The Association of Grumpy Customer Care Staff

I swear, with the power that unions yield in South Africa, I bet they run training courses on how to upset customers. No matter where you shop, in large or small companies, in all industries and the public sector, the experience that customers have is mostly horrid. I bet even non-union-members that deal with customers sign a secret pledge and conspire to be the worst they can be.

After many years of personal research, I think I have decoded their top ten rules:

Number 1: Ignore customers for as long as you possibly can, even when they are right in front of you. The record is fourteen minutes, but don’t let that stop you from doing the best you can to break it.

Number 2: When you decide it’s time to talk to them, act completely surprised. Tell them you didn’t see them.

Number 3: Should they be rude enough to interrupt you and ask for help, look at them askance, give a deep sigh as if they are asking for a miracle, and either carry on with what you were doing, or move in slow motion to help them. If they challenge you, act completely surprised. Alternatively, they should think you are doing them the biggest favour ever. After all, where would they be without you? Running around clueless and lost.

Number 4: Let them ask you for the same request many times, each time giving them the wrong answer, or speaking as slowly as you can and mumbling. Be very economic with words and explanations, and never tell them everything they need to know. Use as many acronyms and as much jargon as you can.

Number 5: Your body language can really help, so try to never face the customers or look them in the eyes. Never, ever smile. Be hesitant and look confused. Show impatience when they take too much time, or shake your head as if this is the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard in your life. Look often at your nails as if there is some new disease that you just noticed, or tap your fingers or chew furiously on your chewing gum as they talk.

Number 6: If they leave without thanking you profusely – and preferably with a large tip – look at them disgustedly and then turn your back. You get a bonus if they overhear you telling a colleague that you hope you never have to serve them again.

Number 7: Have a secret language that they will never understand. So if they are ugly, look at your colleague and whisper “Grizelda.” In fact, it is completely acceptable to talk in any language that a customer doesn’t understand, but you also get a bonus when you snigger, or even laugh out loud, and peer at them surreptitiously while shaking your head.

Number 8: Do things that purposefully irritate and/or disorient them. For example, if you work for SAA, and the long flight is coming to an end, don’t wake them by gently turning up the lights as if it was dawn. Grab that switch and yank all the lights on at once, and then make announcements on the highest volume setting on the speakers.

Number 9: It is essential that you do as many personal things as you can while at work. Chat to all of your friends about the most inane and unimportant stuff every day. Take care of all of your personal grooming. Read the stuff that you are supposed to sell. Find petty things to do like cleaning the keyboard with an ear-bud while they wait.

Number 10: Treat every customer as if they are a criminal. They may be 91-years old and shuffle five metres in 20 minutes, but you can never be too sure.

Of course, never do any of the above while your boss is watching, and remember the most important rule of all: If you keep helping customers they will simply keep asking for more, and then you let all the other union brothers and sisters down!

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