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Kevin Cundiff

Customer Care

Six Surefire Ways to Insult Your Customers

When was the last time you were told your behavior was offensive?

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 - 14:34

Ask how you can help, always keep a smile, respond to requests promptly... the list goes on. You’ve probably been exposed to an abundance of tips and tricks about how to become more customer-friendly.

That kind of advice can definitely be valuable, but what you likely don’t hear—unless you’re a downright terrible salesperson—is what you’re doing that’s not so customer-friendly. These unfriendly things, that you may not even know you’re doing, are scaring away potential customers and sales, and eliminating return business.

A single action can change the tone of your sale in a second, steering it for better or worse. If your actions lead a customer down the path of bad experiences, it could affect your business well beyond that one person. Once an unpleasant interaction takes place, word of it can quickly make its way to other potential customers. A bad review here, a personal recommendation to bypass your business there, it all adds up—very quickly. When this happens, you have to put out fires and rebuild your reputation before you can return to the good graces of those valuable consumers again.

What’s the answer? Avoid a bad reputation altogether. By dropping these six insulting actions, you can do just that:

1. Getting irritated. You’ll have customers who inquire about every item’s price even though it’s listed on the merchandise, or customers who take what seems like half your day to make their purchase decision. It may be irritating, but if you let them see you’re annoyed by their actions, there’s a good chance you’ll offend them. Even if they go through with their purchase, once they associate your business with “that irritated salesperson,” they probably won’t be back. And they certainly won’t point other consumers to your company. Play it safe and keep a smile on your face.

2. Being inflexible. You’re not there to be the customer’s servant, but you should be ready to accommodate his needs—even if they seem outside the box. Try deviating from standard procedures now and then. It won’t damage your business; it will help it. Customers will translate your willingness to meet their needs as genuinely caring about them. All you have to do is be flexible and friendly.

3. Discounting loyalty. You’ve gotten your customers to come back again and again. Congratulations, but your job doesn’t stop there. If you want to stand out against the competition, you must do more. Show loyal customers that you’re thankful for their repeat business through each and every interaction. If you skip this valuable step, you could risk insulting the long-time loyalists who chose you over your competition. Although new customers are certainly important, these oldies-but-goodies are the ones who matter most in the long run.

4. Assuming. You may think it’s safe to make assumptions, but the only thing that’s safe to assume is that at some point you’ll insult a customer by doing so. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the kind of items she might like, her reason for making the purchase, or the price point she can afford; these assumptions can offend customers and turn them away from your business. To avoid insulting them with speculation, prepare questions in advance to discover the important information needed to steer the sale in the direction you want.

5. Criticizing competitors or suppliers. Everyone has had a bad experience with a company. It’s pretty much inevitable in the crowded space we call retail. When you bring those bad experiences up in front of customers, it could lead them to have a bad experience with you. Maybe you think your words are completely justified, but you can never be sure how the customer might feel about the business you’re bashing. Tearing a company down in front of customers could be offensive if they’re connected in some way. Save the badmouthing for your friends—not your customers.

6. Mocking a request. Even if you think a request is impractical, the customer doesn’t think so. If you poke fun at his request, it could make him feel self-conscious or upset. And the last thing you want is for the customer to leave your store angry. Meet every request with respect and concern to ensure happy customers and a healthy business.

In our evolving sales world, every single move is important, and these offensive actions can quickly drag your business downward. Train your team to eliminate offensive behavior completely to avoid upsetting customers.


About The Author

Kevin Cundiff’s picture

Kevin Cundiff

Kevin Cundiff serves as the vice president of warranty retail for Fortegra, a single-source insurance services company that offers a range of specialty program underwriting, credit protection, and warranty solutions. Cundiff leads customer experience and partner relationships in the Fortegra’s Warranty division (wireless, furniture, appliance, and jewelry). He focuses on data-driven analysis, team-member growth, and the overall development of the Fortegra organization. He previously served as the national sales director of Fortegra subsidiary ProtectCELL. Before joining ProtectCELL Cundiff worked as a secondary social sciences teacher.