The customer is king

What you need to know:

An angry customer once walked into a banking hall to complain about an exchange rate that was used on an incoming transaction which had been credited to his account

As you walk in a lobby of some hotels, banks or private business you will usually find the organisations’ goals, values or purpose displayed. This is good because it gives you the comfort that you are in the right place that knows what they are doing with working systems and structures.

One thing that is intriguing is  where they say , “The customer is always right or Customer is King”.  I do get it because from my banking experience, we understood that customer complaints were good as they gave the company insights of what to do better.  By the way, a complaint is any form of customer dissatisfaction whether justified or not.  In this piece, I would like to talk about a few instances where the customer was not always right-in the literal sense but still right in the supremacy sense.

An angry customer once walked into a banking hall to complain about an exchange rate that was used on an incoming transaction which had been credited to his account. Because he had a certain expectation of an exchange rate, he was very upset with what the bank had used. He came in all horns blazing attacking the institution, staff and management using racist remarks. Of course, business stalled for a few minutes and tempers were finally calmed. Verbal or physical abuse of staff should not be accepted in any business no matter the circumstance. However, lessons were picked from the incident. Maybe a call before the crediting could have resolved this.

In another incident before the scan option on the Automated Teller Machines was introduced, ATM cards were used by inserting it into the machine followed the instructions, got card back plus the money and you were good to go. Once is a while when a customer delayed to pick their card from the ATM slot, it would get captured.  One afternoon a customer walked into a branch claiming that the machine had “swallowed” his card yet he was in a hurry to catch a flight. At that moment he pointed out how this had never happened with other banks, how he was very sure of his pin and the process, how this bank was incompetent etc.   An exception had to be made for this customer so staff were sent to check the ATM but no captured card was found. There was no explanation to give to the customer except ask him to check his wallet and bag again. Lo and behold, his card was properly tacked in his wallet. He mumbled some thing under his breath and walked out.

Resources had been distracted from their ongoing tasks, probably delaying other customers, time had been wasted and there had been unfortunate name calling. However key questions had been missed out by the staff. Again, another learning to always ask the customers to recheck their wallets first to confirm if cash and card had been received. Most important lesson learnt was to be empathetic – you just do not know what the customer has been through or is still going through. He is right to be confused.

Still about ATM transactions, there were instances where certain ATM transactions would be disputed (even with an SMS alert, you can still dispute a transaction).  As you can imagine when money is missing on your account, you do not walk into the bank smiling. You go to make a point and demand your money back immediately. Even after explaining to the customer where and time the transaction happened, sometimes they remained unsatisfied and demanded CCTV footage. The feeling for the banker is priceless when the customer is watching the CCTV staring at the “thief” and sometimes it is themselves or their close relative or friend. But still the customer is right!

The law of attraction tells us that you attract kindness and good things to yourself or when you positive minded, positivity and great things happen to you. The reverse seems true. My thoughts are that every business has had customers who were very hard to please as they only see mediocrity in everything you do or say no matter how much you try. Sometimes they were referred to as “sensitive” customers. I don’t know if the universe conspires against the business or the customer but for example when this customer who complains the loudest walks into your bank, shop or stall, everything that was meant to go wrong does! Your most sensitive customer’s cheque book will be delayed, the dry cleaning will not be complete, the tomatoes will be miserable, the cake order is wrong or even a black out happens! Just seems that when things intend to go wrong, yes, they will! Now, tell me how you can convince this customer that your business is not always like this. It takes time and deliberate effort to win back the trust of this customer but it is so worth it. A complaining customer who keeps coming back is a keeper-unless you are a monopoly of the service. Many customers will not complain but never come back. Give me the former any day.

What works in real life is making your customers your friends and value them. A friend will understand that network outages occur, a friend will understand that a cheque book can be delayed, a friend will understand that a cake order might get mixed up. Build that connection, build that relationship!

Building relationships, being consistent with great customer experiences was a savior of an eating outlet where one customer claimed there was something unpalatable in their meal. The public went all out to support and defend the eating place. What loyalty, What advocacy!

My thoughts are that customers can make mistakes but we need them in any form to keep buying from us. They remain king!

Babra Mehangye Kahima, Customer experience enthusiast