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Some customers are just awful

Torrey Spoerer

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From early November through the final hours of New Year’s Day, retail stores and restaurants are about to endure their chaotic surge in customer traffic and increased profits from said traffic surge.

The famous — or maybe more infamous — motto “the customer is always right” has always been the top rule used to push service staff into giving an absolute priority to customer satisfaction.

Contrary to popular belief though, some customers can actually be a disaster for business.

“While it’s often said that the customer is always right, as a head manager, I don’t apply that motto in a situation where the customer is clearly starting to act demeaning and abusive to our store’s staff, who work hard to help every shopper in any way possible,” says Joyce Amano, head manager of the Village Hat Shop’s three San Diego stores.

It’s a fact that some customers are openly abusive of their power in many forms. Arguing for non-existent discounts, swearing and name calling, demanding refunds even after being told during the original transaction about the no-return-policy — the list just gets worse and worse.

Yet even then, countless managers, supervisors, and shop owners turn a blind eye repeatedly to the most awfully rude, cruel and childish behaviors from consumers and then demand that their staff keep a smile on their face for every second on the punch clock.

While it’s true on one hand that leadership must create a culture that is customer-oriented it’s also true on the other hand that said leadership must manage an environment where the workers do not feel like taunted zoo animals.

Abrasive and abusive customers make employees unhappy and fiend on unfair advantages. Many customers are don’t realize that some workers suffer from issues such as anxiety, depression, mental disabilities and so on.

It results in worse customer service when a business’ staff resent almost every moment they have to spend with customers and eventually resent their entire job.

According to Dr. Chad Autry of the Texas Christian University, the retail associate can be caught between two incompatible goals: maintaining that the customer is always right and doing what’s best for the company.

Most retail associates are woefully unprepared to handle this internal conflict. The result can be stress, turmoil, confusion, frustration, irritation, a growing dislike for the job and eventually seeking other employment. The result for the store is unhappy workers and high employee turnover.

As an on-and-off seasonal retail worker, it’s easy for me to relate to the dilemma of balancing those two incompatible goals. Workers often get told to make every customer happy no matter what happens, but within a restriction of store policies and while upholding the store’s foundation simultaneously all day and every day.

This domino effect is the basis for how a common genre of customers drive any business’ sales and reviewer ratings into a quicksand pit. Of course, there is inevitably very little hope of climbing out alive when one falls into a deep pool of quicksand, so it’s best for a business to not even fall into that quicksand pit to begin with.

It’s a matter of the difference between a customer-centric organization that achieves the greatest success as a unified team that listens to each other and sets clear, reasonable boundaries, and the customer-focused-only organization which allows customers to abuse them to the point of inevitable closure.

Overall, the truth for successful business owners is: Neither the workers or the customers come first before the other. Instead, they both come first together, hands locked.

Is this view realistic? Can the customers and staff come first at the same time? Not everyone may agree just yet on that question.

But want to know what’s real and in the now no matter what the popular opinion is? The massive turnover rates and inevitable closures for almost every and any job field in America.

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Some customers are just awful