Crabby Customers Bring Companies Great Returns

TAKE a crabby customer smile and cash register sing. This is the secret of companies known for their excellent customer service – and outstanding sales records. Serving customers well, especially the difficult ones, is proof of a company’s dedication to customer service that in turn gains for them loyal customers.

I know how hard it is to serve crabby customers because I am one. But as soon as I am “turned,” my brand loyalty and my hard-earned pesos are won. After adopting the writers’ lifestyle which allows for a lot of strolling through malls (they say creativity starts in a mall – a standard excuse of creative people out on a lark!), I’ve become a crabby customer through long exposure to various types of mall-type establishments.

I’ve learned which stores have salespersons and which stores have, as I call them, “no-salespersons.” To define, salespersons are people who try to sell you something; “no salespersons” are persons who are supposed to be salespersons but are really not interested in making a sale. You will recognize the latter when they stare blankly, say “We are out of stock for that item” and refuse to move from their inertia or when they simply refuse to make eye contact with you and pretend to be busy with something or someone else. Usually these stores with “no-salespersons” really don’t have many customers.

Comparing customer service practices in various countries with the practices here in the Philippines, it appears that customer service doesn’t seem to be a strong point of Filipinos working in the Philippines. This may be an exaggeration but Filipinos seem to be the worst when it comes to customer service. The other way around may also be true: Filipinos may also be the worst customers. Assuming these statements to be true, why are these so? Perhaps it’s a knee-jerk reaction to colonial mentality. Unwilling to be oppressed further, after 300 years of colonial rule, Filipinos refuse to serve and prefer to be served instead.

Many salespersons may just be in their jobs because these are the only ones they can get and may, consciously or unconsciously, think their work to be “demeaning.” On the other hand, being waited upon is considered a status symbol hereabouts. Observe how some Filipinos treat fast food crew like domestic helpers.

But what a great misperception! Customer service is the greatest honor of all because it is the front-line interaction with people who give the company employees and consequently, the salesperson, the revenues that bring dignity of life to everyone. Salespeople who have this attitude serve with dignity and joy, customers who have this view treat salespeople with dignity and respect.

To make customer service work, salespeople and customers alike need to know the etiquette of “serving” and “being served.

Here are some tips for serving the customer excellently:

1. Look into the customer’s eyes when he asks for a product or service. In other words, pay attention to the customer. How many times have you observed waiters milling about in the restaurant but seemingly not noticing the customer frantically waving his arm? Or the pharmacy assistant at the drugstore who looks down while customers crowd in the counter? Aside from paying attention, attend to the ustomer. It is not irritating to see a cashier chattering to a bagger at the supermarket checkout counter as if that were her main work and punching in your items just a sideline?

2. Don’t ask the customer for change when you have change in your cash box. Coins are extremely hard to get and it will take your customer sometime before she fishes them out of a huge bag. Meanwhile, other customers are impatiently waiting in line. And place the change, especially coins, in the customer’s hands. Of you place the coins in the counter for your customer to get, a lot of time is wasted as he takes them one by one.

3. Strive to offer the customer an alternative product or service if the one he is asking for is not available, when available, ask him if he would like to try some other style. Don’t just say “we don’t have it.” A customer wants to buy. Make it easy for him to do so. Otherwise, you won’t get a sale.

4. When the customer complains, take his complaint at face value and not think he is out to pull a fast one on you. There is, almost always, a valid reason for his complaint. Why should he make a fuss in the first place and put himself out of sorts for no reason?

5. Don’t make the customer feel she is a disturbance to your work. She is your work! When a customer asks for something and you happen to be busy with another customer, just acknowledge her presence cheerfully and say “I’ll be with you shortly” rather than say, “Wait a minute. I still have somethings to do.

On the other hand, here are some tips for treating salespersons with respect:

1. When they greet you, smile and greet back. It’s not a same to look them in the eye and show that you recognize them as persons and not doorkeepers.

2. When you are satisfied with their service, thank them. It will make their day. This is what is called psychic income. At least, even if they don’t get executive salaries, they wll get executive-type psychic income.

3. When you call their attention, do so with a smile. If they are busy with another customer, wait for your turn. Then, make your request.

4. If you have a complaint, explain the reason for your dissatisfaction calmly and point out clearly what you expect. When they address our complaint, show your appreciation.

5. If the salesperson does not treat you with respect, you have the freedom to leave the establishment and not buy their products or services. But do so quietly. Their declining sales figures will clearly show that they have not served their customers well.

Quality customer service gives companies the competitive edge they need to survive in this highly demanding market. On the other hand, being an excellent customer will give you more access to highly valuable products and services. With these practices, we can give customer service in the Philippines an excellent name.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer January 23, 2002.

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Founding Editor, People at Work, Business, Phiippine Daily Inquirer

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