SEOUL, Korea, Oct 07 (Korea Bizwire) – “I love you, dear customer!”The 114 Directory Assistance operators have begun saying these greetings since 2007. Some customers responded to this rather unfamiliar salutation, “She loves me? That’s kind of awkward.” But some others took this more positively, “I could feel the effort to get closer to customers” or “I want to call them every day to hear more of that.”
Now, the Directory Assistance Service has introduced a new welcoming message, “Please take heart, dear customer!” These days, it is not just 114 operators who do their best to be friendlier to their customers. So many private corporations and public organizations are doing the same to win favor with patrons.
But there are some customers who abuse this trend by routinely raising complaints in order to extort money from businesses. They are called “black consumers” in Korea. According to a 2011 survey by the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry on 314 companies, as much as 83.4 percent of respondents said, they have experienced customer demands “way beyond the level generally acceptable.”
The types of such demands included “excessive demand for compensation” (57.9%), “insistence on refund or exchange in cases where any of these are not allowed” (35.2%), and “request for free-of-charge repair past the warranty period” (6.5%). Excessive demands are usually followed by threats or verbal abuses, and in some cases frequent phone calls or visits to the degree of obstructing normal business operation.
But lately these companies are turning their attitudes toward these consumers behaving badly. Instead of complying with all kinds of demand no matter how absurd it is, they started relying on prosecuting customers making repeated threats or showing unruly behaviors while ensuring that customers sign a document warranting that they have read the terms and conditions for refund and exchange.
Hyundai Department Stores is one of the companies that have introduced the scheme. With this program in place, the retailer said, the number of cases in which customers insist on refund or exchange for items they have been using for weeks or months have declined substantially. Since August, the company has also distributed a set of rules for store employees to engage with unruly customers disrupting normal business operations.
In addition, some companies are introducing rules for call center operators on how to deal with disorderly customers. For example, Hyundai Card, Korea’s major credit card issuer, saw its operators’ monthly calling time decline by 582 hours after instituting a set of rules including hanging up on a caller who keeps on making verbal abuses even after two warnings.
LG Electronics and LG U+ have also introduced a measure to prevent customers’ bad behaviors by calling in the police as soon as the customer’s voice is raised up to a certain decibel level. SK Telecom is currently running a program of making warnings on the phone, sending out formal warnings in registered mail, and finally resorting to legal means if all else fails.
Kim Tae-young, senior research fellow with the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, “Consumers making habitual, intentional complaints must be sought out. Information on these people must be shared across companies.” KCCI is currently administering a monthly training course “How to Deal with Black Consumers” in which an average of 200 corporate managers attend.
In a situation where there are so many customers who appreciate a call center operator’s greetings “Please take heart, dear customer!” and company officials who can readily say sorry to a customer’s complaint, there is no room for badly behaving consumers.