Your customer’s dog just died.
This is a true story related by Charalambos Vlachoutsicos, but I will paraphrase:
A Russian friend invited him to the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre in the 90s. During the 20-minute interval people queued up to get a glass of champagne. There were only four barmen, who could not keep pace with the long queues.
About half the people did not manage to buy their glass of champagne. He commented to his friend that the theatre simply had to hire a few extra barmen for the night to capture the captive business and impress the many foreign businessmen who were in the audience.
The host replied as follows: "Don't you realize, my friend, that there was not enough champagne to go round and that this was the only face-saving manner that the theatre could conceal this shortage".
I think this just brilliantly illustrates the point that we don’t always know the back story.
During our customer service training sessions the same message is imparted. Moonyeen is fond of painting the picture of the harried housewife who has to find the husband’s keys, get the kids ready for school, and as she rushes out of the driveway, accidentally drives over – and kills – the dog.
That is the person who walks into your store.
The point both these stories make is that behind the story you see, behind the ‘obvious’ there is another story, the history that we don’t see.
We may call it that person’s ‘baggage’ – but that is their reality.
So, when a customer is ‘rude’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’ it is worth putting yourself in the shoes of that customer.
There is a dead dog on their driveway that they had to deal with before they got to you, and they have a 10-year old boy that they have to tell when they get home from school.
Of course, the reverse applies to. We have our stories and so do our staff. The customer would do well to cut us a bit of slack too – but they don’t. The difference is that they are not paid to do it.
Customers are not professional customers; they just are. But we are professionals who are paid to do a job.
And part of that job is remembering the dead dog in the driveway.