Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grace Under Pressure

A less than auspicious start to my working year this week has left me feeling like I'm walking down a long corridor, not knowing what's going to come charging out from a side door to send me flying. I had to engage the old adage 'The customer's always right' big time yesterday, when very clearly they were not. When the evidence was placed quietly in front of them without any words, a simple apology was not forthcoming, just abject rudeness. This is a major Account so I made the split second decision to walk away without another word, but I found it incredibly disempowering. Those meaningful words from my dearest friend 'Grace under pressure Millie, grace under pressure' came in very useful, but it wasn't easy to adhere to them.

Could I or should I have handled it any differently, that's the big question. I get a niggling feeling that 'The customer's always right' belongs in another era & it's time to give it the flicko. However, the last thing I want to do is have a stand-up slanging match with a client, just to win a point - that's not my style. Thank goodness these occasions almost never arise, but if you've got any thoughts on the matter I'd be very keen to hear them.



  1. Once upon a time I was in a field where I had to acknowledge that... "the customer is always right". It can be very, very tough. Especially when you KNOW!
    I would turn a cheek, take the high road, feel like a schumk and ask my DH to pick up a great bottle of wine on his way home.
    You are so full of grace Millie.
    I miss you~

  2. Yes I'm with you, don't do the slanging match just to prove a point. However if they insist on doing it their way, I'd go on record as having clearly pointed out to them the also covers your back later! (which it sounds like you have done)

    Good luck Mill's

  3. Hi Millie, I guess you have to ask yourself sometimes "what would arguing the point have achieved" besides as you say to score a point. It sounds to me like you were very graceful (I must remember that one, grace under pressure) and hopeful the person in the wrong was humbled...thanks for thought provoking post, as a store owner I am often in the situation where I have to remember that in some ways I am here to serve the customer (even though the are NOT always right!).

  4. My own professional opionion is that quite often less can be more and saying nothing can come across quite loudly. You will always have those people who refuse to acknowledge that they may be in the wrong; that is a personality flaw and there isn't anything that you can do about it. Continue with the 'grace' Millie so that you can hold you head high and know that you have maintained YOUR integrity. Walking away without a word sounds like an elegant solution for this one.

  5. hi Millie,

    In our company we have reframed this old adage to 'the customer HAS a right' to state a preference, ask questions, seek clarification... whatever. I found this a much more tolerable principle. It means you (the supplier) also has certain rights - to expect civility for example.

    Hope this helps,

    Kate (a quiet fan)

  6. Always done with style and good grace... Part of me wishes to send a curse their way but, that really isn't the done thing. i agree, cover your bases. Document, document, document...

  7. I was thinking about this post as I was mowing the lawn tonight(!!!!) as you do!!! I'd read your post earlier and wanted to think on it for a bit

    Very thought provoking Millie.....I don't know that I get it right....when a situation comes up and I handle it whatever way, then later when I look back on it that's when I agonise on whether or not I handled it okay. I admire the people who seem to have a natural ability to handle/do/say the right things in any number of different situations...I mean how do you know???? I would like to think that as I get older I get wiser and I think you done the right thing...that your style and grace shone through and really it's their loss whether or not they acknowlegde that, even to themselves....I think with some people it would be a world ending thing to ever admit that they were wrong even if it was right there in front of them in black and white. They refuse to lose face. Which, when you think about it is a terrible way to be, lets hope late at night a small sliver of self consciousness seeps in.....

    And just for the record.......what I have don't have to yell and scream like a banshee, curse and swear to get your point across, you can calmly express your point of view and that indeed takes poise, grace and dignity and that my dear Millie, you have in spades. And the good people, the ones that matter do notice!!

    I hope you feel better now Millie, as your hedgies we are here for you. Have a great Friday.

    Take care
    N.W. Coast Tassie

  8. millie millie full of grace,
    you did the right thing to let your customer save face!

    i wish i could send you my favorite bumper sticker to give to them, which says: "karma is only a b&%$# if you are".

    i truly believe that all the wrong, angry yuck will come back around to that nasty customer, and all of your chin-up grace, dignity and fortitude will come back around to serve you well. you are my idol! xxx

  9. oh my dear sweet millie,
    i like to agree with them
    in such a way....
    using my expression,
    my eyes,
    a few clever words
    (that can be taken in many ways)
    and my
    (ever so slightly sarcastic)tone that they know that i know
    they were raised by flipping wolves.

    then i give them my
    'put on your sunglasses'
    and walk them to the door.
    this particular smile is bordering
    on a jack nickelson -
    'the shining' smile.
    you know...
    make THEM scared!!!!

    i go WAY over board in trying to accommodate the animals.

    and you mentioned 'rude.'
    clearly they were from boca raton and will in my showroom on saturday.

    xx it should feel better just knowing we all have to deal with rude dirt bags as i like to think of them.

    they should only know how the world really sees them.
    that's right.
    they don't care!
    they can't.
    they were feral children and are doing the best they can.

  10. Millie, I relate - so glad I'm retired. When somone has displayed ignorance, rudeness, or lack of manners, just be glad it's not you. Rita

  11. I think it's more about how to find a way to make the customer happy within your ability to make whatever that is happen.

    I deal with "customers" everyday and sometimes you just can't make them happy. There is just no way. But you do your best and work with what you got.

    I think handling the problem with grace and dignity is always a good thing. They are the ones that look like a jerk and you know you did your best to deal with them.

    Sometimes it's just not worth it.

  12. When I'm faced with something like that, even if I did take a stand, I'd be the one after feeling guilty for speaking up. You truly are a woman of grace Millie and you did the right, proper thing. You took the high road my friend. I'm sure they didn't feel good in their gut for being such schmucks either. I'd like to think that.

    Bravo Millie, bravo!

  13. 'Never argue with a fool; lest you be taken for one of them,' is what my Nana used to say to me. Definitely Grace under pressure Millie. Just keep those words of the immortal Rene in mind :) Hehehehe

  14. It's hard isn't it? I work in a service industry too, paid for my advice, which isn't always taken. When this happens, when I have to concede something I'd rather not, I remember a friend saying to smells pretty good on the floral high ground :) I think that means don't take on the moral one if it's not absolutely necessary. Or perhaps it's just drivel..but I like it :)

  15. Ahh yes Millie, the customer is always right is so not right, but then you have to remember the second adage, even when the customer is not right, the customer is right. Believe me, in retail, sometimes I'd love to give a rude customer a taste of his own medicine, but then I'd be sinking to their level. You did the right thing to walk away.


And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart.
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?
~W.H. Auden

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