Life from an outsider's perspective…

Customer service etiquette (for the customers, not the business owners!)

Customer service etiquette (for the customers, not the business)You hear so many people talking about how business owners should treat their customers, that “the customer is always right”. We’ll I’ve had one or two irritable customers so I’ve written this article with something different in mind: Tips on how to be a polite customer! 😛

  1. Communication is a two way street. Good communication is paramount in any transaction. If you write an e-mail message without any greeting, without even leaving your name, don’t expect an in-depth response.
  2. Respect is also a two way street. Business owners dedicate their lives to something they believe in. It takes unwavering commitment to run a business, therefore you should always treat the business staff with respect. Staff just don’t enjoy serving grumpy customers.
  3. Never resort to personal attacks or insults. This approach won’t ever get you very far with businesses. You’ll only succeed in offending them.
  4. Don’t expect that emails can or will be answered within 5 minutes. If you don’t receive a response, wait 24 hours. Sending more than one follow-up email will only clog their inbox and irritate the staff member(s). Realise that with any small business, there is more to running a business that administration work.
  5. If you do need an immediate response, try using the old-fashioned telephone! At least with my business, the humble telephone call is still the fastest way to arrange pro bike hire. Some people have an aversion to telephone conversations and must do everything via text messages and email… but know that it’s up to the business to decide the accepted communication methods, not the customer.
  6. Don’t be afraid to make requests, but don’t ever make demands! If you make a clear & polite request, it is likely to be fulfilled. Demands are not. I’ve seen customers so busy complaining that they fail to make a clear request until after a refund was given (by that time it was too late to do anything else); when they asked why the business didn’t try to resolve the problem sooner, the answer came back clearly enough: “because you didn’t ask; you complained so much we assumed you wanted a refund, which you hastily accepted”. This type of scenario could have been avoided by adequate communication on behalf of the customer and his preferences, via an appropriate request.
  7. Know your place. Some clients believe they are more important than everyone else and hence have naturally come to expect an unreasonable level of customer-service. Let me re-assure you: if you’re important enough to receive “extra special treatment”, you shouldn’t have to assert yourself – the business will already realise your highly-important ‘status’. I.e. ‘nobodies’ shouldn’t have an automatic right to special priveledges. Regular customers, yes, but nobodies are treated the same way as everybody else. 
  8. Don’t be insatiable. That’s right. Some people are NEVER happy. For example, if you whinge & complain too much, yes of course the business is likely to give you a full refund. But they’re also much less likely to resolve any real issues. I’ve witnessed customers who were treated politely by staff members & received a full 100% refund and yet were still dis-satisfied with the customer service. If you find the service isn’t up to scratch, don’t offend the staff by telling them how you think they should perform their job. The fairest business transactions try to achieve a mutual level of satisfaction between both the buyer and seller. I.e. the aim is not to screw the seller for all he’s worth.
  9. Tips are not compusory, although they are gratefully accepted. Most clients tend to judge the capabilities of a business then use this as a rationale for tipping at the time the bill is presented. The magnitude of the tip depends on the overall experience, the quality of the service, the amount of coins present, how rich the customer feels, etc. That’s exactly the way it should be. But the worst clients of all take advantage of this arrangement by “testing the business”; they’re generally rude & hyper-critical from the very beginning but also expect a premium level of service from the outset; when they don’t receive it they complain, and far from giving a tip they then use this “poor service” excuse to haggle over the asking price instead! This encourages servile, sycophant-like responses from all customer-relations positions. Rest assured, if the staff, or what I call the servant(s), manage to pass this test and receive a tip, they’re cursing you the moment you’re out of earshot. We don’t subsribe to this fake, contrived behaviour; human interactions don’t work that way.
  10. Don’t assume that overseas business is conducted in the same way as you are accusomed to. I’ve noticed that some countries in particular cannot grasp that other cultures differ to their own, including foreign business transactions. You can obviously expect a different kind service if you are in a different culture.

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