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7 Customer Service "Icks" That Are Actually The Business's Fault

And everything you're getting frustrated about that you can stop.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished 3 months ago 8 min read
Image created on Canva

If you haven't seen the online trend known as the "icks", you're in for a treat.

In a nutshell, the trend involves listing the things about your profession that frustrates you and make you hate your job.

Creators on TikTok love to list their icks, some being rather confronting and others just plain hilarious (and way too relatable).

But when I came across one retail worker's list of icks about their customers, I didn't immediately laugh. I didn't find it confronting either. I found the list sort of wrong.

Not wrong in that their opinion is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. But coming from a former retail staff member and manager, these icks aren't the customer's fault.

They're the fault of the staff and the business.

Let's break down the icks and let me explain what you can learn from the things that annoy you and your staff.

Ick #1: When customers ask obvious questions

Every business owner, no matter what you sell or offer, can relate to this ick. You get asked the same question every single day. And the answer is in plain sight of the customer.

It's like when a customer asks what time you close when they're standing in front of the store hours sign. The answer is right there, how can they still ask it?

When this becomes your ick about customers, you need to realise this is part and parcel of dealing with customers.

They're going to ask you obvious questions. It's what customers do.

It's not their fault you've been asked the same question a thousand times before. You can't punish them for something others have done.

But more to the point, they're going to ask questions that you think the answer to is obvious.

For the customer, it's not always obvious for them.

That sign you see every day might be out of normal eyesight for the customer. Or the customer might not have their reading glasses on.

Or the customer might ask you, as it's your job to help them, rather than hunting for a sign that may or might not be there.

Ick #2: When customers don't go to a register with a staff member on it

I've done this as a customer. I've been in a busy department store and wandered over to an unattended register and waited for service.

I've also walked around the entire store and haven't been able to find a counter with someone at it. And if I have found someone, they've directed me back to a counter in the "right" department I need. Back to an empty counter.

As the customer, what did I do wrong? It doesn't seem like it was my fault.

What do you expect the customer to do? If you only have one counter in the whole store, and you're nowhere, where do you expect them to stand to buy from you? Do you want them to walk out with the product? Where do you want them to go?

Counters are there to be stood at. Retailers have trained their customers to go to the counters when they're ready to buy.

As customers, we didn't come up with that on our own. We didn't decide that's how we wanted to shop. That was on the business.

You can't be too upset when they're doing what you've trained them to do and you're the ones who aren't following the protocol.

Now, if the register has a big old closed sign on it, with a sign pointing to an available counter, then you've addressed the breakdown in the system.

But if you're not doing that, you can't blame the customer.

Ick #3: When customers say they will pay with card but then give cash

And here's another one I've done. I've walked up to the register to process the payment, realised I don't have enough cash on me, and switched to paying with a card. It happens; it's a simple change of mind or circumstance.

Considering most businesses have the capability to process cash or card by selecting a button a register, what's the big deal?

When I worked in retail, this wasn't a game-changer moment in my interaction with customers. It wasn't something I would walk away from and feel annoyed about.

There was so much more to feel annoyed about, things that had a real impact on my day, this didn't make the list.

If you ask me, when you're getting down to this level of detailed frustration, you're nitpicking. You're finding something to feel annoyed about.

The customer is being human, doing things that humans do. It makes me wonder why you would work with people knowing what humans are like.

Ick #4: When workers ask a customer if they want a bag and they say "if you've got one"

Once again, we've stumbled upon an ick that's really nitpicking. When you get down to it, it's a three-second conversation that doesn't lose you sleep at night. It's again, something that humans do.

But from the retail worker's point of view, I get how you can get annoyed at it. 

You're asking someone if they want something and they're questioning if you have what you're offering. In your opinion, why would you offer a bag if you didn't have one to give?

It's a logical question.

Yet, once again, I've been a customer who has asked for a bag and the store hasn't one to offer.

I'm conditioned now, thanks to the reduction of plastic bags where I'm from, to carry my own bag. A lot of retailers don't offer them or charge for them if you do need one.

A bag isn't a given, so customers have become skeptical they're available even when offered.

In this situation, it's an ick from the customer's point of view. We wish stores offered bags like they once did.

Ick #5: When a product won't scan and customers joke that it must be free

This ick isn't the customer's fault. They might be the ones saying it, but the customer is being nice in an awkward situation. And a worker taking exception to this is being ungrateful for a customer's humorous response.

What do you expect customers to say when your equipment isn't working?

This is one of those icks where retailers and businesses should think of the alternative. Would you rather the customer abuse you for not having a working register or barcode?

Would you like us to scream and yell?

Or would you rather the harmless joke that isn't suggesting something serious?

Would you rather have a quip that makes light of a frustrating situation?

It's also not one customer's fault that everyone does it. Once again, you can't punish one person for the actions of many.

Ick #6: When shoppers come into the store at the last minute

For the staff member, and for you as a business owner, it sucks when a customer comes in at the last minute.

You want to go home.

You're done for the day.

You've had a long day and your enthusiasm for good customer service is at an all-time low.

I get it. Been there. Bought the t-shirt.

And I understand, from your point of view, the customer has had all day to come to your business. It's frustrating they've chosen the last possible minute to do so.

Yet, a customer coming in during opening hours, and annoying you, isn't the customer's fault. They're coming in during opening hours, at a time that suits them. Not everyone can make it at a time that's convenient for you. That's not how this transaction works.

If you don't want them to come in at 5.25 pm, don't keep the store open that late. As long as you keep those doors open, they will come in.

No matter the time of the day, a customer expects the same level of service for the same amount of money they're paying to everyone else.

It's not their fault you've had a long day and want to go home.

Stop blaming them for it.

Ick #7: When customers shake the door to see if it is open after staff have locked up

I'm not going to spend long on this one. An unlocked door looks the same as a locked door. 

As a customer approaches your business, they don't know you've locked up. They think it's a door they can open. And if you've ever been in the position where you've read push as pull, you spend a quick moment to check the door and make sure you haven't got it wrong.

It's kind of like when you're standing under an automatic door that won't open. You step back and forth to check you're not going crazy.

Is this the business's fault? 

Well, feeling frustrated by something that's logical is on you, not the customer. You're getting worked up over something everyone does.

Noticed a common theme?

Most of the icks on this are small, trivial things that customers do. Sure, when all these things add up in a day, you can feel annoyed by customer behaviour. But this is the peril of working with humans who do things.

They shouldn't be things that keep you up at night.

And to make TikTok videos about them? I would suggest focusing on the things that count and that you can control.

Customers doing these things are out of your control. You can't change them, so quit stressing about them.

But let's be real here. To complain about your customer is to bite the hand that feeds you.

This whole ick trend is slapping the face of the people who pay your bills, who make your business possible, and who you're meant to be building your business for.

When you complain about them, you're doing the opposite. You're showing how ungrateful you are for their support.

Keep doing that and they won't be customers for much longer.


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About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

I’m here to use my wins and losses in #relationships as your cautionary tale | Writes 1LD; Cautionary tale #romance fiction |

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  • suman mohan3 months ago

    Very interesting!

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