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Setting boundaries to customer behavior

10 January 2024

The phrase 'customer is king' is increasingly losing its shine, especially in companies with many customer contacts. Should we just do everything the customer asks or demands?

Should we just swallow whatever a customer throws at us?

I like to tackle this one for you: no, you don't have to just accept disrespectful customer behaviour.

Earlier this year, I had to cancel a trip I had booked two years earlier.

The tour operator was located in Canada, and excelled at ignoring my emails. Despondent, I decided to contact the organisation by phone. Even in ignoring phone calls, the organisation appeared to have perfected itself. On a third attempt, I finally got someone on the line. The conversation was very difficult and my trust in the organisation reached an all-time low: I lost my usually friendly and constructive self. The employee on the other end of the line finally decided that my anger went too far and hung up. I called back and then the situation, and my language, heated up completely (I am not proud of it, but impotence took over for a while). Again, in the middle of my argument, the lady broke off the call. There I was without a solution.

The following day, I received an e-mail from the case manager. Apparently they had received my e-mails after all? In his message, he stated that it was absolutely not done to treat his staff in such a way. And that if I wanted another solution, I should apologise first.

Punishment, I hear you thinking. The strong thing about this story is that the business manager set a clear boundary: "don't treat my people like this". So yes, if a customer is unreasonable or even verbally aggressive, you are allowed to call him on it.

Continued? I apologised for my outburst. But even after my apology, I heard nothing more, and no solution was offered. Which now also makes me one of the large group of dissatisfied customers (if I read the numerous reviews). So now, if you ask me which organisation it is best to dive with, I will tell you which one you should definitely not join.

Make your interactions Crisp

  • Setting boundaries for unacceptable behaviour is necessary. Respect comes from both sides. There are plenty of other customers who do want to do business with you in a respectful manner.

  • Know, that when customers lash out and are verbally aggressive, it has a cause. Being unreachable to your customers, not responding or responding late to customer queries causes frustration to build up in your customer, and that frustration can lead to verbal aggression.

  • Do you regularly face verbally aggressive customers? Be sure to review your communication approach. When and how do you respond to customer queries? How easy are you to reach? How do you communicate with your customers? Often, poor communication is at the root of this and your customer does not feel heard.