As it appeared in the daily nation on November 18th 2014
No one likes to be ignored; even a young child will cry louder if their initial cry is disregarded. Have you ever been ignored as a customer? Did a staff at a front desk or a manager walking back to the office refuse to take notice of you as you waited at the reception area for assistance? Did the waiter snub you and continued chit-chatting with the cashier as you waited to request for a bill? Did the shop floor staff at a supermarket disregard you intentionally as you tried without success to lift an item that was on an upper shelf? Did a service provider simply refuse to acknowledge your email, call, SMS, Whats app message or tweet? Or did a staff simply pay no attention to what you were saying as you made an enquiry?
Many people have been ignored whether intentionally or unintentionally. Some have been ignored by their family members, others by their friends and others by their service providers. I will reserve my comments on friends and family and focus on customers. When customers feel ignored, the results can be detrimental. Many will walk in and walk out of a clothes stall or shop if they feel no one is really paying attention to them. Many will spend much less than intended at a restaurant if they feel that the waiter is not interested. Many others will feel frustrated and cancel an order never to return. Worse still others will spread a negative word of mouth because their calls, SMSs, emails are never answered. As a result an organization may be branded as one that cares less about its customers and one that often ignores them.
Why would anyone ignore a customer? I sought find out this from a number of people. The reasons they gave were very intriguing and not much different from why they would ignore other people. One lady said that the main reason is because customers can be a real bother. Another said “just” which means it is habitual. Another reason given was that if a staff has been upset by a particular customer they are likely to ignore them in an effort to teach them a lesson. Other reasons given were that often people are too busy or sometimes the customer’s work is not ready hence no need to respond until ready. Some other customers are often ignored because they are branded as chronic whiners. In fact I once overheard a staff saying “huyo achana nayeye….ako hivyo” (Translation – Leave that one alone, he is like that) I am certain that anyone reading this and who has ever ignored a customer has their reasons too for not picking up that calls or responding to that email. However, the reasons do not really matter, what matters most is how it makes the customer feel.
Ignoring customers makes them feel unwanted, undermined and unappreciated. Smart companies must recognize that their customers are emotional beings whose feelings can be hurt if ignored. They should not only create warm and friendly front line operations but also make sure that everybody recognizes their role in assisting customers and keeping them updated. If you or someone in your organization has been ignoring customers, consider a change of heart today!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy