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Cultivating Positive Relationships Customer Service Empowerment Techniques

How best to address entitled customer expectations, demands

Last week, we cited a customer entitlement article written by Jade Wu, PhD on quickanddirtytips.com. She notes, “Entitled people expect special treatment and lots of admiration. They don’t like to play fair, even though all of this makes their relationships with others worse.” She then details five ways to best address the entitlement mentality, tips that can serve customer service reps well.

1. Use wish fulfillment to set limits. Entitled people have many expectations. That doesn’t mean they must be fulfilled. Dr. Wu notes, “Leave the expectation lying there. You don’t have to fulfill it. Make it clear that you can’t or won’t fulfill the expectation, but do so without blame or criticism…A great way to do this is through “wish fulfillment,” which sounds something like this: I wish I could be on standby to see you this afternoon, but I have other clients who already have appointments with me. Next time, please check in with me a few days in advance and I’ll try my best to get you on the schedule.” 

2. Treat everyone equally. Maintain the rules for everyone without making exceptions for an entitled person if the same can’t be done for everyone.

3. Feel some compassion for them. Dr. Wu opines that a “raging sense of inadequacy” underpins the behavior of entitled people. She suggests that by being polite, sticking to boundaries and treating everyone equally, those dealing with entitled people can model good behavior.

4. Be inclusive, even of entitled people. When entitled people feel shunned, they want to make themselves more important. She adds, “The rest of us may be able to help by simply being kind and inclusive in social settings, as long as it’s not damaging to ourselves or others. This might give people we see as entitled a chance to show that they’re capable of playing fair when they’re not feeling threatened.”

5. Remember there’s only so much you can do. There are always limits. Ultimately, people must change themselves. Set limits, be egalitarian and feel compassion, then do your best to “…steer clear. It’s one of the few times in life where being punished with the silent treatment might actually be a blessing.”

Dr. Wu concludes: “…as Malcolm Forbes famously said, ‘You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.’ So tip your waiter generously, smile and ask how your barista’s day was, and give up your seat to the elderly lady on the subway.”

Entitled customers are not going away anytime soon. But by managing their negative behaviors in positive ways, customer service reps can start to thin their ranks.

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Where does customer service cross over into undeserved customer entitlement? A recent T-Mobile ad campaign got me thinking about this important distinction, with the “I want it all…and I want it now” theme. While competent, dedicated and sincere customer service needs to continue growing in this country, the opposite is true of our entitlement mentality, showcased by this ad. As everyone continues to suffer through the pandemic, political dysfunction and economic loss, it’s time to reassess what we’re truly entitled to (e.g., appropriate healthcare, a good education for our children) versus continuing to live by our spoiled-brat ways. Along the way, consumers also need to reframe how they interact with customer service forces—who are suffering the same setbacks as the rest of us.

Mark Lusky

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Mark Lusky
mark@marklusky.com

Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.

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