How condescending employees scare customers away

01Jun10

Condescending people are the most dangerous type to have interacting with your customers. I’d rather suffer through lazy or rude staff any day of the week. Why? Simply put, issues like laziness and rudeness are cut and dry. When a customer runs into a lazy or rude employee, they assume there’s something wrong with that person’s attitude. The customer gets a little annoyed and then moves on. In other words, that employee is a jerk, but it’s not personal.

On the other hand, condescending staff tend to take what the customer asked for, and use it to make that person feel bad. They insult our intelligence and talk down to us. In other words, they make it personal. This sort of tone is very hard to ignore, and does lasting damage to customer relationships. Plus, the damage is even more severe when condescending staff interact with your smartest and most loyal customers. This customer segment knows they aren’t stupid and is probably more familiar with your products and policies than many of your staff, so talking down to them is a huge insult.

What’s the solution? It starts with training: make sure your employees know that it’s never OK to treat customers like idiots. Run through practice scenarios where staff members answer common questions or address issues that tend to arise on a regular basis. Many employees seem to treat customer interactions as a battle, adopting an us vs. them mentality. I’ve seen this happen when discussing little stuff, like a product that’s priced wrong. Even if the customer comes out ahead, they still feel like they were shortchanged in the transaction.

The key is to help your staff understand that treating people with respect, and giving customers the benefit of the doubt when it’s warranted, is far better than being condescending to everyone who walks in the door. Do this regularly, and a lot more of those customers will keep coming back, rather than relegating your business to their list of places to avoid.



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