The customer isn't always right, believe it or not.
Customer service workers––from retail to food service to call centers and everything in between––are typically overworked and underpaid. Customers who take their frustration out on these workers shouldn't be surprised, then, to find that the workers know their way around the rule books and company policy manuals better than they do.
I used to bartend in Austin on 6th street, so I had to deal with a ton of entitled fratboys. One guy ordered a beer, chugged it in front of me, and set it on my spill mat. For the uninitiated, this is the universal sign that someone has finished their beverage.
I pick up the bottle and it had less that an ounce of backwash left in it, and throw it away. The fratboy then gets angry, saying he wasn't finished, and demands another beer for free. I told him I would be happy to replace his drink.
I open a new beer, pour almost all of it down the sink, leaving less than an ounce at the bottom. Hand him his new, basically empty beer, and smiled. Luckily my manager had dealt with similar situations for years and saw the whole interaction, so he thought it was hilarious.
My store always has a "$10 off your $40 purchase" coupon if you text a certain number. If a customer is being rude and complains about our prices and then they ask me if we have any coupons I'll usually just tell them they have to have a rewards account to receive coupons. On the other hand I'll notice when customers are polite and search through their rewards email for coupons but can't find any, I'll tell them to text that number for the $10 off
I once worked as online support for a clothing company. This one woman would call in constantly to complain, treating us like s**t and demanding coupons. Her biggest pet peeve was when she wanted to use a coupon to buy something and she was short a few cents or dollars short (like she was spending $94.99 and her coupon was for $20 off $100). She would call in and yell at us until we adjusted the coupon for her, before management finally discovered its spine and told us we didn't have to do it anymore. The calls didn't stop, though.
After one particularly bad call with her, I created a custom stack of coupons just for her, for the other associates to give at will. They hit all of our major price points, + one penny. They were things like, "10% your order of 55.00 or more," etc. when I knew that one of our major price points was $54.99. I also made special, AMAZING coupons, that were good only during other, better promotions--for instance, if I knew we were doing 40% off for December 12th - 27th, I'd give her a coupon that was 35% off... For December 12th - 27th. And since she couldn't use both at once and get 75% off, she would just call in and have a fucking meltdown. Because we were messing with her, it actually became less stressful to deal with her, even though she was objectively worse than before.
I've actually done a lot of things to piss off customers because I'm a very contrary person, but this was probably my favorite.
For me, it was calling the manager over the walkie (at the customer's insistence) and saying something like "I need a manager to layaway. The customer wants "xxxx" but I've already told her our policy is "yyyyy".
They want to jump on the manager when he walks up before you can speak. So when you announce that you have already explained to them the policy (usually it was them misunderstanding what no money down meant, but the entire policy is both printed on the receipt they have to sign, and on the wall behind you) then the manager is usually going to have your back when they get there.
I can't tell you how many of those "I'll get my way because I can yell louder than you" customers went red in the face as they watched me talking into the walkie. Also, it helps to know which manager to call. One of them would cave every time. But the main boss would always back me up, because he knew I was polite and good at my job. And working retail, you're already bending over backwards to please the customers, even when they're jerks. So those occasions where it feels like justice is served are the best.
Worked in a copy/print center. Your documents had to be ready to be copied the moment you walked in the door. (Staples/paperclips removed, those sorts of things) if you didn't have your shit "print ready" it was a $1.20 per minute charge to get it ready. (We hardly ever charged anyone this fee unless they were rude or a problem customer) if we did charge it, we called it "the a**hole tax."
Simply say, "I'm sorry Ma'am, we can't do anything without a receipt..." When that soccer mom starts building up, just continue to smile, stare into their eyes, wait until they finish crying, soak up the awkward silence and wait until they say "Well?!" Then you say, "I'm sorry Ma'am, we can't do anything without a receipt..." Works every time.
I used this often when I was a cashier. "Im sorry, I'm having a hard time understanding you. Could you repeat that?" The customer would often end up speaking so loudly and slowly that everyone around them would be focused on the interaction, and no way would they come out looking good. It was actually a decent method of embarrassing people into leaving.
I'm always more than happy to provide people with our complaints procedure. I do my job well and I know my managers will hear me out and have my back if I'm not in the wrong. Really tends to blow the wind out of their sails when I smile as I hand over said complaints procedure and actually try to encourage them to make a complaint "No no, if you feel my performance today wasn't satisfactory, then by all means, put in a complaint, this is my name, here's my managers name and the name of our CEO who you need to address the complaint to."
Worked customer service at a student loan company for many years. For the really wound up people it was difficult to stay calm, especially once they got to the irrational point and stopped listening to reason. You could tell someone had a hot call because they stood up and started pacing. I moved onto the escalation team and got really good at going into "robot mode". Yes sir, no sir, I can't do that sir. Basically went full Hall 9000. It made those just trying to get me riled up that much more pissed.
There was also so much satisfaction when I would warn them multiple times to cut the shit or I'll hang up, end up hanging up on them, then they call back and are immediately transferred back to me. Basically ask them if they're ready to act like an adult or I hang up again. My name was very well known at the company so if they hung up on me then called back trying to get someone else they'd see my name in the notes and transfer it right over.
Nothing quite like making sure a caller will get transferred to you if they call back. And then telling them that.
I worked at an internal support center for many years, and I still remember telling one caller that if she called back, she'd get me. If she called back and got anyone else, I was putting a note on her account to transfer the call to me. If she emailed, I was monitoring the team mailbox. If she faxed, I was monitoring the fax. She could try contacting my manager, but all the center management had long ago replaced their corporate contact details with the group number for our incoming queue. She could try emailing them personally, but she didn't know any of their names. Or she could try turning up in person, but our address wasn't listed anywhere on the internet and it needed a swipe-badge to access anyway. Not to mention she was in the wrong part of the country, unless she wanted to hop on a plane. And yes, she could ask to be transferred to my supervisor, but all my supervisors and managers knew her name and didn't want to talk to her, which is how she'd ended up speaking to me.
So she could have me fix her problem now, or she could delay herself and have me fix her problem later. And that choice was going into the ticket records.
I worked at a private clubhouse for 3 years in a 55+ community. They loved having huge parties in the ball room of the clubhouse. I've evening there was a wine tasting event, their contract for the event stated they were to be out of the room by 9:30pm, giving the staff enough time to clean.
At 9:30 only 1 table of people were left, mostly HOA board members, drinking and taking. The rest of the room had been cleaned and it was time for then to leave. I started turning off the lights on them.
They started complaints about how they pay for the amenities and should stay a long as they wish. I replied back by saying " Event contract States end time is 9:30pm". Nothing more, and just started cleaning. Nothing gave me more satisfaction than 7 pissed off old drunk people mad about a contract they couldn't fight.
One time an angry customer said "I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to whoever is in charge!" I was the only security officer on duty at the time and was technically in charge of the facility, so I went into my office and put on a different hat and sweater. When I came out I pretended I was someone different. "Hey ma'am, how can I he-"
Couldn't even make it one sentence before she stormed out. Luckily that was the desired result because the conversation started over her misconduct.
I used to give them obnoxiously pestering helpful and persistent service.
"Need any help with that?"
"Oh let me get that for you!" (When they clearly could have managed it by themselves)
"Let me list off every single option for you"
"Have an absolutely Splendiferous day!"
What are they going to do? Call in and complain that they got the best fucking customer service they've ever had? I channeled my best annoyingly happy Ned Flanders.
"If you turn to page 734,654 and read clause 1,345,894 of the terms and conditions that you agreed to when making that transaction, you will see that it clearly states..."
"Oh you didn't read the terms and conditions, but I can see that you ticked the box indicating that you had before you did xyz"
People really hate T&Cs.
Strictly adhere to company policy. No exceptions. I'm a nurse, and a pretty laid back one. I don't usually bother people with dumb rules if it's not going to compromise your safety. Like, if you're a smoker, I usually won't say anything if you go out for a smoke even though we're a smoke free campus (no smoking allowed anywhere on company property - you have to physically leave the campus to smoke). But if you piss me off, I will follow company policy to the letter, including paging you overhead to return to your room, and notifying security every time you leave the floor, including having security confiscate your cigarettes and lighter. Continue to piss me off? Oh, I'm very sorry, company policy says you can't have narcotics and leave the medical floor, so now you have to choose between your Percocets or your cigarettes. I'm happy to get you a nicotine patch, though!
Passive aggressiveness. I work at a rental car company that has a customer tier system which pre-assigns customers that provide us with their information beforehand and rent with the company on a regular basis. This is a free service but these customers act like they sit at the right hand of God himself so if they can't immediately find what slot their car is in, they'll come in angry with a phrase along the lines of:
"I don't know why you guys can't seem to do your job, but my car hasn't been pre-assigned yet, so I need you to hurry up and fix that for me"
I'll pull up their rental agreement which almost always HAS been pre-assigned, tell them their spot number, and say "It also sent you the email confirming your spot number, and your spot number is on our electronic board, if you have text notifications, it also texted that to you as well. Have a nice day". I get so much satisfaction by just making customers feel absolutely stupid when they act like a**holes.
Wait until they are done their rant and say "I'm sorry. Some of the details of what you described escaped me. Could you start again at the beginning?". That was always good for a freak out .
Or waiting until someone lost their s**t and then confirming "Alrighty. All done?" If no, let them go off again. If yes "Great. I stopped paying attention and was no longer willing or obligated to do anything for you the moment you yelled/screamed/swore/threatened/smashed item on the counter/threatened staff. Get out now."
And I LOVED when they refused to leave stating bullshit like "this is a public place."
"Actually, no it isn't. This entire shopping complex is a private establishment for which a permanent, non-binding invitation is invoked. This invitation to this particular store and to the entire premises can be revoked by any store like me, right now, with cause should I choose to do so which I am about to do holding phone. Would you prefer to leave or be barred from the mall and charged with criminal tresspass? Your call. You have 10 seconds starting now"
No one ever made it to 10. God I miss that part of the job.
When I worked at Staples and a rude customer wanted a big box of electronics (like a TV, a computer or just a bunch of stuff that I'd have to go to the back of the store and look for them), I'd take my sweet ass time and "fail to find" stuff a couple of times.
Like I'd come back to the front where the customer would be waiting for me and I'd write the number back like I misspell it the first time. Or maybe simply go back upfront, tell the customer I'm sorry and I'm happy that they are still waiting because "I think somebody had to put those boxes somewhere else" or "they are actually still being treated on the docks, give me a couple minutes for us to scan them in" or some bulls**t.
They would be fuming because they probably knew it wasn't true, but that I was actually still doing my job and letting them know why it was taking so long.
It was not frowned upon where I worked because yes, a lot of times, stuff got stocked at different places and sometimes it was hard to find the right boxes. So you'd milk it a bit and if the customer would ever ask a higher up to go check on what I was doing, I'd just say "Ha! Found it, it wasn't the box I was looking for"
And then come back WITH the manager up front to the customer while the manager would explain why it took so long.
It was a really great fail safe to have honestly.
If you're dealing with multiple customers, let the rude customer see how well you treat the other customers around them. Find your footing on that line between ignoring the customer and serving them.
There was one guy who came in regularly who hated me. It's a long story but he is the only customer I've ever yelled at (he was cussing in front of a kid). Anyway he kept coming in and I decided to kill him with kindness. He kept getting pissed and finally it got to the point where management said "you can keep coming here but only if you agree to not talk to swanymcswan. And he'll agree to not talk to you"
This worked out fine until one night I was closing alone and I just ignored him. He stood at the counter for 5 minutes and finally said "are you going to help me or not?" I paged a manager to come to the meat department. Then in the most annoying way possible (with the guy right there) i said to the manager "sorry I'm not allowed to talk to him, and he isn't technically allowed to talk to me. So could you ask him how I can help him".
The entire order went on like that. I'd ignore what this dude said until the manager would say it. The guy was getting so pissed. It was so satisfying.
He didn't come in for about 6 months after that night and I only ever saw him one more time before I quit.
When customers complained about my asking questions when they were checking out, I'd be sure to follow the exact script for checkout, in full. And I'd double check on each point. Do you have a membership? Are you sure? I can check for you in the system, by phone or email. Speaking of, can I get your email? Are you sure? We use it to send you exclusive discounts. Have you seen the mailer for this month? Here's a copy, would you like to take a moment to look over it? Etc.
Annoys the shit out of them.
Also, as a barista: Making drinks with ridiculous complicated instructions exactly as instructed. They always, 100% of the time, come back and complain, and watch you make it the second time... only to see that you followed directions to a tee. Kills me every time.
In retail depending on the store, if you're a good customer once in a blue moon or many times the store will bend over backwards on their policy for you just cause they're being nice.
But if you're an asshole to them, even if you're in the right to get a replacement or refund they can actually refuse to do it. It's pretty much always written somewhere on your receipt where it goes something like "We may at any point refuse to issue store credit or a replacement without a valid reason".
And unless you're one of those who're willing to take the company to court for it, you're sh*t outta luck.
I worked at The UPS Store and there's always TONS of people that get angry at the dumbest things. Once they start yelling at me I just stop what I'm doing and stare at them with a straight face showing I literally DO NOT care and it makes them so angry. Usually they end up asking for the manager but it never ends in the customer's favor. I've had a lady throw boxes at me because i couldn't look up something for her that wasn't processed in our store. What did i do? threw them right back, you're not going to throw boxes at a pregnant woman and not expect the same thing in return
Here is the phrase that pays when Mrs. Shorthaircut is spoiling for a fight:
"ma'am, if you tell me exactly what I can do at this moment to make you happy, I will do it if I am able"
At that point they usually short circuit, but from a service standpoint, what more reasonable thing could you say to a customer?
Make sure they know about ALL the specials.
A few years back I took a second job at a busy convenience store to earn a little more spending money. It was extra busy one night so the person on cash called me up to open the second cash. Social norms dictate that the next person in line goes to the second cash but noooo. There was a member of the local 'tough guy' motorcycle club (HA support patches etc) who came all the way from the back right to my cash.
Me: oh sorry, this lady was next in line
Biker: oh is that so looks at my name tag, Trainee?!?
Me: yes, you were at the back and I need to serve her first
Biker: turns around to intimidate all other customers anyone wanna go in front of me?!?!
They all say no so I just start ringing him in. But I gave him the full company training video experience. "Did you know you can get two bags of chips for only $4? Milk is on sale right now when you buy two cartons. Do you have your air miles with you today? Have you had a chance to look at our movie rental selection?"
He was steaming mad by the time the transaction was over.
And my favourite part of telling this story is his order. Billy Badass was buying chocolate milk and party mix acting like a complete goon.