Your Customers Don’t Care


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your customers don't careEvery time I go grocery shopping I seem to encounter a similar scenario when I get to the cashier. As I load up the conveyor belt with my items I overhear the cashier talking with another cashier or a bagger about how unfair some aspect of their job is or how the store should handle something differently. It’s always the store’s fault or the manager’s fault and they’ve had enough.

Strangely, there is often an element of trying to involve me or other customers in the conversation, as if to be witnesses to the issues plaguing the store. Perhaps to provide validation that the situation they’re describing, whatever it is, is A) bad and B) not their fault.

There are things I want to say in these scenarios but usually I simply nod and give a half-hearted smile, indicating no real opinion whatsoever. I also have these situations play out when I’m on the phone with customer support, working with a salesperson at a department store or ordering breakfast at a diner.

What I would say in these situations if I were less polite is something like “I don’t care, I just want to take care of this and continue on with my day.” I know it sounds harsh, there’s more at play here than me simply being impolite.

The Reality

The reality is that your customers really DON’T care. On a human level, yes, of course they care about you as a person and don’t wish ill upon you but in their role as “Your Customer” they don’t care to know all the ins and outs of your business. They just want to pay you for products and services and make sure that they’re getting a good value. That’s pretty much it.

Airing your company’s dirty laundry is never a good idea. More specifically:

  • It doesn’t solve your problem (s). We are not going to be so outraged an incensed that we’re going to march over to your manager or the CEO of the company and demand justice. The equitibility of the store’s weekend schedule is not high on our list of global priorities. There’s a better chance that if we say anything to your manager it’s that we don’t appreciate getting an earful of complaints that are none of our business.
  • It’s likely that the complaints are hindering my ability to get what I want. The time you spend describing how badly understaffed you are is time that could be spent helping me with my service issues. I already don’t want to be on the phone or standing in line resolving the issue so just assume I want to get this over with as quickly as possible.
  • Airing your grievances publicly, especially in front of customers, does not reflect well on you. We don’t appreciate it. In fact, if we get what we need from the experience at a fair price and in an expedient manner, we’re usually pretty happy with your company. We are busy people with our own problems and are not prepared to be sounding boards for internal company strife. It stresses us out and you’re the cause.
  • If it happens enough times to us, we’ll just avoid your store or service altogether. Either because we’re tired of dealing with the stress of stressed out people or we are beginning to suspect there’s a serious problem within the business. If enough customers do this, I guarantee things won’t be improving internally any time soon.

What should you do instead?

The answer is simple but not easy. Keep it internal. Just like many sports coaches talk about keeping the team’s business in the locker room, so should you. The good news is, unlike them, you don’t have waves of reporters and media types trying to draw the issues out into the open.

Deal with the complaints you have productively and with the people that can help make a change. That’s not your customers and that’s probably not your coworkers. More likely it’s your supervisor or manager. Approach them calmly, thoughtfully and with a solution in mind that benefits the company and you personally. If you have a bad boss or you genuinely work for a bad company, build a plan to move on.

Remember that being professional and courteous, in any work situation, is never going to backfire.

Mike Raia
Experienced software marketer based in Chicago writing about workflow, BPM, coaching and productivity. Also a craft beer geek and Bears fan.



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