By Danny Tyree
I just heard about a local business losing a major customer over a trivial misunderstanding.
Most of us hate change and maintain loyalty to a brand or retailer through thick and thin. True, this veers into creepiness in extreme cases, such as refusing to outgrow your old pediatrician. (“But I don’t trust anyone else with my ED issues, doc. Do you happen to have a lollipop and the latest ‘Humpty Dumpty’ magazine to ease my mid-life crisis?”)
And I know it’s difficult to relinquish trusted lawyers, accountants or other professionals. Which reminds me of my friend Dinsdale, his recently deceased insurance agent and the whole séance thing. (“Is that you that Madame Zelda conjured up, Frank? I figured you could give me some advice since you’ve looked at term life insurance from both sides now…”)
But occasionally, either an unforgivable one-off customer service faux pas or the steady drip, drip, drip of aggravations pushes consumers to the breaking point and unleashes their righteous indignation.
I know my wife and I switched propane companies because of the way management fired a sick employee. And we have sworn off a local restaurant because the waiter refused to honor the price posted on the front door (and the manager was never available when we tried to get satisfaction).
Cost, quality and timeliness can all be areas of concern. Have you ever had a relationship with an independent contractor that never quite got off the ground? (“This is Joe from The Turbo-Charged Handyman. Am I speaking to Mr. Eduardo Hickenlooper? Oh, Mr. Eduardo Hickenlooper the third? I guess that was your grandfather and father who left so many messages. Anyhow, we’re ready to schedule installing your asbestos…”)
Sometimes an obnoxious or incompetent individual employee is the bone of contention. Sometimes a systemic new store policy is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Such policies might include having to scan your own groceries, losing the right to free drink refills, discovering that the business automatically tacks on gratuities for the store mannequins, etc.
Sometimes clerks, mechanics, etc. are clearly in the wrong. Sometimes the customer is demonstrably unreasonable. And sometimes there is a gray area. But if the gray area involves 10 acres of landscaping, refer back to the first point.
Don’t get trigger-happy with the old “The customer is always right” gambit. Think about it. You mean all those fun-loving Gestapo agents were invariably in the right when they ran their errands? (“Ve haff vays of making you validate parking.”)
I’m not sure which is worse: the irate customers who launch into a profanity-laced spectacle in a crowded business or the people who fade away without telling management why or warning their peers. (“Hey, look at the headline, honey. Someone ELSE disturbed that nest of boa constrictors in the restroom at O’Malley’s Gym. Guess maybe I should’ve sent that Yelp review after all. Live and learn.”)
Strive for an amicable resolution of problems. Count to 10 before saying something you may regret, but don’t forget to show some backbone. Understandably, this is difficult if the backbone is the issue. (“I know this was just supposed to be a root canal, but somehow I removed your spine as well. My bad.”)
Discuss your problems like adults. Unless some booger-head has already colored all the pictures in ‘Humpty Dumpty’! Then tantrums are downright upright.