10 ways to seriously annoy your customers

Alienating customers is obviously not the way to build a healthy tech career--but understanding what might set them off will help you develop better relationships. IT pro Jeff Dray takes a light-hearted look at behaviors that will put you on the fast track to the unemployment line.

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If you want to irritate your customers and make yourself unpopular with them and with your bosses, try the following suggestions. You'll discover that it's easy to destroy the good will and confidence of your customers, those people who are the lifeblood of your business. Your reputation for good service and reliability that's taken years to build can be irrevocably destroyed by following these few simple steps.

#1: Use an automatic call distribution (ACD) system to answer calls

It was once believed that all customers longed to have their calls answered within three rings, so many shops bought an ACD. It answers the call immediately and proceeds to irritate the hell out of customers by assuring them that their call IS important and will be answered as soon as somebody can be bothered to do so. They compound the felony by destroying the reputation of Antonio Vivaldi through incessant repetition of a snippet of the "Four Seasons" or by playing a series of poorly made midi music files, if the company is really cheap.

#2: Store all your spares in a central location and use the cheapest and most inefficient courier company to send them to sites

Make sure that at least one time out of four, the courier takes a week to deliver the wrong part. Another variation is to avoid testing replacement equipment properly before dispatch, so that you can have it fail out of the box on the customer's premises. This will ensure that it takes a further 24 hours to get the customer up and running. Under no circumstances should you attempt to keep a small stock of the more frequently used parts in your car so that you can fix problems in a single visit. Any kit of parts must have one piece either broken or missing.

#3: Talk down to the customers

Probably the best way to damage relationships is to be patronising, condescending, rude, and offensive. Make it clear to customers that there are things you would rather be doing, like resting at home with the TV remote in one hand and a beer in the other. It might surprise you to learn that they probably think the same thing—only they're too polite to say so. Good opening lines might be: "You wouldn't be expected to understand" or "Well, if you must buy cheap, you must expect to have problems." These lines never fail.

#4: Make customer problems appear as a personal affront to your skills

It should be obvious to customers that such trivial problems are caused by their lack of knowledge, or stupidity, as we techs like to call it, and that their foolishness has severely inconvenienced you. After all, you've never made a mistake at work, unwittingly entered the wrong command, or fiddled about with system settings, such as configuring the graphics settings to a resolution higher than the monitor can support, have you? That would be just plain dumb.

#5: Fail to meet your appointments when you say you will

Forgetting a customer and going to the wrong place can be a great technique and can be aided by not bothering to record appointments properly in a diary. Make sure that when you next speak to that customer, you avoid mentioning the meeting and never, under any circumstances, apologise or attempt to make amends for your actions. Remember, they need you far more than you need them.

#6:Don't switch on your cell phone until at least lunchtime

You don't want calls from customers or your bosses to interfere with that long "working" breakfast in your favourite café or diner. Never reply to your voicemail messages. People only use voicemail to try to irritate you. The messages they leave are symptoms of their malice toward you and should be treated as such. Similar requests are sometimes made by e-mail. This is obviously a mistake, as they should never have got their hands on your address in the first place.

It's up to you to decide whom you speak to and whose jobs you consider to be worthy of your attention. Should you inadvertently answer your phone to a customer, don't forget to answer all their questions with monosyllables. An impatient groan or two won't be out of place either. Make full use of the Hold option on your phone. You may be having a conversation about football with your colleague and you don't want the flow to be interrupted.

#7: Always behave in a boorish and surly manner when you're with a customer

One useful variant of this approach is to treat customers to a host of sexist or racist jokes. This is a 24-carat, gold-plated, surefire technique to get them to lodge a high-level complaint about you. You'll have the satisfaction of being able to nurse a grudge against your bosses, the customers, and the world in general. There is a plethora of off-color jokes that can be employed here, all available in my anthology Get Yourself Fired the Easy Way, available from all good bookstores or Amazon.

#8: When the customer is talking to you, avoid eye contact

Allow your eyes to wander around the room, sizing up the available women (or men). Try to put a value on the cars parked outside. Go ahead and ponder the ending of the movie you watched last night. When the customer finishes speaking, a remark such as "Hmm?" or "Is that all?" will greatly enhance the annoyance factor.

#9: When female customers ask what you're doing, reply, "You wouldn't understand"

Or "Don't trouble your pretty little head about it" or "Don't worry, it's man's work" It's amazing how effective this approach can be. Not only will they never allow you near them again, you could end up with a real injury to brag about in the pub afterward. However, it might be a good idea to pretend that the black eye you're sporting was the result of a bar fight and not an irate female customer losing her temper.

#10: When your boss makes an appointment to discuss your performance, don't argue or fight your corner—simply don't attend

If you don't talk about it, it can't happen (see The Philosophy of Homer Simpson). This meeting will almost certainly be the result of a customer complaint. You can compound the customer aggravation by confronting the one you believe has lodged the complaint, making a scene at their place of work. Standing in the street roaring abuse might be a nice touch.

Have you followed these handy tips? Congratulations! You will soon be joining the end of the queue at the local social benefit office. The free time you've been craving for so long will finally be yours. In abundance.

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