WORKPLACE / NOV. 01, 2015
version 12, draft 12

9 Things You Wish You Could Tell Clients

No matter what you do for a living, you probably have to deal with clients or customers sometimes. On the phone, via email, or by the harsh light of real life, face-to-face interaction. And people suck. Science proved it a while back. Whether you wear an Armani suit or a name tag at work is irrelevant. Clients can be rude, pushy, stupid, racist, demanding, infuriating, annoying, humorous, tragic, frustrating, impolite, abusive, boorish, uncivil, insulting, inconsiderate, surly, cheeky, and discourteous (shout out to thesaurus!). And that’s on a good day.

See Also: How to Run an Honest Marketing Campaign and Build Consumer Trust

Dealing with the general public is bad enough, but when you’re obligated to smile and pretend everything they say is funny, brilliant, or insightful for your job, and it can make you want to punch a kitten (please do not punch any kittens). Because, as we already mentioned, people suck. Throw in a status relationship like customer and employee, and the level of suckitude goes up exponentially. The greater their status or power over you (real or implied), the more people transform into complete and utter douchebags.

Do you feel dirty at the end of your workday from all the fake flattery and plastered-on smiling you did? Do you find yourself practicing your “genuine” laugh and “sincere” compliments at home? If so, you just might be working someplace where honesty is not the best policy.  

But wouldn’t it be great if it was, and you could say exactly what you wish you could tell clients? Dare to dream. Here are a few things we’d all love to be able to say...but can’t.

1. The Customer is NOT Always Right

If you’ve ever worked directly with clients, you know and hate this expression. There’s always some moron with an irrational demand or requirement that throws it in your face when you politely explain that their request is not possible. And you, of course, have to smile and nod like a bobblehead when they do.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could spit right back at them that the customer is not always right, and that they’re usually as wrong as they can possibly be? They want to order the “never-ending” pancakes to go because, hey, the customer is always right. Actually no, Einstein, you’re an idiot, and it’s a miracle that you don’t just fall over.  

2. Your Complaint is Stupid

Customer service reps (and anyone working in conflict resolution, for that matter) are taught to listen to a client rant and vent without interruption. To nod sagely while they hurl expletives at you about anything. Only when they are spent and exhausted are you supposed to explicitly assure them that their complaint is valid, legitimate, and that you sympathize with their frustration. Except, not really.

Some complaints are valid. But to pretend for even a fraction of a second that all complaints are equal is ridiculous.

When that client complains angrily about getting their quarterly report “only every three months”, or the customer feels his cappuccino is half foam, wouldn’t it be nice to have a stamp that says STUPID? You could just stamp it on the forehead to warn others and send them on their merry way.

3. Yes, it is Your Fault

An extension of the “every complaint is valid” mentality is the rule against assigning blame. But come on, we all know that most client complaints and problems are 100% their own damn fault. But you can’t say that, oh no. You must always protect the fragile client ego. So, even if someone took their laptop in the shower, or used the password “1234” on a confidential file that got hacked, you have to dance around it. Don’t play the blame game.

But it is their fault, they are stupid, and they should be required to wear a helmet for their own safety. Even worse, when you know they’re lying about it, but you can’t call them on it. As in, they have "no idea" how their iPad with the obvious footprint on it got smashed. It’s moments like that when we’d all like to scream "I call bullshit on you. Bullshit. Right here."

4. You're an Idiot

Blaming someone for something that is their fault is kind of satisfying, but we usually want to go beyond that, don’t we? Really let them have it. There are a lot of stupid people out there. Like, really stupid. Like, it makes you question how they function in their day-to-day lives kind of dumb.

You work in IT. Someone calls up to tell you their computer has been hacked by a Matrix virus, as the screen is only showing the green matrix data stream. You ask them to move their mouse, and the “virus” disappears...because it was a screensaver. Or the person who tried to return a “malfunctioning” flashlight...that was actually a garden hose nozzle. Spending an hour trying to open a new laptop from the wrong side is not “an honest mistake”. However, you have to pretend that it’s something everyone does from time to time. But no. No, they don’t. That person is a nitwit. Imagine the rush if you could just tell them.

5. No, it’s Not Okay That You Waltzed in Here 2 Minutes to Closing

If you’ve ever worked in retail or food service, you know this situation all-too-well. You’re watching the clock, counting down the minutes until closing time. 5 minutes. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. 2 minutes...and then someone comes walking through the door, mumbling a promise to be fast, and asking (but not really asking) if it’s okay. They know you have to say “yes”.  

Stop. Right there. Not only is that person a jackass (who decides at 8:58pm that they absolutely must get a new pair of jeans from The Gap?), but they obviously believe that they’re more important than you. You have to smile and help them - after all, they came in before you were technically closed - even if that means reopening your cash register or turning the fryers back on.

6. Your Time is Not Worth More Than Mine. Or His. Or Hers

Clients can be a bit douchey when it comes to time. They show up late, they show up seconds before you close, they monopolize your time with petty, busy work. It’s like they believe their time is somehow more valuable than yours. But, of course, it isn’t. You just have to pretend it is. You wave off their apologies - if they even offer one - and say it’s no big deal. But it is. Your time matters. And only an inconsiderate asshole thinks otherwise.

Them: “Sorry I made you sit here and wait for 30 minutes. I had to get my Mercedes polished by hand using Peruvian monkeys.”

Not cool.

7. Hey, Guess What? I’m Not a Mind Reader

2 broke girls

Some clients tell you very little, or next to nothing, but demand you figure out exactly what they need, want, or expect. Whether it’s a new marketing campaign, or trying to determine the cause of some issue, or putting together a proposal, you’d think they would want to provide you with too much information rather than too little. But that’s not often the case.

They expect you to be some gypsy, gazing into a crystal ball. They want you to know the future, to understand their dreams, desires, and fondest wishes...all without having to actually share any of that with you. And when you can’t, they’re furious. It’s so maddening, they say. It’s so hard to find good help, they shout.

Makes you want to punch them in the throat.

8. I do Not Care About This. At All.

We say a lot of things to land a client, don’t we? We promise personalized attention. We guarantee 24/7 access. We assure them that we will eat, sleep, and dream about only them and their needs. We tell them to call us, day or night, whenever there’s a problem (big, big mistake).

But the truth is, we don’t really care. You may love your job, you may even genuinely like and want to help your clients, but ultimately, you care more about everything else than them and their issues. Why can’t they understand that!?

When something does happen, you have to snap to attention. They may be worried, concerned, angry, scared, or whatever. And you have to match their emotional level, or else you will be viewed as uncaring or unsympathetic.

Our jobs would be so freakin’ fantastic if we could look them right in the eye and say “Yeah, I get it. But also, I don’t care.”

9. Go F**k Yourself

ted the movie
futuregamez

Last, but certainly not least, is the ever-popular “go f**k yourself”. How many times would you have loved to pull that bad boy out with a client or customer? A million? A billion? I’ve lost count.

Belligerent client? Tell them to go f**k themselves.

Irrational and inconsiderate customer? Tell them to go f**k themselves.

Unreasonable demand? Tell them to go f**k themselves.

The situations where it’s the perfect response are infinite. There is literally no case or instance where it is not ideal. It’s the “mic drop” answer you’d love to give as you turn and walk away.

See Also4 Signs You Should Get Rid of a Client

There’s so much we’d love to be able to say, but can’t. It’s part of the trade-off: steady employment, but at the expense of your sanity (at times). Clients and customers can be a major pain in the ass, but hopefully not day in, day out.

Take the opportunity to say, what you would have said, later to a little voodoo doll (what, you don’t have one?). It’ll bring some element of peace and closure to your day, and keep you from developing an eye twitch.

What’s something you desperately wanted to say to a client, but didn’t? Leave your answers in the comments below...

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