Women make worst customers: survey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2011, 12:00am


Women are four times more troublesome as customers than men, who are, however, more aggressive and sometimes threatening, according to a survey of frontline service staff on the abuse they take from customers.

For 53.6 per cent of the workers, the gender of customers made a difference as to how they were treated. Of these, 81.3 per cent said that their female customers were 'more troublesome'.

The Vital Employee Service Consultancy conducted a survey of 500 employees in October.

'Women are prone to express their emotions,' said Suen Lap-man of the consultancy. 'They are more careful with checking the goods they buy, so they request exchanges or refunds more often, too.'

But when men became angry, they were more likely to resort to violence, the survey found.

The consultancy - part of the Christian Family Service Centre - found that some male customers would suggest that frontline female workers have a one-night stand with them. Workers also complained they had been subject to verbal abuse and even physical violence. Abuse included customers making unreasonable demands, urinating in public places, splashing water onto the faces of workers in restaurants, and deliberately dropping food onto the floor and then asking the worker to clean up the mess.

Suen said an increasing number of employees were seeking counselling from them because of customer abuse. Of the 4,000 cases they dealt with in the past year, 34 per cent involved staff trying to adapt to a work environment. And a large portion of those cases involved abusive customers.

Survey respondents were evenly divided on the issue of whether Hong Kong or mainland customers were the most troublesome.

The consultancy found that most companies were not offering sufficient support to their staff in handling abuse, with 61.6 per cent of the interviewees saying they were under great pressure at work.

Nearly 75 per cent said they hoped the more senior employees would actively help them with the troublesome cases, and 68.8 per cent said they wished management was more sympathetic with them in dealing with those cases.

Suen said that some respondents suggested companies should arrange for management staff to work on the front line from time to time, so they could understand the situation of the low-level staff. They also said that companies' policies should be made clear to both employees and customers, so that there would be fewer conflicts.

'Reducing conflicts can actually help employers cut costs too, as handling complaints is actually expensive,' Suen said.

'Employees will be upset if they feel they're not backed up, and turnover rates will be high.

'And when complaints are lodged, reports have to be produced, and the processing of them can increase costs, too.'