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The customer is always right, oh... really?

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You have heard that sentence often for sure but did you know that there are people that blindly believe in this idea? Actually this sentence is about respect and politeness, nothing more and nothing else. And yes, by default, a customer deserves respect, no doubt about that but what if a customer doesn't respect you, do you really have to maintain that respect? In my pinion, there is a limit nobody should cross.

I have been working doing support uninterruptedly for 27 years, mostly by phone and by email. I have been doing support worldwide in English, French and Spanish. After all those years I can affirm the following:

- The very large majority of my customers are great and really respectful.
- The very large majority of my customers are really patient with me.
- The very large majority of my customers are helpful when reporting issues.

I would say that 99.9% of maxprog customers are nice people. But what about that remainder 0.1%, those un-respectful, impatient and unhelpful people, are they right to behave that way? I believe anyone has the right to be angry and not everybody is able to calm down and seek solutions peacefully. Perhaps the boss pressure is to blame. I have to recognize that most people will calm down fast and everything will be back into a nice exchange of emails. I ask questions, the customer responds and I try to give solutions. Fine.

But unfortunately we have a third kind of people, those that will maintain the fight and even go increasing the pressure on you, sometimes with a clear anti-social behavior. I regularly have to deal with that and believe me it can ruin your day. Those people seem to believe you are unhelpful with them in purpose, you ask things to bother, you write email response to make time etc. It is very difficult to resonate with them, they will insult you, they will show no respect at all, they will threaten you, they will even blackmail you, etc. So what is the right thing to do here?

I personally use a 3-strikes system with blacklisting (the strikes from baseball). Each time I fill threatened, insulted, or whatever in an email I try to resonate with the client and I set the strike count to 1. If the second message use the same tone I try to control the situation for the second time but more energetically and increase the strike count again by one. If the next response is again un-respectful by any mean, I send a clear advice and set the strike count to 3. If the next response is again inappropriate, the client get blacklisted indefinitely. I will no longer respond, the communication is dead. The system is definitive, I will never respond again, never ever! All further emails sent by the customer will no longer reach my inbox actually.

You may think my system is radical but actually my quality of life is far more important to me. I have absolutely no obligations of dealing with trolls nor hecklers. Purchasing a product doesn't imply the right of being un-respectful with the seller. I believe that everything can be solved peacefully. Adding pressure will not necesarilly get a problem fixed faster.

Basically I do not like rude and arrogant people. I do not like people who think they know more than you, people who think they're superior to you, people that spend more time talking about you rather that the problem they want you to get fixed, people who make you feel bad in any way. I believe in the right of expression (not to be confused with the right of aggression) and equality of rights between people. I really don't care about gender nor ethnicity, I treat everybody exactly the same way.

After almost 30 years I only have 3 customers blacklisted. As I said, those things are rare, I am patient and I always try to recover from that kind of situation. In my opinion the customer is almost always right and deserves the best. I have responded to dozens of thousands support emails so far. I try to do my best. I am a very busy person but I love what I do. To say the true, I am a software engineer, not a public relations manager. My goal is to make things work!


Stan Busk - Software Engineer
at www.maxprog.com



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