Who beats out religious proponents and yakuza for the most feared customer to encounter at a mobile phone counter?
Many stores cater to certain types of customers: perfume counters are likely to deal with women, and if you work in a toy department, don’t be surprised if you encounter a lot of kids and parents.
But in this day and age everyone from all walks of life have a mobile phone, so a sales rep in this field is likely to encounter a wide variety of people, if not the widest.
Sure, there are other jobs that have a universal customer base, like waiter or store clerk, but those jobs have fairly limited interactions with their customers. A mobile phone salesperson has to speak at length with these people to close an often complicated contract or handle a technical problem.
Our writer Seiji Nakazawa met with a man who worked for several years at the mobile phone counter of a major home electronics store and asked which types of customers were the biggest handfuls.
Actually, Seiji wasn’t expecting much, because the guy seemed so cheerful, as if nothing bothered him, but sure enough he had some clear-cut answers, along with some anecdotes of why they are so fearsome.
Stalkery Religious Recruiters
“I don’t know what to do when I get invited to a religion. There was this beautiful woman and an elementary school girl both purchasing cell phones from me. After the contract was all settled we started chatting and the woman asked me for my contact info.
I told her that staff weren’t allowed to have personal relationships with customers, but then she asked me what time I finished work. I was clearly getting a ‘let’s get a coffee’ kind of vibe from her, so I managed to change the topic in a way so as not to offend her. She left without any trouble and I thought I was in the clear…
That evening when I went to leave, she was waiting outside by the bike racks. ‘There is something I desperately want to tell you,’ she said as she took my hand. Things were getting very weird so I tried to politely turn her down once again. Then she reached in her bag saying, ‘I only want to give you this,’ and then she took out a pamphlet for some new kind of religion and gave it to me.
I guess…I looked like I was lost in life.”
“Some customers that really scared me were yakuza bosses. At the store I worked at there was a yakuza boss who came in about once a month asking about functions on his phone. If he got a male staff member he would occasionally lose his s**t and shout so loud that it would echo across the entire large-scale store. But with female staff he would talk like one would while petting a cat, so naturally women mostly dealt with him.
However, one day he came when it was really busy and all of the women were handling other customers so I was the only one to help him. He asked me to help him assign different ringtones to different incoming phone numbers. It was a simple request…except for the fact that his phone was about 10 years old!
I was trying to figure out the ancient settings when he suddenly snapped and roared, “HURRY THE F**K UP A**HOLE!!!” Sitting so close to him at the time I could actually see the rage course through his body. My feet began to quiver but I had to stay because I still hadn’t figured out how to use his old phone. I eventually could do it, but I admit I started crying about halfway through. I still tremble just thinking about it.”
People who think they know everything about phones
“The worst kind of customers were the ones that would ask us detailed questions about certain apps like, ‘Did you know?’ as if they were testing us. Since most of the apps were made and installed by the phone maker or other companies, it was kind of outside the knowledge of our salespeople who worked for a service provider. I knew a bit about popular apps, and luckily, what I didn’t know wasn’t a problem when I worked there.
But these kind of people were very confused about the extent of sales reps’ powers and they would make impossible requests like “Can’t you lower the price?” Still, if you can’t answer or refuse these people they’ll lodge a complaint making you and your counter look bad. It’s an impossible situation and easily more dreadful than religious messengers or gangsters.
If you have a good relationship with your boss or company rep then they’ll probably understand your situation. Unfortunately, I didn’t so these kinds of unreasonable requests resulted in my transfer. However, from that I came to appreciate the importance of interpersonal skills, both with customers and superiors.”
Seiji now understood why the former salesperson sitting across from him had such a pleasant demeanor. Customers who are outwardly zany or aggressive are plainly at fault when they descend upon salespeople, but it’s the ones that otherwise seem normal but make complaints that are the most frightening. With these people, it’s hard not to get a little introspective and wonder if actually you’re the one who’s hard to deal with.
Original article by Seiji Nakazawa
[ Read in Japanese ]