Do You Actually Like Your Customers?
This is a blog post I wrote while traveling in southern India and describes a real situation I encountered in an internet cafe, it comes in two parts and luckily finishes with a happy ending
A Heated Argument
There was shouting and curses coming from the internet cafe. The owner was in the middle of a heated argument with a customer over the charges for a telephone call. I wanted to use the wireless internet service and had obviously arrived just at the wrong moment. With a final curse the owner ended the battle with his latest enemy and turned to me.
“What do you want?” he said in an aggressive tone, continuing to curse under his breath about the foreigners who were exploiting his country.
Can I Use Your Service?
“Do you have wireless Internet?” I asked; The man nodded and pointed to a plastic garden chair that was sitting in the entrance lobby. I began to set up my computer and plugged into the electricity. The owner grabbed my plug and pulled it out.
“There’s a power cut he said so there is no electricity”, I turned and looked into the room full of computers buzzing quietly in the background and asked how they could possibly be running if there was no electricity.
What Is Your Priority?
“I have batteries” he replied, (a lot of places in India have banks of batteries that are used when the normal power fails) “but the power is only for my computers, not for your computer. My business is most important and without electricity how do you think I can make money. My computers have first priority”
I asked if I could pay him for the electricity I was going to use, I thought this was a bit strange since I was already paying for the use of his Internet facilities.
How Do You Treat Your Customers?
At this point the guy lost it and started screaming at me and repeating his curses about foreigners, that we all want something for nothing. That all we do is come here and ruin his country and make business. He pointed aggressively to the notice board full of colorful posters where Westerners were advertising their services.
I listened patiently to his tirade of abuse and then, asked him if he was having a difficult day?
He continued cursing and shouting but with slightly less vehemence, my question had struck him somewhere deeply, I wasn’t playing the game that he had intended me to play.
I told him it was Ok, I just wanted to use the internet and promised not to use any of his electricity.
Who Is Being Exploited?
He calmed down even more and his voice was now only slightly raised, as he started listing all the grievances he had about Western spiritual seekers coming to his town, how they are all crazy and have holes in their hearts and how many of them are exploiting his people and making money.
I apologized for any westerners who might have treated him badly in the past and explained how sorry I was that he feels this way about all the foreign visitors. I agreed that he was correct, his town had turned into a spiritual supermarket, but getting angry and upset about it wasn’t really going to help anybody. His town had been a pilgrimage place a long time before all the westerners started showing up
Who Are You Really Dependent On?
I kept silent about the fact that his whole livelihood depended on these foreigners using his internet Cafe. It was obvious he hated all his customers with a passion so I didn’t want to upset him any further.
When it became time to pay I realized that my words had obviously had some impact, without me knowing he had secretly plugged me in and smiled broadly telling me that he had given me the electricity for free.
I had previously decided that I would never return here but this last gesture made me change my mind.
Do You Love Or Hate Your Customers?
This man is unconsciously ruining his business because of the way he treats his customers, He is caught in a catch 22 situation, he hates the people who he is serving but at the same time is dependent on them for his livelihood. His anger is damaging his reputation and if he could just learn some way to come to terms with this he would be a much happier man.
Its a good question to ask yourself whatever business you find yourself in.
If You Hate Your Customers You Only Have A Few Options
1. Get rid of them and find customers that you like
2. Change your attitude towards them
3. Change the business that you are in
4. Be miserable, suffer every day and potentially damage your health and all your relationships
Take Action And Take Responsibility
Personally I think the first three options are better than number four. If you ever feel like you are stuck always know that there are other options. Of course you must be prepared to take action and shoulder the consequences. Most people only find themselves stuck in number four because they are scared of change.
This is a post I wrote while I was traveling in India, it comes in two parts, you can read part two when I publish it in a few days
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