From clients trying to justify unreasonable demands by claiming their time is more valuable than yours, to celebrities pulling the old “don’t you know who I am?” line to try and get special treatment, rude customers are — sadly — part and parcel of doing business.
My Business comes across examples of exemplary customer service each and every day. There are so many business owners, and their teams, going above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis to keep their customers and clients happy.
But something that goes largely — if not totally — unacknowledged is the simple patience, tolerance and professionalism that many customer-facing people display amid instances of rudeness, inappropriate and downright nasty behaviour on the part of their customers.
This really struck me recently when a veterinarian friend of mine admitted that — on more than one occasion — clients had patronisingly told her “my time is worth more than yours, so you’ll do what I tell you”.
And anyone who has ever worked, or operated a business, in hospitality will (sadly) know only too well the “joys” of dealing with drunken customers.
Other instances can seem more amusing than rude to the people on the receiving end, but are still undeniably inappropriate.
Such an instance happened to a colleague of mine some years ago at a previous company. He politely ended a very brief phone call before erupting into hysterics, with tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.
We eventually managed to get out of him the cause of his amusement: the older man on the other end had shouted down the phone “I’ll have to call you back, I’m in the middle of taking a s**t!”.
Even renowned entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has such examples to share, such as one employee responding in a light-hearted way to a rude airline passenger:
“There was a celebrity, an Australian celebrity; we had a delayed flight, and he jumped the queue, he went to the front of the queue, and the [check-in manager] told him to go back into the queue. And he said, quite abruptly, ‘Do you know who I am?’,” Mr Branson explained during a 2016 visit to Australia.
“She got onto the loudspeaker that broadcast over the whole airport and said, ‘I have a young man here who doesn’t know who he is — if anyone wants to claim him, please come to the Virgin desk’.
“So he turned to her and said ‘f*** you’, and she said, ‘I’m sorry, sir, you’re going to have to get in the queue for that, too’.”
I’m sure that most people in business have stories to share of customers acting in a less than desirable manner, and equally examples of how they, or their staff/colleagues, maintained their professionalism in the face of such conduct for the sake of the business as well as other customers in the vicinity.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.