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Customer Service Informative - The Conflict Between Rudeness & Brutal Honesty

Review by 92989 on 2009-07-03
I've worked customer service my entire life...I started off in fast food and I'm currently in wireless retail while in college.

Before you start complaining that an employee of a certain company was "rude", ask yourself one question: "Are they actually being rude, or are they just being brutally honest?"

I'll give you an example. While working fast food, often times the baked potatoes would sell out quickly. I remember one instance in particular. A man approached the speaker and ordered a potato, when the car in front of him had ordered the last one. Conversation as follows:

Me: "I'm sorry sir, the next round of potatoes won't be ready for another 20 minutes. Would you like to try *product XYZ*?"
Him: "No..I want a potato."
Me: "Okay..it'll be ready in about 20 minutes. I can add it to your ticket now and have you park. We'll run it out to you when it's ready."
Him: "That's unacceptable. I want a potato now..not in 20 minutes..now."
Me: "Well unfortunately the last potato we had available was sold to a previous customer."
Him: "Well, I shouldn't have to wait that long."
Me: "I'm sorry, but I can't make the potatoes cook any faster than they are. They will be ready when they finish baking. And like I said, it'll be about 20 minutes."

Rinse, wash, repeat...eventually he just orders something else and he drives off.

He called the survey number printed on the receipts and complained..not so much that the potatoes were unavailable..but instead that I, the order taker, was rude to him.

Was I rude? I consider it brutal honesty. Food is ready when it's DONE COOKING. What's so hard to understand about that?

Where I'm currently working, we are a sales & service center, meaning we sell new phones and also provide warranty exchanges for problematic phones. Corporate doesn't send us enough refurbished phones to handle the volume of warranty exchanges we do, so often times we run out of replacements and customers are put on a waiting list. Because of this, we must always prioritize issues, which means for most of the popular phones, only replace the phone on-the-spot if the problem prevents the customer from making/receiving calls.

So up comes a customer with a phone with a camera issue. The button to launch the camera is depressed, and an error pops up on the phone which basically states the camera is dysfunctional. It qualifies for a warranty exchange, of course. So I pull up the phone inventory on the computer, to find that we only have 2 of these particular models left.

Me: "Okay Mr. Customer, the phone is in warranty, meaning it is eligible for replacement. However, I only have two of these particular phones left. Because this issue is not extremely severe, and considering the limited stock we have, I'm going to have to wait until we receive our next shipment to replace the handset. I expect the shipment to arrive in about 2 days. I will personally give you a call when it arrives."
Them: "Well you have the phone in stock, just replace it now."
Me: "I understand it can be inconvenient. Would you like to switch to a comparable model instead?"
Them: "No, you told me you have the same phone. So replace it."
Me: "I'm afraid I can't do that when I only have two of these units left, when the only issue with the phone pertains to the camera."
Them: "Well why not?"
Me: "Because that particular phone is very popular, it's very likely that the next few customers will have the same phone, and their issues may possibly prevent them from using the phone altogether. It wouldn't be fair for me to issue you one of the only replacements we have left having only a camera issue, and make somebody else who may not be able to use their phone at all wait until the next shipment. Unfortunately, due to limited stock, we must prioritize."

Of course I then get the broken record response about how they're a customer too, it isn't right, I'm being discriminatory, I'm rude, they're going to a competitor, boo hoo. I don't even care anymore. I know it sucks, but that's corporate America.

I'm NOT rude, but honest.
Comments:4 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-07-04
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-07-03:
OK, the potato story tells me that you worked at Wendy's, and the being honest part tells me there's absolutely no way you work at Sprint.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-07-03:
Hehe..you are correct on both accounts!
Posted by spiderman2 on 2009-07-03:
I totally agree with your response for the potato. But, why would you tell a customer that you have a phone but you aren't going to give it to them because their issue isn't important enough? Do whatever you have to do but don't dangle something in from of them and say "can't have it." I'm a fairly reasonable person, but that might tick me off.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-07-04:
I hate it when a customer complains that I am being rude just because I won't bend the rules for them. Good post. I can relate.

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