The Cockatoo Customer – Dealing with a Difficult Customer

Last month, we welcomed a new addition to our family in the form of a baby cockatoo. She’s chatty, she’s extremely affectionate, she loves to dance and sing, and she will do just about anything for a handful of peanuts. Most of the time, she’s just about as silly and adorable as it gets – with one exception. She also screams. A lot.

It’s just what one has to expect with this particular family of birds. They’re naturally loud and boisterous, and it’s characteristic of them to have a “screeching session” first thing in the morning or in the evenings before bed. It all takes a bit of getting used to (not to mention a few thick blankets), but in the end, it’s not so bad. In fact, it can be a surprisingly entertaining way to wind down an evening at home; watching the bird squawk and ruffle her feathers, hearing her mutter “I don’t know what to do!” under her breath repeatedly (yes, she really does this). It’s all a bit silly, and she always calms down for bed soon after.

Except for when she’s blatantly trying to just get attention or to get her own way. The loud squawkings turn into full-on, ear-splitting screeches, she beats her wings in a fury, and human fingers are no longer safe. No amount of placating, soothing words or pleading with her to please be quiet will do any good when this mood strikes. She wants attention, and she will make it known to the world – or least to the neighborhood. Worst of all is that we know that we can’t give in, and it’s not always easy. But it’s important that she learns that you don’t scream or throw a tantrum to get what you want. Even at the expense of our eardrums, we’re committed to teaching this message.

Why am I going on about all of this? Because I’m sure that many of you have customers who can occasionally be the same way. Inevitably, the stereotypical “difficult customer” will arise from time to time – fingers pointed in faces, a one-sided screaming match over the phone, scathing emails filling our inboxes. It’s an unfortunate reality that every one of us has had to manage in our professional lives.

These are the “cockatoo customers” – impatient and angry for seemingly no reason, demanding immediate attention and instant results over the threat of raising a fuss, hoping we’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy so that they’ll go back to being quiet and leave us with a few moments of peace. When this happens, just remember that the cockatoo will soon wear itself out. And they come back with a smile and polite “hello” that’s just impossible to resist. In the end, when the dust and noise (and feathers) have settled, they come back as your old friend again.

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