Are You Practicing Customer Care or Customer Scare?

An organization’s customer care dictates its dominance in the hall of fame, the good side. But there are those who refuse to serve this delicacy. Whether private or public offices, theirs is the dark side. They serve the full measure of customer scare, pressed down, shaken together and running over!

That’s what this article is all about.

Call it a rant, or gossip if you must, but I recently visited a certain office in one of the cities in Kenya and a gentleman served me a plate of the latter. The name of the office has been withheld to tame the self-righteous attitude of all other offices in the country and keep the article at lesson level.

So here is the scene.

I walk to the reception and am greeted by a gorgeous lady who on hearing my request points me to the Inquiry Office. There are two people sitting and waiting for the attendant. Let’s call him Officer X.

We exchange pleasantries and the two, a thick gentleman in his 40s and a young lady in her glowing stage carry on with their conversation. Something to do with an illegal identification document she was presented with at a public office. It contains her name and every detail seems right. But Officer X, who I’m yet to meet, profusely states it is missing a vital code.

I busy myself scrolling through my phone looking for nothing in particular. The office is long and thin, its walls cluttered with semi-colourful A2 posters preaching the gospel of good services and distancing from COVID-19. It’s February 2023 and I’m unsure if the latter belongs on the walls. But since the posters are tattered, dog-eared and faded, to say the least, I assume a more forgiving position.

Officer X appears and greets me with what I later discover is a slice of memorised niceness. The kind you are served before all hell rains brimstone on you. He is carrying a spring file and wants to go straight into addressing the illegal identification document issue. But I’m sitting in his office, a newcomer, in need of his attention. So he thumbs through the file and still manages to engage me. All these without looking at me.

Some communication skills!

“So, what seems to be the problem?” He asks between several grunts at the file.

I prepare to share my bit from the ‘I’m here to inquire’ perspective. The picture I want to paint is, my documents aren’t in order. Two vital identification documents carry different surnames. One has my father’s name and the other my partner’s. I need both to have my father’s name for reasons I sing like a nursery rhyme.

He doesn’t raise his eyes to look at me. Not because he is shy, but because multitasking is the order of the day. It’s a busy office despite not having visible customers waiting outside.

“Do you have both documents here?” He asks with all casualness.

Of course not. I have been in the neighbourhood following up on other issues and on noticing the office I decide to pop in. My aim is simply to find out what I will need to have the documents changed. And if at all that is possible although the internet already spells that possibility albeit in shallow details.

“No, I don’t. I only need …..” I string my words with care.

“If you don’t have the documents, I can’t help you!” His retort cuts my response short like a slap landing across my face. Totally unexpected.

“But can you list….” I try to redeem my case and for the first time, Officer X looks up, more like glares, with visible fury reddening his light skin.


He states in such a loud bark that I spring onto my feet ready to flee. But not without studying his face, and the faces of the two customers. The glow on the young lady shutters with creases and the thick gentleman’s eyes stay glued on his fingernails never wanting to look up. Officer X’s face is now littered with beads of sweat and I notice the clench in his jaw. All this I study in a split second before jetting out of the long thin office. The customer is scared to death!

Do I plan to return to Officer X’s long thin office tomorrow?

Not in my real senses.

I remind myself to breathe only after 20 rushed steps out of the long thin office and past the reception. I don’t even turn to bid the gorgeous lady at the reception goodbye.

‘Focus on living.’ My mind keeps screaming until I’m 500 metres out of the gated compound. No, life is for the living and this isn’t the best way or place to do that.

It’s been over a month and I haven’t gathered the courage to return to the long thin office. It’s traumatizing. I however wonder if Officer X still works there. I pray he’s been promoted to a position where he doesn’t have to care for customers face-to-face. It’s healthier for both parties to stay miles apart. Burying him with paperwork might tame his dragons in my opinion.

How To Serve Customer Care

Here is how I would prefer to be treated at a customer care desk. You may want to try it for your business.

#1: Greet the customer with an official tone

It’s not only good manners but it sets up the air for an open conversation, especially in an office that’s devoid of space. The customer care representative plays a vital role in amplifying the atmosphere. This helps the customer to reorganise their mind just in case you are not exactly what they had in mind for a customer care representative.

Trust me, most people have a face for such a character in mind.

#2: Maintain eye contact and smile

A friend tells me that in the streets, where illegal deals are the order of the day, maintaining eye contact equals signing your death warrant.
But assuming you aren’t a hitman or thug-for-hire, connecting with your customer eye-to-eye is the right and legal thing to do. Remember to wear an upward curve on your lips and squeeze the edges of your eyes while connecting with your customer. A genuine smile that is. It always does the trick and is good for your heart and mind!

#3: Say it and mean it

‘How may I help you?’ isn’t just a phrase. It is a will-to-serve invitation. So, internalize those words before saying them to make your customer feel welcome. Even the fiercest dragon in your customer is tameable with such niceness.

#4: Hear your customer out.

The customer care desk won’t always bear a good report. No. Your customer could have some complaints. They may be visiting to return a broken product they bought from your organisation. Let them air their side of the gospel before you speak again. And make sure you listen keenly and watch their body language. There’s a lot to learn from those two.

#5: Handle the problem

Yes. There’s an indecent way of handling a matter. Officer X’s barking is one of them. I still wonder why he didn’t want to hear me out leave alone list what was needed to change the names and state the conditions.

After all, the kind of information I sought should have been at his fingertips. This brings me to the next point.

#6: Know your stuff

The main reason most customer care representatives bark at their customers is that they don’t know the answers to the questions posed. Nor are they willing to admit they don’t and openly seek assistance from other staff members. So they develop a defence mechanism of pointing fingers at the customers. And that’s a walking disaster in any organization right there.

If you MUST work at the customer care desk, ensure you know as much of what your organization does as possible. It keeps the service process simple and straightforward because trust me no customer wants to keep coming back for the same issue. Then top that knowledge with an inviting attitude and you are home and dry!

Consider yourself that nurse in the triage section of a hospital, or the first soldier to catch the bomb. You either diffuse the problem or get someone who can. Because shouting at your customers not only scares the profits out of your business but also demonstrates your level of incompetence. And trust me that’s unhealthy for any organization.

#7: Welcome them back

I recently bought meat at a butchery named ‘Come Back Butchery’ and couldn’t imagine any better reason why the owner called it so. They must have wanted every customer to return for more products. Their services were impeccable!

So instead of scaring your customers so they scuttle out of your office breathless, ensure they hear and feel the ‘welcome back’. You may not have caught their bomb midair, but a calm and cordial tone does just that. Use the goodbye moment to mention other products they should consider. Then assure them you will be there for them if and when they return.

Is Yours Customer Care?

So here we are, wondering if what we practice in our offices is customer care or customer scare. The quickest way to find out is through honesty. If you are allergic to Points 2,4 and 6, chances are you practice customer scare. Whether through barking at your clients or silently ignoring them so they give up and walk away.

But it's not only the customers who lose in the customer care game. Your organization does when you rob it of the same customers it needs. Not to mention the salary you receive. And just so you know, robbers scare their customers. I hope… Share on X
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