A customer hits on you and wants you to flirt back. What do you do?
It happens to us all, even when we’re hideous and past our society-mandated “expiration date.” A client comes along and surprises us with a flirt, date request, or question that has nothing to do with the service.
The words shock us; the interest intrigues us; the solution stumps us. The remedy is evident when the patron is disrespectful and lewd.
But what if a fine, smooth customer makes a play?
What do we do when we have a “human moment,” and the other party piques our interest?
Can we flirt back with a customer? Maybe and maybe not. Here’s how to decide:
1. Make sure it’s an actual flirtation.
You have to be certain the customer is flirting before deciding whether to flirt back. Some people are naturally personable, and they get misunderstood all the time. That doesn’t mean your client isn’t flirting, but you need to assess all possibilities.
Has the patron asked you for a date or phone number? If yes, you have your answer. If not, you must review other factors.
Did the client’s words leave wiggle room for multiple interpretations? The answer might be complicated if so.
Your customer may have toed the line by using questionable wordplay.
Sometimes people do that to avoid rejection. They make borderline comments in case the recipient rebukes their advancement. Then they can claim they meant what they said “the other way” to avoid embarrassment.
A shy individual might use that tactic, but you can’t risk guessing they’re low-key and responding inappropriately. Thus, you should always assume the person isn’t flirting if you aren’t sure.
Did the customer ask you a question that only an interested person would ask?
You can be confident that someone likes you if he or she asks a personal question, such as whether you are dating anyone. That’s not an inquiry uninterested people make if they don’t want to know for personal reasons. But if you’re unclear, you can ask them why they asked to see if you can get clarification.
2. Read the company’s guidelines.
Re-read your employee handbook and find the company’s policies on romantic relationships. Most handbooks mention whether workers can engage in office romances and fraternizations. Yours might also contain information about customer relations.
Speak to your boss or human resources agent if the manual is missing a customer romance addendum. Many companies discourage dating clients to avoid possible liabilities, so make sure you ask before you do it.
Contractors and Business Partners
You play the roles of the supervisor and HR when you’re a “business entity,” and you can manage how you deal with a client. But you still have to consider your business partners and contractees first.
You provide them the service of serving their customers, and thus, you must preserve their relationships with them. Use your best judgment when handling yourself to avoid alienating any clients from their businesses.
Reject a flirt with care or flirt back with caution.
3. Think about your status and desires.
How do you feel about the interaction? Are you available? What are you looking for? Those are three questions you must ask yourself before proceeding. You can date as you please if you’re single. But think about your values, religious beliefs, goals, etc. before you flirt back. You’ll also need to gauge your emotional readiness and whether you can have someone in your life.
4. Evaluate the interaction for harassment and double standards.
Rethink the interaction and scan it for anything you might consider harassment. Proceed if your mind-search comes up null.
Harassment is any unwanted or offensive advances, physical contact, or innuendos. Unwanted and offensive are the key words here.
An interaction is not harassment if you welcome it, engage it positively, or pursue it.
It is harassment when you say no or stop, and it continues. It’s harassment when it offends you because it’s profane and unsolicited (you weren’t flirting or being overly friendly) as well.
It’s okay for new people to express their interest in you, but it’s not okay for anyone to talk to you like you’re a street worker or a piece of meat. It is sexual harassment to women and men. So, it’s not a double standard if you handle two situations differently based on the customers’ approach.
5. Consider how it affects your work performance.
Think about whether your workplace dynamic or performance might change if you flirt back with a customer. Ask yourself if you can remain professional when serving them in future work transactions.
Maybe you can have someone else serve the client if he or she becomes your significant other. Your employer/partner may also be willing to treat your relationship like a family connection and avoid having you provide services to that customer.
6. Flirt back with the customer—or not.
Now you can decide whether it’s acceptable and worth the risk to flirt back with a customer.
Getting hit on is something that happens to all people everywhere. It shouldn’t be an issue just because it occurs while you’re working, but weigh all the pros and cons of your response before you give it.
Don’t entertain anything that degrades you or is against company policy, but by all means, flirt back with a customer if you want to, and it’s okay.