There's no substitute for simple human concern and simple empathy when things go wrong. A human response can soothe the savage customer, and create an opportunity for useful communication. Starting from a posture of defence -- "we didn't do anything wrong" -- is almost always the wrong thing to do. You may 'win the discussion,' but lose the customer.
Here's a great example of how a customer who goofed [me] tried to get some help, and instead was turned into a raging virago of emotion by the defensive and unsympathetic posture of the service staff. [At least the gas station is still standing. Thank heaven for small mercies, as they say.]
I was putting gas in my shiny new Vespa 150S yesterday after riding back from a meeting downtown. So the bike was naturally pretty hot.
I guess I made a newbie mistake, thinking that most pumps will stop pumping when the tank is full. [I mean, I've only put gas in about four times, heh, heh. And some pumps do stop, even with my wee bike tank].
You can imagine my state of mind when I realized gasoline was pouring all over the hot exhaust pipe and puddling around my feet. Yikes! After shutting off the nozzle and stepping back to assess matters, I used the handy intercom. "We'll look into it" was what I heard.
That didn't sound too promising, but thinking help would arrive, I waited. Another try at the intercom generated no answer. Then I moved the bike away from the pumps and went into the store.
Now there are a few things the store operator could have done. He could have said any of these things, which would have been great:
- "Are you OK? Is there a lot of gasoline, do we need to come out with some sand? Is there a fire danger?"
- "Wow, I can see you are upset. Why don't you grab a coffee on me and wait while your bike dries off before you start it up."
- "Hey, that happens sometimes, really sorry. You can't trust these pumps with a small tank. I was just heading out there to throw down some fire retardant."
Instead, I got a little lecture about how it wasn't the fault of the pump, it was my fault. No concern for the people standing around at 11 other pumps while a puddle of gasoline was waiting to do something ugly. And some pretty bad behavior on my part as I realized this guy a) didn't care about me, b) wasn't the least bit worried about a major fire hazard, and c) thought I was wasting his time and upsetting the giant line of people trying to buy a Tim Horton's coffee. There's little doubt that they heard me talking about "risk of fire, and you don't seem to want to do anything about it!"
So who's right here?
If that's the question you asked, you are asking the wrong question. It doesn't generally matter who is right.
Customers do screw up. And you need to help them calm down and fix their problem. And fix your problem, too, if they created one for you.Yup, clean up in Aisle 2. And a little empathy with that mop, too, if you want this person to ever darken your door again.
Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows, by Lesley Gore.