Meaner by the Minute


July 1998


Meaner by the Minute

Consumers are losing their patience faster than ever, but you can tame even the most unruly

Every retailer has them: customers from hell. They're difficult (sometimes impossible) to satisfy and they're mean as junk-yard dogs. They account for between 5% and 10% of consumers, and according to at least one customer-service expert, they're getting more numerous and cantankerous year by year.

"Consumers are getting a lot less patient," says Karen Leland, coauthor of Customer Service for Dummies(IDG Books Worldwide, $19.99), quoted in a recent issue of Nation's Business."They're more apt to get fed up and annoyed than in the past."

What to do when an irate customer comes storming through the door? Follow these three steps:

  1. Apologize, even if you're right. You're in business to make money, not win arguments.
  2. Gather all the facts about the incident in question. "Interview the customer and any of your employees who dealt with the person and check records when appropriate," the article says.
  3. "Take action. Weigh the cost of the customer's demands compared with the cost of losing business," says the magazine.
And remember that neither you nor your staff needs to take abuse from customers. Leland recommends a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule. Tell the customer you'd like to help, but can't while he or she is using foul language. If the trash talk persists after two reminders, tell the customer you'll talk to him or her later.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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