, there are 1000’s of products in this store, 98% with barcodes so not requiring expertise. But the other 2% would not require much expertise or training to understand but the shop assistant (that they like to call an expert) showed no inclination to learn and the company no inclination to teach. I don’t shop there anymore!!

          • RightOfGenghis

            Under-promise and over-deliver. An absolute formula for success

          • johnbronkhorst

            Here’s one for you:
            Customer: I know I ordered the pink one and I know I’ve worn it for 6 weeks, but I really wanted the blue one.
            sales assistant: I see madam, there seems to have been a misunderstanding here, please let us know how we can make sure that you leave our store with EXACTLY what it is you want, in the future. Now if you will follow me, I’m sure that the garment is still available in blue and I will let you have it at the same price you paid for the pink one.

        • Dion

          The customer may be always right but being right is not an excuse to treat people like shit.

        • Dave

          John. Im agreeing with Seems To Me here. Yes, a customer is always right, but when you have many clients who are happy and many more customers to please and find, then if you decide to cut free a few noisy and difficult customers, it can free up resources to deal with new customers. This is very very often the case with DEBTORS. Years ago we CUT any client who was in 90 days for over 20% of total debt for anymore than 2 out of 4 months – it worked very well, we used resources to chase new customers instead of chasing money from existing customers. Profitability and CASHFLOW improved. Needs to be done nicely though! I called each client personally when we closed their account and invited them to pay cash.

        • Seems to me

          Dont be a plonker! Re read my post!!! SOME CRAP CUSTOMERS… including those that drive real customers away. Yes we scored many new customers by providing top level service…Its not rocket science.

          • unsol

            Completely agree with you – some customers are bad for business and they need to learn that despite being the ones with the wallet, they are not always right.

            It comes down to whether you are a good business (keen to provide a good product or service & willing to hear any constructive criticism so you can improve & ensure your business has longevity) vs whether they are honourable customers (able to give credit AND critique) or just schemers trying to get a ‘free lunch’.

        • Muffin

          You are wrong, if you are a good business you can tell the odd one to fuck off and it will have very little effect.

    • island time

      There are some people who should never leave home….they go on holiday to complain. There should be a website called “guest advisor” to counter some of the bull shit that gets put on “Trip Advisor”.

      • johnbronkhorst

        Perhaps, but if this customer is sent away with the perception that they were treated with disrespect…then that is what they and their friends with run around telling everyone. NZ in particular is a VERY small place, Bad news travels very fast around here!!

        • island time

          We never treat such customers with disrespect – inwardly boiling but outwardly nice!! There are always some outlier type customers though – I love the ones who eat their whole meal and then complain at time of payment….

      • unsol

        Trip advisor is fantastic – best way for customers to get a good idea on where the best B & Bs, hotels or restaurants are. It has never been wrong for us. We use it as potential customers & as reviewers with the latter being where we praise and/or constructively critique. In NZ I think it is pretty much spot on.

        Some people though, just like on here, forget that these businesses are made up of people with feelings, commitments & families trying to make ends meet like the rest of us. Sure some deserve all they get (the real scoundrels), but I would imagine those numbers are far fewer than what some review websites lead you to believe.

    • JC

      But then, the majority of people in our public hospitals are not net tax payers; people complaining about WINZ aren’t clients, they are petitioners; similarly people demanding ACC because they have just discovered they were abused as kids aren’t likely to be net tax payers and Teina Pora and family are hardly your classic victims either.

      Then there’s that other group who are indeed genuine paying customers but have expectations for the product far in excess of what they paid. These are the ones that can remember every tiny fault decades later and tell you about it.. over and over.


      • johnbronkhorst

        Your attitude in the dealing with customers/client end of the system is the same, either meet of manage expectation that is the skill required. When upset by a situation, we are ALL guilty of expressing exaggerated hurt or expectation.

    • Bunswalla

      JB you’re getting a little over-excited , not for the first time. I’ve run businesses for 20 years and I can tell you without fear of contradiction (by someone who has some clue what they’re talking about) that the customer is NOT always right. However, they are always the customer.

      I’ve learned that not all business is good business, and sometimes it’s OK to “fire” a customer. At the end of the day if they’re unhappy, and determined to be unhappy no matter what you do, the only sane option is to shake their hand, wish them all the best, and direct them to your competitor.

      • johnbronkhorst

        I understand what you are saying, BUT ask yourself…If my competitor can deal with them and make money out of them….here it is the BIG hard question….WHY CAN’T I???????

        • Bunswalla

          When i send them to you, it’s because they are unreasonable to deal with and I want YOU to have the problem. It’s fine in theory to say the customer is always right. In practice, that’s bullshit, and if you don’t know it then I hope to be in competition with you.

          If you want to be a slave to despots, good luck to you sir! Please, spend all your days trying to square the circle. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pick the low-hanging fruit, and fire any customers that cost me money by wasting my time. I’ll do it in the right way, of course, we call it throwing them over the side of the boat.

  • PlanetOrphan

    It’s easy , just ignore their existence completely.

    Spew a couple of lines … “How can I help ?” and “So what can I do ?”
    Then ignore them like a dog ignoring the cat on it’s Lawn.

  • Stuarts.burgers

    Do you know why being a Travel Agent is the best job when dealing with clients.

    They get to tell a lot of their clients where to go, and working in retail I wish I could do this sometimes.

  • peterwn

    In UK a woman moved to the countryside then complained about cows moo-ing. Judge gave her short shift.

  • And then there is always the classic where someone buys a house beside an airport…

    • Gary Lindsay

      Or a speedway

  • redeye

    On the same subject, I always found it amusing when I hear arseholes giving the waiting staff a hard time in restaurants BEFORE THEY’VE DELIVERED THEIR FOOD.

    • johnbronkhorst

      Sadly I have known people, DELIBERATELY complain in a restaurant, in order to get a free meal…and brag about any success they have. Some people are assholes. But deal with them badly and you lose far more customers than them!

      • Kimbo


        Does “deal with them badly” mean you give them a free meal? My instinct is that you don’t give freebies, because then they are no longer customers.

        I’m interested to hear your strategies to “skillfully moderate customer expectation into the sphere of what can be achieved!” in such a circumstance.

        • johnbronkhorst

          “I’m interested to hear your strategies to “skillfully moderate customer expectation into the sphere of what can be achieved!” in such a circumstance.” Have service targets with staff, Have a notice whenever you are busy, that service (due to the popularity of menu today) may vary from our usual time. Any dissatisfaction, will be compensated with voucher for either a free drink, entrée or desert at your next visit. This of course depends on the style and class (must be a better word) of restaurant.

      • Kimbo

        sorry, typo. I meant, “Does “deal with them badly” mean you DON’T give them a free meal?

      • redeye

        I think you missed my point. Personally I try to be polite to anyone that would have the opportunity to spit in my food.

        • unsol

          Same with hotel cleaners vs tooth brushes & the toilets they are about to clean….best to charm charm & charm some more & leave the complaints until after you have left or about to pay if at a restaurant!

  • All my customers are other businessmen but it simply amazes me at how otherwise professional successful people can turn into whinging halfwitted idiots the moment they become customers of my company.
    During the course of the long weekend alone I received have emails from customers (these are businessmen remember, not ‘Charlene from Mt Roskill’) complaining about a delivery being 7 minutes late last Thursday, an invoice not being correctly folded (!) in its envelope, a complaint about the time it took to unload at the port in Melbourne (god knows how that is my fault), the colour being not the right shade of blue, and a complaint about having to pay GST (as if I have suddenly turned into Peter Dunne).
    Let me assure you none of these sorts of complaints are in any way unique!

    • johnbronkhorst

      Divide them into things you can or could do anything about.

      Then divide those into things you should do something about and those that are general moans about the state of THINGS???

      eg. delivery 7 minutes late…I will have words with the courier (and do)

      invoice incorrectly folded, ask for instructions as to how they would like it folded, and you will follow through (bet you don’t get a reply with instructions).

      Port of Melbourne..answer, I do apologise we have notice this happening on rare occasions.

      Colour not the correct shade.. please inform us of the exact shade you expected and how it differs from our catalogue.
      GST since this is a general moan, no answer/comment required.

      • Kimbo

        Well done.

        Just one more question: How did someone with a Dutch name (johnbronkhorst) get so savvy on the need for FLEXIBILITY and humility and seeing things from the other person’s point of view when delivering customer service?!

        • johnbronkhorst

          Practice, cut my teeth on door to door sales of telephone systems. Try some of the colourful responses you get in that.

          A wise teacher of this (door to door sales) said

          “It’s about interpretation eg….Fuck off and don’t come back…really means come back in a couple of months when I am in a better mood, circumstances are different and..(most importantly), have forgotten your name and why you called!!!!!!!!”
          Thanks for the compliment!

          On all other things I am a typical dutchy, arrogant and opinionated!!!!

  • Steve (North Shore)

    I work in the engineering, marine and retail trade. By far the worst to deal with are the fucking schoolteachers. They are experts at everything, and nothing between the ears.
    Scary, they teach children

  • unsol

    No need to lie down & take abuse. And no one should. Such customers are bullies.

    Best way to handle the ‘difficult’ people is to cut them off when they start to head off into BS tangents, repeat back or clarify their query or requests, then give them the right information short sharp & to the point (yes I am capable of this….TRAVIS!).

    If they remain difficult, say you are going to end the ‘relationship’ until they are ready to address the issue/s at hand appropriately.

    It’s a bit like handling children. And you’d be surprised at what this approach will do – the combination of shock & indignation coupled with their determination to get the issue/s resolved means 9/10 they come round….all usually in a few minutes.

    • johnbronkhorst

      With the really difficult ones…try this.
      YES (in a loud voice) Madam/sir, I can see that if I were you (of course you aren’t them), I would feel that way! Now lets sit down and see what we can do to resolve this!
      Start out agreeing with them!!…arguments stop immediately!
      Be honest and tell them YOU intend to do something about it!
      Get THEM to write down what is wrong, encourage them to be as wordy as possible.
      These tricks are simple and used to take the heat out of the situation.
      But you MUST then (after they are gone) actually follow up and write them a wordy explanation of what you found and either post or EMail it to them (I suggest post as they then have something tangible in their hands)!!!

  • Bunswalla

    We should also remember the people in “customer service” that should never be allowed out in public, let alone be charged with looking after customers. I can’t stand it when approached in a shop or at a counter by some gum-chewing imbecile asking “are you alright?” I usually either tell them I’m fine thanks, and ask if they’re alright, or if I can be bothered i tell them, “no I have a big lump on my back that I’m really worried about, my wife just lost her job and the dog barked at me.”

    And that’s when the trouble started…

  • Steve R

    Whenever someone serves me or helps out in any way I ALWAYS say thanks . Surprisingly enough the same certicy is never returned when im serving someone .
    A smile and a thanks goes a long way .