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‘Customer crimes’ and how to combat them

360 Magazine 
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‘Customer crimes’ and how to combat them

customer crimes

People sitting on stacks of books in a bookstore, or allowing their toddler children to put the corner of a book in their mouths. Shoppers who come to the checkout with a full cart, only to confess that they really have only twenty dollars to spend. Customers who take off their masks before talking to a store associate.

These are just a few of the “customer crimes” that were gathered in a listicle put together by Buzzfeed after soliciting horror stories from its online community. The article admitted that while the so-called crimes listed were not actually illegal, they were definitely annoying.

After reading through all 44 customer crimes, it’s hard not to shake your head at many people’s lack of manners. There were anecdotes about customers throwing clothes on the floor as they sought their preferred size from a display. One angry customer threw a can of soup at an associate’s head and gave them a black eye.

Of course, some customer crimes are just age-old irritations:

35. “While working as a cashier at Walmart, I’d always wipe down the belt whenever things got slow enough to do so. Without fail, sooner or later a customer would come to my register and say, ‘You look bored — I thought I would give you something to do!’ Every customer that said this would have the same stupid grin on their face, as though they were being clever and funny, but after hearing it 20-plus times a day, it just became annoying and insulting.”

The article’s headline described those telling these stories as “people who work in customer service,” but hardly any of them referenced working in a contact centre. Few actually seemed to involve roles that were focused on solving customer problems. Instead, these were the woes of those working on store floors, or processing transactions at the point of purchase.

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Obviously a site like Buzzfeed that is focused primarily on driving traffic doesn’t offer a lot of analysis in such pieces, but the article also didn’t offer any indication of who should tackle these customer crimes. And yet companies can and should consider their role in creating experiences that not only minimize friction, but reduce the propensity for customer rudeness and abuse.

Maybe there is signage that could set expectations around what staff can (and can’t) do to help them. Training might need to go beyond knowledge of products and services and teach staff how to handle difficult conversations. Additional channels for customers to share feedback might need to be established.

The Buzzfeed piece was posted on Dec. 31, which almost suggests it contains ideas for new year’s resolutions CX leaders could build into their strategies for 2022. Customer crimes are bound to happen, but perhaps at least some of the offenders could be rehabilitated.

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