The Debate: Is The Customer Always and All Ways Right? - Tire Review Magazine

The Debate: Is The Customer Always and All Ways Right?

[Editor’s Note: The following was an unintentional exchange between publisher and reader that occurred earlier this year in issues of Tire Review‘s sister magazine BodyShop Business. Editor Jason Stahl wrote his editorial "A Customer’s View" in the July 2011 issue of the magazine, which elicited the "The Customer Is NOT Always Right" Letter-to-the-Editor response in September. We thought the pairing would offer tire dealers some interesting thoughts about customers and customer service.]

A Customer’s View

A recent run-in with bad customer service gave me the idea to come up with my own personal “Top 20 Tips on Improving Your Customer Service.”

Look, we’re all customers. Even you as a business owner are a customer. Think about where you buy coffee or electronics or furniture. Think about your trips to the bank or a restaurant. What honks you off the most when dealing with the employees of these businesses? What impresses you the most? Look through the eyes of a customer and you may be able to improve your own customer service.

So here goes:

1. Do not fight with or denigrate employees in front of me. Very tacky. Very unprofessional. And it makes me very uncomfortable.

2. Please demonstrate proper hygiene and be clean.

3. Do not appear to be mad at the world. Smile and be happy. Act like my transaction has made your day.

4. Do not appear listless and lethargic. Have energy and pep.

5. Do not socialize with fellow employees during my transaction.

6. Do not complain about your job to fellow employees during my transaction.

7. Make eye contact with me. Do not talk to the countertop or, in the case of a recent experience of mine at a computer service store, the monitor of my laptop.

8. Have answers to my questions. If I hear, “I really don’t know,” or, “I’m not familiar with our policy enough to know,” it will turn me off big time.

9. Don’t make me wait too long. Don’t have only one employee working at peak time when there is a line of 10 people waiting for service. Do something with me. At least acknowledge me and that you’ll be with me in a few moments. Or better yet, make me comfortable.

10. Make me aware of deals I didn’t know about. “You know if you buy two of those the other is half price?” Really? Cool!

11. Do not let me see you smoking outside and then come in and service me. At least do me the courtesy of a breath mint and hand wash, especially if you’re going to cut my hair.

12. Make sure employees’ break area is not within sight of customers. I don’t want to see a group of employees sitting around smoking and trading dirty jokes.

13. Do not tell me, “This is the only deal we have.” Work with me. Give me some options. Again, this happened to me at a computer service store.

14. Do not overload me with information. I don’t need to know all your store’s policies and the minutiae about your deals. Speak only to what is relevant to my purchase.

15. Do not ask me “Is everything okay?” more than twice.

16. Do not hit on me while I am doing business with you.

17. Do not talk to me as if I’m stupid or hard of hearing.

18. If I call your business, sound pleasant. Believe me, I will be the nicest person you will deal with all day. Don’t be short with me just because every other customer who has called that day was rude.

19. If I have a problem with the service I received or the product I bought, make it right.

20. Pleasantly surprise me. I did not expect a free loaner car and a bag of cookies when I took my vehicle in to get the heater fixed. I am definitely going back to that shop.

Was that 20? Oh shoot, I have one more. It’s tired and overused but so true: The customer is always right.
– Jason Stahl, Editor

The Customer Is NOT Always Right

I’ve been reading BodyShop Business forever. I’m in my 40th year in the auto repair business, and I’ve never really thought of doing anything else really.

I started out as a combo man when full frame repairs were the norm. I painted cars long before HVLP guns and downdraft booths were invented. I worked my way up to manager, then owner. I’ve seen lots of talented people in my travels, too. I’ve been fortunate to work in shops without DRP control and insurance restrictions. Now for the tough part.

In my years in the business, I’ve seen an unfortunate change in human behavior. Growing up, you were taught to say yes sir and yes ma’am. You never raised your voice out of respect for an elder. Well, those times are long gone.

Referring to your Editor’s Notes titled, “A Customer’s View,” when the heck did it become permissible to swear at a clerk? When did we as a society deem it tolerable to berate a counterperson?

I disagree strongly that the customer is always right. The millisecond someone starts a commotion in your place of business, it’s unacceptable. If you have a problem with a product and/or service, act like an intelligent adult and the results will be quite different, I guarantee you. No one, and I mean no one, has the right to act like you’re beneath them. They’re paying for a service and should expect to be treated fairly. The clerk, in turn, should expect the same. Just because you paid for something doesn’t give you the right to disrespect the other person. If I came into your home and treated you that way, the cops would not be far behind.

People have turned into animals when it comes to interaction with salespeople.

I’m sick and tired of being in line somewhere and, sure enough, a loudmouth starts up about his problem. How about: “Shut up and act dignified in front of the rest of the customers!” I don’t care about your problem, and neither do the rest of us patiently waiting our turn in line. What I care about is my transaction not going smoothly now that you’ve irked the salesperson.

With today’s violent attitudes and complete disregard for anyone else, I’m not about to take a gamble with my life. People have been known to cooperate fully with a person, only to end up dead on the floor of the store. You have to assume the next person in line yelling at you could easily take your life for a dispute over a few dollars. People just do not care anymore.

Having said all this, let me give you my own Top 10 List on how a customer should act if there is a dispute.

1. Tell me the truth. Do not tell me you just bought this item and it’s faulty. If
you cannot produce a receipt, it could very well be stolen, which means I’m
being scammed.

2. Tell me the truth. Do not say how you’re a “regular shopper,” and then I check the history and see no activity from you for the last six years.

3. Walk in like a decent human being. I’m not here to conduct therapy on your miserable soul. Truth be told, some people are just never going to be happy. If you’re unhappy with life, don’t drag me down with you. Shop elsewhere, it’s okay – really! The world will not end.

4. Please don’t swear at me. I wouldn’t swear at your son or daughter, so why would I let you treat me that way?

5. Do some research before you come in. Why waste a clerk’s time with nonsense about price and availability when you’re six months away from a purchase date? When you’re ready to purchase, that’s when you should come in the store. With world markets changing daily, you want a written quote?

6. Be reasonable. If you want discount store pricing, shop at a discount store. I can’t buy one million quantities of a certain item like the “big box” stores. I’m not in Korea making cheap junk to pass off on sheep consumers. I’m buying in smaller lots but using the best quality materials I can afford. No, I cannot or will not price match.

7. Learn how to negotiate, and appreciate what you get. Let’s not haggle for 15 minutes over the coupon you forgot to bring in. I pay a ton of cash to advertise, and I need to know what areas are producing results. Just because you hear another customer get a price break, don’t assume you’re next in line. They may have read the fine print on the advertisement and deserve the break.

8. Speaking of hygiene, brushing your teeth goes both ways. I do not want to smell garlic bagel breath at 7 a.m. If you use my bathroom, leave it clean for the next person. Again, I’m a human being also. I’m not here to go after you and flush god knows what.

9. Shove that cell phone up your @$%! How rude can you be to ignore me, in my store, while you chat it up about your partner’s skin rash? Courtesy goes both ways. If you want me to look you in the eye, put the phone down. All you’re telling me is: I don’t care enough about this person to stop and listen.

10. NEVER buy an extended warranty. They’re pure moneymakers for the store and are not designed to help you at all. Some people will strongly disagree with me here, but if you know what you’re buying, you don’t need an extra warranty. If you buy junk, expect to replace it sooner than later. People never read the fine print before accepting the warranty. You hit a pothole and blew out the sidewall, huh? Show me where that’s covered in the handbook. When you shop at discount stores, they beat you over the head with the extended warranty sales pitch. Okay, so now that I’m buying lesser quality products, you will warranty them for me? Come on people, let’s get serious.

Do I sound biased or grumpy? Yes, but keep in mind that when I’m not in my store, I’m in someone else’s place of business. I have to give them the respect they deserve. It’s not my place to humiliate them in front of other customers.

What kind of person takes delight in treating someone like that? The clerk is trapped behind the counter with nowhere to hide while you berate them with your petty little problems. If the store sucks, shop elsewhere. The store will then be out of business and you can verbally attack the next clerk. Remember, it’s not about who’s “right.”

This concept about “I’m entitled” is such rubbish. You’re entitled to be treated the way you treat others. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated?
– Dino Gibraski, retired collision shop worker, Lyons, IL

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