How NOT To Treat Customers


One of the pitfalls of being a Customer Service Trainer is that one tends to evaluate each experience with a service / retail organisation with a critical eye, and I admit that I am no exception to this, because I like to cite these real experiences to the trainees as examples, rather than giving hypothetical examples.

I would like to share with you one such experience that I had with a well known retail organisation which has a chain of stores all over the country. For obvious reasons, I have refrained from disclosing the name of the organisation, because at this point, the name of the retail chain is not important. Let’s just refer to them as Organisation XYZ.

The experience, however, is important as a learning exercise. Rather than sharing with you lengthy details of exactly what transpired, I will share with you some excerpts from the mail that I sent to them with my feedback, and their response to my mail, which will spell out the situation to you loud and clear.


My wife and I entered your outlet and walked through looking at the impressive array of merchandise on display, and we must have spent a total of 10 minutes or so in the store. Being on the lookout for footwear I walked into the footwear section, only to find two youngsters, occupying the seats meant for customers, who did not even acknowledge my presence in the unit, forget about getting up or greeting us. One of them was busy messaging on his mobile, and the other one was busy studying the ceiling – I think he found it more interesting than customers. I spent a couple of minutes looking at the footwear on display without being asked even once whether I needed any help or whether I was looking for something in particular.

A couple of minutes laer, my wife wandered into the foodgrain unit, looking at the variety of rice on display. About 5 or 6 of the staff there were standing on one side, holding what seemed to be a discussion on something that was more interesting than customers. Once again, we left this unit without being asked even once whether we needed something.

Being a large retail unit, surely you must have a CCTV in place, and I’m beginning to wonder if your store manager ever studies the footage. If he did, he would surely become aware of how many indifferent employees he has in the unit.

Al in all, we left the store without purchasing anything, or without even exchanging a single word or even a smile with any of your staff. The only contact that we did have was with the lady from your contracted security who, while exiting, asked us rather abruptly whether we had done any shopping.

As a service professional it pains me to see this kind of indifference in any organisation, becuase it reflects very poorly not only on the employees, but also on the organisation as a whole.


And here is the response that I got from Organisation XYZ, which was the icing on the cake:


Dear Mr Bajaj,

Thank you for sharing your feedback and giving us an opportunity to serve you better.

We appreciate you for your patience and the effort you have taken to contact us.

We are sorry to know that you are not delighted with the shopping experience when you last visited  XYZ’s.

We will discuss your feedback with the appropriate department  and will revert to you with a corrective measure.

Your feedback has been logged under the reference number GV2806201209.

I would like to request you please share your contact no.

In case you want to contact us, please call us at 1800 xxx xxx (8 am to 10 pm)

Yours sincerely 

XYZ’s Customer Care cell

PS: We look forward to you shopping at XYZ’s again


So what was wrong with this scenario ? Not only does the organisation have indifferent employees, they are left on their own, unsupervised, to handle customers, and the lack of training is sadly obvious. One might suggest that since I did not buy anything, I do not qualify as a customer, and hence I should not be complaining about the lack of service.

Correction. I did not buy anything PRECISELY because of lack of service. I could easily have been converted from a mere visitor to a customer, if I had received the slightest of encouragement from any of the employees that I had encountered. But that did not happen, and I did not get converted.

One of the most basic principles of service is acknowledging the customer. The customer is king. He needs to be acknowledged, greeted and treated with the courtesy and respect that he deserves. It is also a basic expectation of the customer, and we should bear in mind that the customer can only expect something that is also his right. If this basic expectation is not met, you can be sure that the customer is not coming back to you. And if the customer is not coming back to you, you have lost a sale.

Service personnel get their salaries BECAUSE the customer spends his money in the service establishment. No Customers = No Sale = No Profits = No monetary incentives to personnel. Period. This is the Service-Profit Chain and it holds good for ANY organisation.

And let’s also examine the response to my mail. What you see reproduced above is a generic response that most large organisations use as a template to respond to complaints, which is another blunder. I call it a blunder because you cannot apply a generic response to each situation. Situations will differ from customer to customer, accordingly, the response too must be tailored to that specific issue raised by the customer. I am not saying that the response was inappropriate in this case. But there were three major issues with that particular response:

A. The individual responding to the mail did not sign his / her name. This makes the response cold and impersonal.

B. They asked me for my contact number, which leads me to believe that they did not even bother to read my mail in its entirety because my email signature would have provided them not only my contact number, but also my address !

C. They promised to get back to me with the corrective measures. This was three months ago. And I’m still waiting to hear from them further, if at all they were serious about it !

And after all this, they had the audacity add a PS at the end of the mail saying that they looked forward to seeing me shopping there again !

What companies today need to realise is that by being indifferent to a customer, we not only lose him but also gain his ill-will. Indifference begets indifference. The customer has many choices, and there is an old saying – If you don’t look after you customers, someone else will. That someone else will be your competitor, and your loss will be your competitor’s gain. The customer will visit an establishment that makes him feel valued and welcome and will stay with that organisation so long as he continues to feel welcome.

Also, poor service creates a poor image in the minds of the customer – that of a poorly managed and indifferent organisation. And this is something to be avoided at all costs. Good customer service is not a rocket science that is difficult to learn. Good customer service begins right at the top-most level. It is an attitude. An attitude that permeates down to the lowest levels in the organisation, and is plainly visible for anyone to see.


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