Nothing should shock me any more. I’m considered a resident of the Home for the Bewildered; honoured by punks who address me as ‘Grandad’; checked out by females who look like Whistler’s Mother and generally treated as if the autumn of my life has turned distinctly snowy. Yet contrary to popular belief, age does not insulate you against disbelief or observed stupidity. Just yesterday, I read about a caring business owner who in response to a customer complaint, promptly banned the customer from his store, abused her, used foul language to describe her complaint and harassed her all the way through the car park to her car.
So why am I shocked, bewildered and concerned? Well it’s like this. I don’t understand what would possess this dunderhead to act this way believing that any part of his bizarre behaviour could benefit him or his business? I’m not shocked that people react the way they do, but I am gob smacked that a person who owns a business would exercise his mammoth ego in this way and return home for tea with the wife and kids and proudly proclaim his actions as “part of a great day”.
I’m going to rationalise this out loud, so we can all make some sense of it, I have to – it beggars belief! The customer believes she did not receive the product or service she paid for, she complains, that’s not the world’s best news when you’re running a business. Common sense [whoops I used that term again!] dictates that you first try to remedy the problem. Tell me if I’m wrong here? – But not our resident genius, he throws the customer out on their ear. Now he’s not simply lost a customer but hundreds more who she’s going to tell – or as she did this time, thousands more who read her distress in the newspaper. And to top it off, the fruit loop makes it even worse and, wait for it there’s more as they say in the ads – he follows her to the car park abusing her all the way and he’s managed to attract a crowd. This is spin with a washing machine thrown in. He’s grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory – a triumph – a masterpiece of strategic thinking – a case of assertive resolution.
What our ‘not so sane’ business owner has just engaged in is a manifestation of stupidity unmatched by even the most redundant politician caught with his crown jewels in a silk purse. Yes, our friend has fed his ego instead of feeding his family.
Service is first and foremost a labour of love. You either deliver it willingly and without wanting something back or it eats you up like a ‘Malcolm Douglas’ crocodile. What’s worse is that by the use of strong leadership; sensible and dignified behaviour and a commitment to excellence this situation could have gone down as a pure unadulterated, all round, WIN for the business and the customer. One quiet sentence; one word of apology; one offer to make good could have turned our buffoon into a hero.
The lesson here is unequivocal and as clear as a Scandinavian fjord. EVERY COMPLAINT IS AN OPPORTUNITY. When you fix a problem for a customer they hail you louder, longer and with more adulation than they would if they hadn’t experienced the problem in the first place. It’s lemons into lemonade. Now, whoever you are, don’t you feel like a pillock?