Who said the customer comes first?

Joe Sitati

The customer, to me, in most instances is part of the problem and should carry part of the blame. It is a mere gimmick meant to sooth the ego of customers. Don’t fret it is ok because pragmatism accepts the end not the means. The phrase “the customer is always right is a fallacy a fellow called Harry Gordon Selfridge planted that has grow into a humongous inconsequential tree since 1909.

When you are sick and visit King Faisal, after the diagnosis do you decide on your own prescription or follow the doctors’? Shopping for detergent at Simba or Umuringa supermarkets and I spot a new brand variety with words like extra, power plus, its automatic the shelf attendant is the person I ask for clarity. When you order for your favourite fresh salad at the eatery and the waitress informs you it is not fresh but been refrigerated for two days, do you go ahead and order?

A customer is like a spoilt pampered teenager. You need to learn the tricky art of balancing encouragement, being firm, and esteem. This calls for tact and relentless patience in handling it, which. This child needs a guardian but does not recognize the need; it screams and demands for things in a selfish and bullish manner, if rebuked, it toughens and builds a wall between you. If you dance to its whims it will perfidiously outwit you, blackmail you, get itself in trouble and force you to intervene. In short connive, condemn and colonize you.

Just like the starring in a movie the guardian comes in here with tough love. It is the guardian aka “the expert” who exudes knowledge, oozes with confidence and love, then inspires direction to the kid with the right lead. A waitress should take the order as stated verbatim, clarify, and further probe to be sure there are no missing details about the order. “You want the drink chilled or mild cold, food with spice or no spice, with sugar or cream,….and further take charge of the cast by setting the mood…..”this will take thirty minutes meanwhile can I get you soothing ”? The travel agent will suggest a later flight the same day that is lower than the morning one if you seek her advice or else being right will cost you more.  An expert will find many windows to cross sell in their engagement with the customer because they are in-charge. The next question will be who is this “expert” and how do we tell? This is for another day let us panel beat the customer to shape first.

Mastery of your specialty is a big decider in handling and satisfying customers.  The customers are liars, they mostly tell half truths, and they will squeeze you for a bargain since they “know” more than you know. It is the onus of the experts to put the customers in their rightful place.  A mix of knowledge, charm and professionalism is needed.  The expert can read in between the lines and discern facts from gibberish child play. If the issue is valid a pragmatic and fitting reaction follows. If not, the typical  choreographed plastic smiles, head nods, empathy and all nice theatrics come in play because the customer is right.

Customer care requires the cart to come after the horse. Don’t blame your staff if they cannot tame the customer, equip them fully and the customer care” bubble” in Rwanda will begin to deflate.


Joe Sitati is a columnist for Inspire Rwanda Magazine. This article was first published in the Inspire Rwanda magazine 3rd issue. 

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