Thursday, June 10, 2010

Maintain your integrity

Lately it seems like a lot of people are experiencing difficutly dealing with people and having a short fuse. Customers and clients are expecting the sun, moon and stars, but want it all at a lowball price. This seems to hold true across the board in a number of different industries, not just where horses are concerned. Ask them and they will tell you just how much they know about each and every, sometimes any subject.

As a consumer, I expect to pay a fair price for things, but in return- I expect fair customer service as well. I expect things to hold up or last for a reasonable amount of time and figure the price of some things in relation to the quality of materials and manufacturing that went into them. Is that asking too much?

On the end of the manufacturer, I expect them to look for quality materials and hardware, well skilled craftsmen to assemble things and I don't mind paying a little more for a well made- anything... be it a washing machine, truck or a toaster!

If it should break or stop working under reasonable use and conditions, within a short period of time after its acquisition, I also expect to be treated fairly when the item is either returned for replacement or repairs. I don't "go off" on the customer service rep, because in all actuality- they didn't design or make the product that broke of failed, they just answer the phone.

I have worked in several customer service positions and having been on both sides of the fence so to speak, you get a lot further if you don't scream at anyone. State your case and be realistic. If things are not worked out to your satisfaction, ask for a supervisor and get the names of the people you speak to. Ask for the phone number or a direct line where they can be reached if any further issues are to follow.

Having worked in manufacturing positions, don't try to pull a fast one and ask for replacements or repairs on somethign you intentionally or even accidently broke because you didn't use it correctly, had it adjusted wrong or set it where it got in the way or didn't belong.

There have been times in the horse industry, my husband or I have told people to get lost, go pound sand or forget it. You can tell they are 'full of it' and expect you to drop everything, cater only to them and give them a special deal, meaning reduced rates on everything. Customers like that are bad for business. They end up costing you money in dealing with them and possibly running off potential clients in the long run. When you kick them to the curb it can be quite liberating!

So how do others deal with people like this? I have found a few ways of doing it, but it's always good to share thoughts on ways of handling difficult customers/clients. Sometimes the best way to deal with them is to be quiet. Others require honesty, tact and common sense. Occasionally there is humor to be found in dealing with them. What has worked for you?


  1. I myself have been in customer service for more years than I care to count (half my life, literally). I've been in soooo many crazy situations; I've probably forgotten most of them.

    Two of the more memorable ones - ten years ago I was working for Linens, Plus + More (PV Mall area) and 2 months after being hired, they went bankrupt. They brought in one of those retail liquidation companies to handle what merchandise was left in the stores. Yellow Signs EVERYWHERE No Refunds, No Checks - Cash and Charge Only. The higher off the stuff went, the crazier people became. Lines out the door kinda stuff.

    Got one customer who was angry we wouldn't return a credit card purchase from 2 days prior. Reciept says All Sales Final at this point. No Refunds being given out at all - signs everywhere. He holds up a line that snakes 2ce around the building to yell and harrass ME. Like *I* have anything to do with the policies, right?

    After nearly 20 minutes, he finally leaves under threat of police escort. COMES BACK an hour later with Channel 3. We were DUMBFOUNDED. They walk into the store, start setting up their camera equipment, reporter is just eyeing all the people like a shark after fish. Boss immediately calls police - and the entire store shut down operations, with people still in line for another 30 min so they could get the camera crew out of the store with a police escort. Was the craziest day I'd ever had up to that point. You can just imagine those that were in the back of the lines - we had angry people the rest of the day - it was horrible.
    I think I even had a police officer standing with me for a while after we started the registers up again just to make sure nobody else was going to cause issues.

  2. The other one was a bit more recent - 3 years ago? Working as a clerk at the Shell Gas Station at Northsight and Thompson Peak - the one up on the back entrance to WestWorld. (yes I picked that one because I was networking for a job at the time to get back into the industry.)

    That station sells propane, and one of the laws is you can't purchase propane after sunset. Sunset usually isn't open to interpretation, right? To this particular guy one night it was. The sun was completely down, but still kinda hazy light/dusk, and he was arguing with us that we could still do it. We (me and boss on duty) flat refused. Boss went home after he left, my other cashier was just coming in. 90 minutes later, my co-worker was back working in the cooler, I was up front, and the dude comes back in. This time I could SEE the outline of the pistol under his shirt, and another bulge of something large in his front pocket. He walked in to the store, glared at me, pulled a beer out of the cooler, marched to the counter, glared at me again, and rested his hand on his pistol, while leaning forward.

    We were told in situations like that, to just do what they wanted. I rang the beer up, told him the total, and waited for nearly 5 minutes for him to get his darn money out. I had hit the button that alerts the back that the front needs help, but silly Levi hadn't responded. Finally the guy put the money down, and with a rude comment, walked away.

    I quit later that night - turned in my name tag, and walked out 2 hours before the end of my shift. My life wasn't worth the $8.00 hour.

    Besides those, I've had the usual perv calls when taking hotel reservations, scores of angry people working retail returns - and currently, I'm working in a store marketed to pregnant women. Hormonal, off balance, crazy, stressed out, pregnant women.

    I've learned though - a smile, please, and thank you when they are being as rude and pissy as they can be usually throws them off their game. Either they think YOU'RE the crazy one, or they suddenly realise what a jerk they're being, and self attitude adjust really fast. For the ones that just won't, simply saying "No, we can't do that, sorry." as many times as needed doesn't difuse the situation, but eventually they'll get tired of hearing it, and walk away.

    and of course, a nice cold beer always seems to make the day melt away :D

  3. I was teaching a beginning Photoshop class.

    One of my students was an affluent Japanese woman; her husband was an executive at one of the factories here in town, and she was taking classes for .... um .... something to do. They took their Golden Retriever to Indianapolis (over an hour away) for its basic obedience training. You know the kind of preppy people I'm talking about.

    Well, her first project I gave her a B or B+ because I knew she could do much cleaner work. She accepted this with an nod and an "OK."

    Soon after, I get this call from the Academic Dean. She was unhappy with her grade, she deserved an A, and most of all, she was terrified of messing up her perfect GPA. I'm like, DUDE, it's your FIRST PROJECT. You are at COMMUNITY COLLEGE, taking the class FOR FUN.

    I made nice with her, didn't actually change the grade but also didn't tell her that. :P The head of the Art Department had a little meeting with me and said, "Well, sometimes in this business you gotta kiss a little ass."

    I don't mind explaining to people why something went wrong, and how I am going to try to fix it, but I DO mind being told how to do my job, of course.

    I have a reputation wherever I work of handing difficult people well. It's not really that hard, if they have a scrap of sanity in 'em. I enjoy people who are shunned by others. Random strangers tell me their deepest sorrows and ask me for advice. I haven't killed my mother in law yet.

    I don't know how I came to have these talents, but my sister and I are both talented peacekeepers. We are hopelessly disorganized, she can't cook and I can't manage money, but we are pretty decent amateur therapists I guess.... :P

  4. Well last fall I was working the flustercluck that was the swine flu clinic. Huge lineups and grumpy people . I gave out #s to 25 and let the people know once we saw how fast things would go I would give out the rest of the #'s and give them a time line. On snotty dide yelled Out "ya I will stand here all *** afternoon and still not get my shot have to come back Saturday" I smiled sweetly and said ,"no sir ,I can guarantee we will have you out of here by Saturday at the latest. The rest of the crowd laughed and he settled down. Humor works on a case by case basis , not always . You just have to fly by the seat of you pants and get to be a good judge of people

  5. Oh my...I have LOADS of stories along these lines. I started out my working career as a newspaper reporter. Boy, that's a way to get folks pissed off at you!
    One time, a lady called me pissed because I had written a literally, two sentence little news blurb about a civil case she was involved in. It was basically a "he said, she said" sorta thing, somewhat interesting case. So I wrote the "so and so accuses them of...blah, blah, blah while the defendant claims that blah, blah, blah...Sorta thing."
    But according to this lady the fact that I printed the blurb was apparently proof I had some huge hidden agenda against her. Heck no. I was just an interesting case. Public record and all.
    I was fairly young at the time and not used to conversations like such...
    Lady (after 10 minutes of yelling at me and accusing me of prejudice) asks - "Do you EVEN have a degree? You don't seem smart enough."
    Me - "Well, yes. A journalism degree as a matter of fact."
    Lady - "Well, don't they teach you ethics? Do you even HAVE ethics?"
    Me (at this point realizing this conversation is going NOWHERE..) - "Well...I guess my having ethics, or the lack therefore, depends on what side of the story you are on!"
    Boy was she pissed then! I think I hung up...

  6. But ya know what was the funniest thing about working at a newspaper? The really, really pissed off people? The ones who are ticked off to no extreme at, wait for it...their paper delivery boy!
    I could write horrible stories about people and that didn't make people nearly as mad as the paper boy who rode through their rose bushes! Boy, I can remember fielding some hot phone calls on those topics!

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  8. PF: I worked at a paper for awhile, designing ads. The huge "double truck" (2-page) grocery ads were a pain in our butts, because usually half the graphics were corrupt (this was late 90s technology) and wouldn't print, so you'd have to do a loooong process of elimination to figure it out.

    Anyway... one particular store owner was a piece of work. He always INSISTED on Allen (the oldest and slowest) doing his ad, because then it "looked right." So.... half the time someone ELSE would do the ad, and old Don would be like, "Wow! Looks great! Allen must've done it!" and the ad rep would smile sweetly, for she knew better.

    I also laid out a couple of issues of Horse Circuit News, a regional rag mostly featuring ads for AQHA & Paint farms. 96 pages of ads. And the client was this ... eccentric ... little guy, a Paint breeder himself, who thought he should come and sit behind me and tell me how to do my work (which he knew NOTHING about). That lasted exactly ONE DAY, since this was still at the paper (they were trying to pick up some commercial work), and my boss was all "Hells to the NO" about it. Oh, he sat behind me and chewed some stinky herbal snoos, and would spit into a can in his shirt pocket.

    My cousin worked for a time at a convenience store... got shot in the arm & chest one night. She came out of it OK, but sheesh!

    As for humor, my very favorite story:
    My dad was a pilot for a now-defunct high-end charter airline (he flew a lot of fancy racehorses, like Foolish Pleasure and Secretariat, because he is so good at soft landings), and they were flying a bunch of (rich) Jewish folks from Brooklyn to Tel Aviv. Well, one of the guys got very rude and snotty with a flight attendant, who, being from the Bronx herself, was having NONE of it.
    She stuck her finger in his face and in her crazy accent said, "You can't talk to me that way! I'm a FUCKIN' LADY!" He said the whole plane just CRACKED UP, and everyone was fine after that.

    Humor and a little empathy go a looong way to defuse tense situations.

  9. One of our clients refered a friend to us. Her horse had been at one of the BNF/BNT places where he suffered a degloving injury to his leg. Turns out it was at the hands of BNT and his 'staff'.

    She has decided to sell the horse. We discuss the matter of starting him under saddle, showing him and offering him as a performance horse as the best way of making it happen. Everything is fine and good.

    At the first show, she is upset that I am riding the horse- not hubby. We were showing him as a hunter- for which her horse had movement and talent, I have the tack and the clothes- HELLOOOO!!

    Then she tells me I should wear a low cut blouse, sans bra and show off my boobs in hopes of diverting the judges eyes. In a hunter under saddle class? We were not showing in hand- AT ALL.

    Back at the trailer while tacking up to warm up, she tells hubby, "My horse had better do well! You're job is on the line, you know."

    He looked her in the eye and told her in no uncertain terms "Well then, you had better go scratch the horse and find a trailer. We won't be showing or handling the horse and he won't be going home with us."

    My how the back peddaling began! We showed the horse, he pulled a couple of seconds and thirds in classes of 8-10 horses each respectively... Two days after the show she pulls the horse and said she decided to keep him. Fine, whatever.

    Then we get a letter in the mail, apparently the weeds at our place had gotten out of hand and although she was paying to have the horse trained and ridden- which he was- the weeds were something she just couldn't deal with.

    Hubby runs into her in town the other day...

    "I pulled my horse because nobody has EVER talked to me that way."

    So, what? That gives you the right to treat others like crap? Everyone just takes it? Not happening at our place!

  10. UGH. What a rude and icky person!!

    Also, those few clues you give reveals EXACTLY how much class she has: ------> . Wait, that little dot is too big.

    Wow. It's hard for me to wrap my mind around someone that... shallow? Clueless? Nasty????

    Glad she "quit" before JR "fired" her. ;-)

  11. Alternatively , JR could have ridden the horse in a low cut top(lol)

  12. We just dropped a customer at work this week. Nobody is at all sad to see them go!

    Seems they expected everyone here to jump through hoops, expedite ALL of their orders and after receiving and selling the parts, failed to pay their invoices.

    Then when the next order came due, they were asking where their parts were. As in calling several times per day. Yeah, let me jump right on that, because the last few invoices at Net 30, due 5 months ago are still outstanding... How about you pay the balance on your account and then we'll talk?

    The owners finally got sick of it. Woohoo management!

  13. The problem with a lot of the things I am hearing and reading-

    Nobody gets paid enough (or at all in some cases!) to put up with half or even any of this stuff.

    When people approach me asking for all sorts of 'specialized items' involving custom work- there is a price for that. Sometimes I am willing to do it. I try to be reasonable, but sometimes you just can't. Depending on their attitude, it may or may not cost them dearly.

    But if the materials alone are going to cost me more than what they are willing to pay- I just tell them exactly that. "I cannot do it for that price." Some people respect that- others don't. Not my problem if they are in the second group. There's a big world out there and someone else may be able to play that game.

    I had one woman who wanted a bag to store her show saddle in. Teal with black trim and artwork on the side. Okay, fair enough. But she didn't want to pay any more than $75 for it... Total.

    Considering this was to be sold & shipped to a retailer in her area, who would then also mark it up and take her cut- there was just no way it was going to happen.

    To add to this, it was for a western pleasure saddle, 16" seat, oversized skirts and covered in BLING. You just know she shelled out some serious cash (my guess is $3,000-$5,000 or more) in buying it, even if it was used- why skimp on a bag to store it in? I never did hear if she found what she wanted at the price she was offering.

  14. Yeeeah, my brother-in-law is a glassblower by trade. His pieces sell in high-end galleries across the country for $1000 and up. Of course that means sometimes he makes $5000 in a month, or... nothing. So he gets perturbed when every organization in town wants him to donate a piece for their silent auctions, where they sell for less than half what they're worth. But he also doesn't want to burn any bridges.

    And as a graphic designer, I get approached by nonprofits all the time for pro bono work. I do some, because I believe in supporting community organizations, but.... it sometimes gets old. And then when small business DO want to pay, they are "shocked" by how much it costs - and I usually even give a discount. Dude, that's a lot less than agency rates!!

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  16. Hmmm. I guess it depends on the situation. I tend to 'nice' them to death. To the point where they are embarrassed about their poor behavior.

    I did get upset with a company and how they were handling an issue that cost me extra money, due to their error. I kept running into the pat answers and no one having any accountability and telling me this was policy or just how it is, "I'm very sorry Ma'am, there is nothing I can do." I actually got action when I wrote a letter, stating the situation in detail and closed it with: "It appears you have hired a bunch of ex-Enron traders." I acutally got a call, and apology, a refund and a 10% discount off my next purchase.

  17. Waving madly at hp!! Hi how are ya?