NAWF Again

So I had to use NAWF (Never Argue With a Fundamentalist) today.  I know Fundamentalist usually has a religious meaning, but in NAWF it stands for anyone with the same fundamentalist mind set.  My brother in law does a really good job defining the principle in his post I’m linking here.  Anyway, I’m not here to discuss the prinicple of NAWF, I’m just here to sort of vent (because I’m not really angry so much as irritated.)

So last night on facebook a status was made concerning customer service and one event in particular last night.  I was just making a half joking comment on said status something to the extent of rewarding an irrational customer is essentially rewarding stupidity.  However, said comment spurred a discussion on customer service, mainly the customer is always right principle.  I totally see the purpose of the customer is always right.  I know I work in a customer service based job, and I am okay with that.  Most of the customers that I come across are sane, rational people.  Every now and then I do get a customer that has irrational demands, and because it is my job, I too “reward stupidity”.

Do I believe there are other options besides the customer is always right policy?  Yes, I do.  I ended up linking an article about siding with employees when there is an irrational customer.  Now while I have taken some ideas from this, I also don’t fully agree with it either.  I think it’s more of a judgment call.  Sometimes employees make mistakes and can be just as irrational as customers.  I don’t think the customer is always right, but I also don’t think the employee is either.

Another idea that was brought up is the relationship between customer service and the customer is always right.  The customer is always right principle does fall under customer service.  But I think there is more to customer service than the customer always being right.  I know a lot of people (and pretty much everyone involved in the argument) believe they are the same thing.  However, there are companies, like Southwest Airlines in the above link, that still have customer service without the customer is always right policy.  I know for most jobs out there (including my own and my previous job) that customer service is considered to be 100% the customer is always right.  I think that mind set causes problems of its own, mainly the fact that it won’t change because it is so ingrained in people’s minds.  I know it is not my place to say these opinions at work, and I will never act on them at my job (because I do like my job), but I do have opinions.

That being said I know it is not up to me to decide any of this where I work.  I do have an opinion, but I’m going to go with company policy and continue to put the customer first.  I just wanted to say, I am finished with said argument.  Those are my ideas, which are only my ideas, take what you want from them.  I was not meaning any of my comments to be a personal attack on anyone else because I don’t think personally attacking someone in an argument furthers the discussion.  With this post I just wanted to state my ideas and apologize to anyone if they thought I was personally attacking them.  This is also going to be the last input I have into the subject, I will discuss it no further because my head is already bleeding from hitting against that brick wall (figurativly).

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2 Comments

  1. Doug said,

    March 7, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I’ll comment this on both your Facebook and your WordPress:

    “The customer is always right” is broken phrase betrayed by the definite article. No store, theater, restaurant, or so forth deals with “the customer”, you deal with customers. That phrase is often used to imply that you should give a crap about /a/ customer. What you give a crap about is the set of all Customers (let’s call that C). When you have an instance (C.x) of a customer who uses that phrase, they are often a) mistaken about policy), b) outright trying to break the rules (usually in an attempt to feel important or get a deal that is unwarranted), c) presupposing menace when there is none, d) demanding a greater amount of your time share and services than even the upper limits of average, and/or e) just a self-centered person who does not care about others.

    What’s more, just about every time you here that, the customer that trucks out that phrase is somehow impacting your ability to handle other customers and are decreasing everyone else’s value. There is no such thing as free and so any additional care given to one reduces care given to others. They are making you upset, making it harder to be nice to the next people in line. They are holding up the line. They are getting free or discounted goods and driving up the price of all goods to compensate over time. They are causing negative feelings and hurting the ability of others to have a good time. They are breaking policy and requiring new policies to be written, the sum total of which hurts the rest of your customers to have a good time.

    When people go into defense mode and try and protect the phrase, it usually means they have not had to deal with the liars, the inattentive, the users, the abusers, and the attacks of opportunity that those who have worked in retail sufficiently have seen. Whenever you see a sign that says “Children must stay with parents” or “Checks must be accompanied by ID” or “The price of this service has increased” printed on 8×11 paper in black text, just keep in mind that all of these things are possibly the result of an exchange that featured “Yeah, but the customer is always right!” In a perfect world, maybe, but we are in a world where individuals can be quite and stupidly wrong…and when they are, it hurts the whole. Every customer service job should be about serving the customer base, but loud-mouthed and annoying exceptions to the rule are not your majority of customers who simply want good service worth the value of their money and should get it.

  2. Doug said,

    March 7, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    To give two examples to back up what I am saying, let’s look at UAH. Used to, printing was free. Some labs required an account, but labs didn’t. If you were a student, or a member of the public who knew where the labs were, you could come on campus and print most anything. It was asked that you didn’t print more than Y pages, or print X type documents. For 90% of students, this worked. If they had a big document, they took it to Kinkos. What happened, though, is that you had a certain number of students who print out entire books. If they were throwing a party, they would print a hundred fliers. If they hand hand outs in a class, they would print out 50 copies of a 5 page file. They didn’t give one shit about how this affected others. The end result, people now pay for printing. They currently pay a kind of low rate, and students get so much free, but they pay. About twice a week, I have someone come up and try and get free printing out of the desk. One woman came in the other day and claimed to be a recent student who just needed to print some files but didn’t have any money. She was unwilling to provide any proof of her recent studentship, unwilling to prove she had money left on her account, and so forth. She fully expected me to override her printing costs. Maybe I could have done it, but with her unwilling to do anything there is at least a fair chance that she was bullshitting me and had heard that we could override printing cost if something goes wrong. If this was the case, then she would have went and told her friends, and other “recent students” or “students who’ve lost their charger cards” would show up with no ability to verify their identity. And enough of those and the printing costs start going up…for EVERYONE. That’s not customer service, that’s allowing a snake to hurt customer service.

    Likewise, we used to have open computer usage. Of course people went and looked at illegal and other inappropriate websites. So we started locking down accounts. But since we wanted non-students to also be able to surf the net and write resumes, we allowed guest passes. Except these guest passes started getting shared amongst certain undesirable guests…people who did not think they should stick to our policies. Now, in a month or two, we are going to have to charge non-students for entrance and enact even more policies to counteract this growing trend. Again, those single “always right” customers have caused many others to suffer. This is probably less than 1% of our users, hurting the other 99%.


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