Why it isn’t their job to understand?

I overheard part of a conversation in a shop last week, between a customer and member of staff. The customer was irritated that the price he was charged was higher than the price on the signage and he wanted the shop assistant to know what had happened.

The assistant’s response was to leap to a defensive position. He uttered the phrase “You have to understand …”; and as he tried to explain what the customer needed to understand he seemed surprised when the customer started to get angry and shout.

You see the customer doesn’t need to understand anything and by getting defensive the assistant made them more irritated.

The customer doesn’t need to understand that you are short staffed, haven’t got the right systems or processes in place or that someone made a mistake … which, after all, is what must have happened for the pricing to not match.

It’s the assistant’s job to understand the inconvenience that the pricing mismatch has caused. For the customer here, it was the principle that he was objecting about. It wasn’t right to show a cheaper price than the one you were going to charge.

It could have been that he didn’t have enough money to pay the higher price, in which case his objection would have been driven by embarrassment.

Either way, what the assistant should have done was to apologise for the inconvenience and if he couldn’t reduce the price to match the label at least explain what he could do and what he would do going forward. For example, instead of trying to defend himself the assistant could have said …

“That’s so frustrating and I am sorry that has happened. Unfortunately, I have no access to fix the price difference as the price charged is set. However, I can refund your money if you no longer want the item at the price charged and I will make sure that the pricing label is changed as soon as possible. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.” 

The problem itself isn’t resolved but I can guarantee that the customer wouldn’t have started to lose his temper so quickly.

Next time someone makes a complaint make sure that you aren’t leaping to the defensive rather than making sure the other person feels heard.