Friday, 5 September 2014

Customer service across cultures - B1+ English level

 For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237.


Customer service... should the customer always be right?

After years of working in the customer service industry in the United Kingdom, I have grown accustomed to the fact that the "Customer" is always right! Without question... even if you know deep down inside that the customer is obviously "barking mad", you cannot say a word! You just have to grit your teeth and give them that 'Slasher smile' which gives the customer an inkling into the fact that you, the shop assistant, knows that they are talking utter rubbish! But when YOU are the customer and you have to return an item which you have paid for using your hard earned money, you appreciate it when the assistant bends over backwards to solve the issue! 

Now, I live in Spain, and let me start by saying that I adore this country, its food, its people and lifestyle! So imagine my shock when I innocently bought a bag from Desigual (this is a brand of clothing) in Alicante, and the item turned out to be faulty and was told that I couldn't get my money back!!!

Please allow me to indulge you further... I bought a large bag from this shop, this bag even had an extra, longer strap for heavier loads... or so I believed.  When the strap broke after using the bag for a short trip to Madrid, I went straight back to the shop, expecting to get an apology and a refund!  How WRONG I was...

Firstly the shop assistant asked me what I had put in the bag, I said a few items of summer clothing and some make-up.  "oh no, no, no, no" she said, this (gigantic) bag has been designed for carrying just your hair brush, purse and mobile phone! I asked her why it had a larger strap, she said it was just an accessory, not meant to be used!  I said that was ridiculous, who on earth walks around with a huge bag, with 3 items inside??? Apparently lots of women did, this was fashionable at the time!  Still, I wouldn't back down, what was I going to do with a broken bag worth 80 euros???! I was getting quite flustered at this point, as any suggestion I made was greeted with a flat "NO".  In Spain, the word "no" is used more frequently than in Britain, we like to say, "not really" or something less offensive. So, I'm still not used to hearing "No" said with no frills attached.

In the end I asked to speak to her manager, this is when she agreed to give me another bag of the same design, to which I stated that this was not acceptable and asked once more to speak to her manager. She hurried off and came back a few moments later offering that I could exchange the broken bag for some other items, which I did.  Buying a smaller bag, just to prove a point. This was a waste of time, the shop assistant didn't even bat an eyelid...

I must say, I haven't had many bad experiences with customer service in this country, but the ones I have had, made my blood boil, that I will remember them for years to come!  So, in response to my question, should the customer always be right? I say, YES, they bloody should be!!

Related article: (B2+)

Vocabulary builder:

inkling;(noun) a slight knowledge or suspicion; a hint

utter; (adj) carried to the utmost point, absolute, total.

back down; (phrasal verb) withdraw a claim or assertion in the face of opposition.

no frills; (adj) offering or providing only essentials, not fancy or elaborate.

Questions for students:

Have you had a similar experience?
Have you ever had to deal with a difficult customer?
Is the customer always right?
Write and tell us about your own customer service experiences?

For English classes via Skype, Contact Lisa by email or Whatsapp 0034645424237.

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