Training Customers to Abuse Staff
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Several years ago, a female associate and I traveled to a convention. At the hotel there were long lines at the registration desk. Eventually advancing to the front, we learned only my room was available; my co-worker’s reservation was cancelled. The hotel, by the way, was sold out.
“Can you share a room?”
“Sharing a room is unacceptable.” I repeated our confirmation numbers.
“Your confirmation was cancelled.”
“But I didn’t cancel it.” It was then I realized a confirmation number meant nothing if a hotel intended to not give you a room.
At three in the afternoon not everyone had checked in, so there were rooms available. Though it was possible all rooms were booked, at that moment they were not yet occupied. I knew with a bit of persistence, we could get our second room.
First, I politely insisted they provide our second room. Next, I tried an emotional plea, but the clerk remained unmoved. I was getting nowhere.
I knew what I needed to do. I gathered my resolve and voiced my request at a much louder volume. The area was full of other guests waiting in line, so I garnered a bit of attention. It wasn’t long before the clerk excused herself and summoned the manager.
With a broad smile, the manager greeted me by name and extended his hand. He seemed well schooled in problem-resolution techniques – but so was I. Giving him an icy stare, I didn’t budge. Once I adequately communicated my agitation, I cautiously extended my hand, while maintaining my penetrating stare. My ploy was working, so it was hard not to smile. “I understand there’s been a misunderstanding about your reservation,” he calmly stated.
“There’s been no misunderstanding. I want the room I reserved and you guaranteed.”
He began applying his conflict resolution skills to calm me down, skillfully maneuvering me out of the lobby. I acquiesced so he could sense he was prevailing. He guided me to a chair and said he would see what he could do. He returned a few minutes later with the second room. For the first time, I permitted my smile to appear and shook his hand, sincerely thanking him. The whole ordeal of checking in took about thirty minutes.
I knew they would eventually give us our second room. Why couldn’t the desk clerk have the authority to assess the problem and solve it, without me having to act mad or her needing to summon the manager?
All too often businesses do this with their customer service employees. Managers make their staff take the heat from irate customers – who’ve learned to be abusive to get their way – without granting them the authority to resolve the problem.
Just empower people to do the jobs they were hired for, and everyone will be better off.
Customer Service Success Tip: Ask your customer-facing staff how you can better empower them to do their jobs and meet customer expectations.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.
He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.