A smile and courteous behaviour — these are attributes associated with those in the service industry, no matter what the circumstances.
It’s their job, they are told, to ensure customer satisfaction. However, whether the customer is dissatisfied with the product or is simply having a bad day, they often bear the brunt of people’s displeasure.
“It doesn’t happen all the time,” is a disclaimer most begin with. They are, after all, very cautious about being critical of those who bring them business since sales translate directly into performance assessment.
“Sometimes, people are unhappy with the taste of some of our food — burgers and pizzas, for example,” says Alwin A, the store manager of a cafe chain around MG Road. “We agree; we’re known for our coffee, not these items.” So exchanges like this could end in the store’s staff refunding the customers.
The coffee is priced higher than in the ‘darshinis’ and “aged persons might complain about this”, he adds.
In another store down the lane, staffer Omkar says in a matter-of-fact tone that “these things happen”. He cites an example — “People order a cappuccino and expect it to be piping hot like filter coffee. But in our maker, it’s usually about 70 degrees.” When someone kicks up a fuss, they try to reheat it, he adds.
It is important for whoever is at the billing counter not to lose his or her cool, Omkar elaborates. “If they’ve been shouted at by two or three customers one after another, then we tell them to take a break or take them out for a bit,” he says.
Over time, you get used to it, says the hotel management graduate. “But in three and five-star establishments, customers are usually considerate of your feelings,” he adds.
Amith M, the store manager of a chain pizza store, shares a similar view. “It’s not often that we get angry. If someone is shouting so that everyone can hear, then we request them to tone it down, reminding them that our job is to solve their problem which we are trying to do,” he says.
He recalls that only last week, someone placed an order for 10.30 pm, turned up an hour in advance and demanded the pizzas. “When we explained that the fault was on his side, he relented,” he says. “But his father, who was drunk, started shouting at us, saying that we had delayed the order unreasonably.”
Vinutha J Gowda, who works in a similar setup, says people who come in after drinking are often the worst troublemakers. “We consider their order priority and try to send them off as quickly as possible,” she says.
’s best efforts, he or she is put through to the manager. “If that doesn’t work, then we get them to speak to someone higher up,” she says. “And they gradually cool down.”
Since pizza chains promise 30-minute deliveries, many often exploit this, she adds. “Some boys hostel students insist that we’re late even when we aren’t,” she says.
“And we have one customer who always calls back saying the pizzas don’t have enough cheese and she isn’t satisfied. So, essentially, she gets one pizza free. She has been doing this for the past six months; she orders once or twice a week. This is an added expense for the company, not for us,” she clarifies.