Be a Nice Customer

No doubt you’ve noticed how happy employees translate into happy customers. At least most of the time. But it isn’t only the boss who determines an employee’s “happiness.” Exit interviews with frontline employees reveal that how customers treat them can be a major factor in their decision to look for greener pastures… and nicer customers.  

Who could blame them? 

When you think about it, every human interaction is a reciprocal exchange. Words, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language are the vehicles that convey our intentions. They help to make or break our experiences and the relationships we create. Instead of building or mending bridges, we sometimes inadvertently burn them.

We may even adopt the position that “It’s on them, not me.” Well, I don’t buy that for one minute. Why? Because we are the co-creators of our own experience, every experience, no exceptions. It’s why “I’m sorry” and “I apologize” exist in the first place!  As a culture, we seemed to have shied away from timeless truisms like:

  • Be nice to others and they will be nice to you
  • Respect everyone
  • Treat others how you would want to be treated
  • Please and Thank You matter

And so on.  

Are we feeling a bit entitled? I wonder. Or have we just gotten lazy with our courtesy? After all, it hardly seems to matter online. Or maybe we are just plain tired. 

I was tired the other day when I needed to question a medical bill. Well, I wasn’t just tired. I was stressed, weary, and annoyed. Now there’s a tricky combo! As much as I wanted to dial that 800-billing number, I cooled my heels and stepped back, knowing that I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to deal with the issue or to create the type of experience worthy of who and how I want to be. What about you?  Have you considered when and why you may sometimes treat others with less than who and how you want to be? Whatever may be at the root of our less than exemplary customer behavior, we can turn it around – one experience at a time. Here’s how:

Choose to hold the belief that we are each other’s customer: It doesn’t matter who is the “employee” and who is the “customer.” We have mutual accountability as we are all human. 

Now put yourself in their shoes: It’s not easy to please customers day in and day out, whether it’s face to face, on the phone, or in an online chat. That rep is challenged to put her best self forward with every customer, every time, regardless of how her boss or her previous customer has treated her. 

Treat them as you would want to be treated: Kindness, respect, courtesy. It’s all of the little things that create a positive experience. Use her name if you know it. Thank her for that helpful bit of information. Ask how her day is going and extend some empathy her way if you sense she needs it. Be human in the best ways!

Be generous with genuine compliments: False compliments are hollow, and they are beneath you. Instead notice what she does well and let her know: “I so appreciate your patience, Ebony.” “Thanks for summarizing that in a way I can really understand.”  “You’ve been awesome, Adam.” Your genuine appreciation might be just the booster shot that rep needs to get through the rest of their shift.     

Own it when you screw up: Did you know that others respect us more when we take responsibility for our mistakes?  Mistakes level the playing field and create common ground. Saying something like: “Oops, my bad. I gave you the wrong info” will do it.

Reward them with a great review and your return business: I don’t often leave specific, positive feedback for a service rep. But when that rep has been stellar, singing their praises is a gift I give wholeheartedly – the perfect “wrap” to a great experience.  


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