Recently I got a letter from my Homeowners’ Association stating that they are proposing a rule change: “Due to an increase in the number of reported verbal abuse incidents against representatives of the Association, the Board of Directors is proposing to increase the monetary fine associated with a verbal abuse violation to deter this unwanted conduct.” Apparently (Hah! I better go back and read the HOA rules!), there’s already such a rule that states that this kind of behavior will cost you $100, but the new rule proposes a doubling of the fine, to $200.

(OK, so I live in the OC, but we’re not all like the Real Housewives of Orange County. The gated community I live in is filled with well-educated family types that one would think would not need such rules. One would think…)

So, I got to thinking, as I usually do… what if all companies fined customers any time they got verbally abusive with their frontline representatives? Would that deter customers from complaining? Would that force customers to be nicer to company reps? Do we need incentives for customers to not get angry in their dealings with company reps? Is this anger justified?

Or, would that just give companies a good excuse to ignore the customer experience and the quality of service provided?

Who takes the high ground?

Shep Hyken (@hyken) tweeted: The customer is not always right, but they are the customer. So if they are wrong, let them be wrong with dignity & respect.

What rights does the company have in this equation?

This line of thinking reminded me about a Twitter exchange I had a few weeks back. I tweeted an article titled “Where, oh where, has customer service gone?” to which Annie Pettit (@LoveStats) responded, “Where oh where have polite consumers gone…:)” That threw me for a minute, but it’s so true. We put a lot of weight on hiring people who are nice, friendly, and service-oriented, but how much crap can they or do they have to take?

People buy from people. Time to put human back into the service equation. On both sides of the equation.