Here’s a clue: Don’t be rude.

Let me explain. Last week I tried to get into my bank account online. But, for some unknown reason I was locked out. When I called customer service, the person I spoke with (Let’s just call him Rudy.) asked me security questions in order to verify my identity. However, they weren’t personal security question. They were based on past financial transactions, asking for dates I couldn’t recall. Rudy’s response was, “Oh well, you’ll just have to go to your branch.”

I thought this was a ridiculous “solution.” So, I requested to speak with Rudy’s manager. She easily got me into my account. Then, she transferred me back to Rudy to check some information regarding a couple of transactions. That’s when communication really broke down. Rudy gave me some instructions I didn’t immediately understand. We went back and forth for a while. Then, he said to me– if you can believe it– that I should just stop talking. That’s right, the customer was told essentially, to shut up. Naturally, I asked to speak with his manager again. And dear blog reader, what do you think Rudy did? He put me on hold, indefinitely!

The entire incident demonstrated terrible customer service that reflects badly on a major Canadian financial institution. It made this customer consider taking her business elsewhere. In fact, Rudy gave such a thorough demonstration of how not to treat customers that I was inspired to create the following guide.

How Not to Treat Your Customers

1. Hire Rude People
The best method to ensure you hire rude employees is to avoid screening interviewees thoroughly. Refrain from checking references so that you will have a greater likelihood of hiring short-tempered and unprofessional workers. Once hired, if you realize your rude employee is having a particularly bad day, force that person to be on the front lines of customer service.

2. Ignore Unhappy Customers
Ensure your employees know that it’s always smart to avoid contact with an unhappy customer. For example, if you do customer service by phone, you may simply put an unhappy customer on indefinite hold or tell the person to expect a call back from a manager, a call that never happens. Thanks to modern technology, it’s so easy to ignore an unhappy customer!

3. Provide Inconsistent Service
Make sure employees have many possible options from which to choose when dealing with customers. That way you have a better chance of baffling people who contact your business on more than one occasion, hoping to have their problem solved. An inconsistent experience for the customer makes it more likely the person will simply give up and go away.

4. Forbid Follow Up
Never do random checks, such as listening to recorded phone conversations, to find out how your customer service staff are doing. Better still, don’t bother to record conversations, at all!

OK, so the above list isn’t actually serious, of course. But, I have a feeling if you’ve ever had a bad customer service experience, you’ll relate to this one. The truth is, treating a customer rudely is a sure-fire way to alienate that person and to lose her or his business. It’s something that should matter a great deal to any business, because having loyal customers is essential for success. Once a customer’s trust is broken, it’s very difficult to get it back.

Consider instead Eric Schiffer’s, “Treat Them Well: 5 Keys to Lasting Customer Service,” which includes smart tips such as “treat everyone like a VIP.” There’s also Newleaf Associates’, “Ten principles for delivering great Customer Service, ” which encourages businesses to make customers feel acknowledged and respected. And never, ever tell your customer to “just stop talking!”

For business communication advice or for coaching on writing or presentation skills, you can reach me at the Language Lab. Just fill out the contact form on the Home page.

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