Dealing with an Irate Customer

Outline of the Conversation:

Kumar is in his last year of business school, and is interning for a telecommunications company. His first assignment is to assist with mobile sales at one of the company's branches in Mumbai. He is a good student, a hard worker, and is generally affable. However, his friends and family know him sometimes to be short-tempered in difficult situations.  On his first day on the job, Kumar's good nature is tested, when an angry customer approaches him with a new mobile that he has not been able to use.  Kumar tries to handle the situation without incident, but finds it very difficult to do so when the customer becomes irate. After receiving insults from the customer, Kumar forgets his environment, and begins to lose his temper and argue. This is when Lakshmi, a senior co-worker, intervenes to save the day. 

The Conversation:

Customer: Come on boy! I have not got all day. A couple of seconds ago you said you are in business school. Well, take care of business.

Kumar: I apologize sir. Today is my first day on the job. I have just started training.

Customer: You mean I am dealing with a beginner. Well, I'll give you a bit of training today! Listen closely.

Kumar: I am listening sir.

Customer: I purchased this mobile here yesterday and have not used it one time, because, guess what?   It does not work at all.  It seems to be malfunctioning.  This piece of rubbish your store sold me caused me to miss interviews with two important clients. Where do you get your merchandise, a waste bin?

Kumar: Can I have a look at it sir?

Customer: Yes boy, look, touch, just make it work, or give me a new mobile. I was told this is the most expensive model in the store.

Kumar: Well it turns on, but the keypad seems to be inoperative.

Customer: Hey genius, you are telling me something I already know. What else can you do besides make me laugh?

Kumar: Sir, I am a business student, technology is not my specialty. Please do not insult me.

Customer: Well, you work here, don't you? What am I supposed to do? I'm standing here with you, losing money, while you fumble with the trash you sold me. Well, I've already wasted time coming down here. Carry on, your slapstick might earn you some money today.

Kumar: Now listen mister! I do not work hard in school to be humiliated by you. What makes you think you can treat me like this? Who do you think you are?

Lakshmi: Excuse me Kumar, I'll take over from here.

Kumar: Alright, I'm sorry.

Customer: You better be sorry.  Madam, what kind of a business are you running here? Is incompetence part of your plan to flourish.

Lakshmi: I sincerely apologize for your inconvenience. I see that you have the new Nokia N8, our most expensive model.

Customer: Yes, and it doesn't work. I've already missed some meetings because of it. The meetings were imperative.

Lakshmi: Let me fix the problem and get you back in business. Here is another mobile, the exact model, brand new. Kindly provide your mobile number and I'll activate it.

Customer: It's about time. Now teach the kid something. You won't see me again!

Lakshmi: Kumar, can I speak with you in the back please?

Kumar: Yes ma'am.

Lakshmi: You must learn to control yourself much better in sticky situations like that. 

Kumar: But ma'am, that man was treating me like I was an imbecile.

Lakshmi: Kumar, please listen first. I've only worked with you for four hours, but I can tell that you are an intelligent young man with a nicepersonality. When you encounter a hostile customer like that man, it is best to remain calm and not raise your voice. You do not want to jeopardizeyour job. Understand?

Kumar: Yes ma'am.

Lakshmi: Our store policy requires us to exchange all merchandise with manufacturing defects. Your job is to sell mobiles and study our company's business practices.  Let our IT guys handle the technical stuff.

Kumar: No problem, I will do that.

Lakshmi: Never argue with the customer. If you are unable to assist because of insufficient knowledge or other immediate duties, simply ask a senior co-worker for help. If the customer is angry, and difficult and impossible to help, always get the manager. Our managers are available 24/7by mobile.

Kumar: That is very convenient.

Lakshmi: Yes it is. At least one manager will always be in the store.  But in rare cases in which they are all absent, they can help by mobile.

Kumar: Ok, thank you.

Lakshmi: You're welcome. Don't ever tell the customer that you lack knowledge about a product or a procedure. It will be obvious if you do, but that's when you call for help. Also, never give your job description to the customer. In other words, don't say 'This is not my department,' or 'there is nothing I can do.' It is your responsibility to make sure the customer receives proper assistance, whether it is with you, another employee, or the manger. Ok?

Kumar: Yes ma'am. I see where I was wrong. I'll use your good advice and insight the next time I find myself in a pickle. I will definitely do better next time.

Lakshmi: I'm sure you will.  It's lunchtime, I bet you're hungry. Take this money and go get some Tandoori for us from the restaurant on the corner. And Kumar, don't give the cashier a hard time, ok?

Kumar: I won't. Thank you ma'am!


Affable - Being friendly, pleasant, and at ease in talking to others.

Malfunction - To function imperfectly or badly: fail to operate normally.

Inoperative - Not functioning.

Slapstick - Comedy stressing farce and horseplay.

Humiliate - To reduce to a lower position in one's own eyes or others' eyes.

Incompetence - Inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose; also: lacking the qualities needed for effective action.

Flourish - To achieve success: prosper.

Imperative - Not to be avoided or evaded: necessary.

Sticky situation - A critical, trying, or unusual state of affairs: a problem.

Imbecile - A usually offensive term for a person affected with moderate mental retardation; also: fool.

Personality - The complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially: the sum of an individual's behavioural and emotional characteristics.

Jeopardize - To expose to danger or risk.

24/7- For twenty-four hours, seven days a week.

Insight - The power or act of seeing into a situation.

Pickle - A difficult situation. 

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