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Be nice to the waiters and don’t flirt with the waitress

🕔 Thursday, 9 Mar 2017 om 06:47

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“The Customer is always right” is a phrase that was created to put the customer first and increase customer satisfaction (Martin, 2017). In Suriname the Dutch variation, “klant is koning” translates to “the customer is king”. The phrase puts people working in the retail and hospitality sector at a disposition. If you’ve worked in these sectors then you can relate to customers misusing this as an excuse to treat employees poorly. Customers tend to interpret the phrase as giving them the right to be above the people serving them and that they are owed respect and obedience. This can be especially difficult for employees to do their job, who have to be friendly and remain so when faced with disgruntled customers. In these cases or in cases where they are being verbally abused or harassed, they are still expected to put on the pretense of friendliness. People working in this sector are performing emotional labor and phrases like “klant is koning” contribute to making their work difficult which can lead to burnout. 

Emotional labor is the work a person does to make her or his displayed emotions match those expected for a position. This involves controlling one's emotions to present facial and physical expressions which can be seen by anyone, which is sold, and therefore a value which can be exchanged (Tepeci & Pala , 2016). Imagine doing this as a full time job where you continually have to deal in interacting with customers in the same way. This can be perceived as a stressful process and can lead to exhaustion. The phrase “klant is koning” only adds stress to the process.

“the customer is always right” and “the customer is king” are problematic because they give too much power to the customer and create a space for dishonesty and unrealistic expectations. This is not only bad for business but it’s also inconvenient for employees. Employees are put into a position where they are asked to be subservient and be consistently helpful even in uncomfortable situations. They are vulnerable because if the customer is always right then that implies they are always wrong. This can influence the relationship between customer and employee, where customers treat employees as servants instead of human beings. People in the customer service industry are doing their jobs; if they refuse to do something or offer a product, it’s because those are the rules. If the person helping you isn’t smiling or trying to engage you into conversation, it’s probably because they have been doing that all day and they are just tired. 

I am not saying customers should not be treated well or even like a “king”. You are after all coming to utilize the service offered and it is the job of the employee to best serve your needs. However, this person who’s behind the counter is a human being worth the same respect, he or she is showing you. Just think of the incident at GOw2 last year, where a disgruntled customer proceeded to yell at and verbally abuse a GOw2 employee. He continued to state that because he was a regular customer and had purchased a substantial amount of goods he was owed something that was not being offered. This incident took over social media in Suriname and while many were sympathetic with the GOw2 employees, many also saw this as bad customer service. “Klant is koning” was even thrown about in the comments section on social media. This is not an isolated incident, many working in the service industry have to face rude comments and ill-mannered people and still be polite on a daily basis. They are putting their emotional well-being on the line until they end up burning out. 

Emotional labor is also extremely gendered (Tepeci & Pala , 2016). It is something that is often times expected from women and therefore goes uncompensated. This is not limited to working in the service industry but also at home, women are expected to be caring and considerate of others. This leads to a higher emotional expectation from women than from men (Tepeci & Pala , 2016). This also makes it harder for women to work in this sector because not only do they have to deal with rude customers, they also have to deal with unwanted advances from male customers. These are cases where they still have to continue being “friendly” even when they are being made to feel uncomfortable at their place of work. “Klant is koning” again does not protect employees because it’s only in favor of the customer.

I’m fully aware that at times it might seem like you’re getting bad customer service and that there is bad customer service out there. However, this does not excuse you from mistreating the people who are doing their jobs. Do not talk down to people and do not flirt or make unnecessary small talk. If you as a customer are unsatisfied with a service or product then you can either politely make a complaint or discontinue the service. Employees will receive the feedback and learn from the experience (DeMers, 2014). It’s important to be considerate of each other because fact is, the customer is not always right and the customer is definitely not a king. 

Works Cited
DeMers, J. (2014, September 2). No, The Customer is Not Always Right. Retrieved from www.forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/09/02/no-the-customer-is-not-always-right/#2e850ad037de

Martin, G. (2017). The customer is always right. Retrieved from www.phrases.org.uk: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/106700.html

Tepeci , M., & Pala , T. (2016, December). THE EFFECTS OF JOB-FOCUSED AND EMPLOYEE-FOCUSED EMOTIONAL LABOR ON BURNOUT IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN TURKEY. Journal of Global Strategic Management, pp. 95-105.
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