Get Off Your High Horse

In the many customer service workshops I facilitate, I’ve discovered that the human tendency to judge others based on personal moral standards or guidelines is by far the biggest hurdle in a person’s ability to provide great service.

Customer profiling is not limited to policing and security.  A customer that doesn’t look quite right, whose clothes and mannerisms don’t match a preconceived notion of what a customer should look like, very often receive lower grade service. They may not be treated with outright rudeness (although that does happen) but the smile, the offers to help and quality checks are not done as quickly or with as much enthusiasm.

Moral judgments and biases really come into play when a customer is unhappy about a policy or a procedure.  The tendency to blame customers for their dissatisfaction or unhappiness is common.

  • “Why should I care if a customer is unhappy because he has to go outside to smoke? Smoking is a disgusting habit. He should just quit and then his problem is solved.”
  • “If she’d read the information, she’d have seen there was a fee for that.”
  • “He’s just like all the others; a scammer out to get something for free.”
  • “Wow, I can’t believe how rude she was.  What a b*#@h!”
  • “She was late.  If she’d been here on time, she wouldn’t have had to wait as long.”
  • “Everyone knows hotel check-in times are not that early.  Why is she so mad because she can’t get into her room early?”

Customers have foibles, bad habits, idiosyncrasies. They are just like us, imperfect.   Excellent service providers have learned to get off their high horse, their pedestal of moral judgment and insider information.  Instead, they join the customer at ground level to look at the situation from his or her point of view; they try to find common ground.  Excellent service providers may not always agree, but they are never disagreeable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please feel free to share. 


4 thoughts on “Get Off Your High Horse

  1. Great article, Laurie. You nailed it. Having done a fair number of customer service presentations myself, I have often noticed that the closer an individual is to an ownership position in the organization (pride and/or profit), the more care and respect they use in dealing with customers. While they still may be judging, their “ownership position” moves to a higher priority position.

    Of course there are always the exceptions, the folks who believe that as a representative of an organization it is their duty to treat customers (and peers) respectfully because it’s the “right” thing to do.

    Whether within an organization or in one’s personal life I think we all would be served well if we heeded the advice of Wayne Dyer who asserts that, “When we judge another, we do not define them, we define our self.” ~Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. Sadly, the judgmental gene is found at all levels, but as you noted, many individuals become better at masking those negative perceptions as they move up the proverbial ladder. Of course, they never come across as completely sincere, but at least they are making the effort!

      And I do like that Wayne Dyer quote … thanks for sharing, Paul.

  2. Yep. All those perceptions are real when one filters through judgmental bias and values.

    A flip can occur on that when the customer service worker is focused on doing more than the customer expects as a way of finessing those issues. Having a 3:00 checking but then “discovering” that a room is available is a way of first setting and then exceeding expectations.

    Like scheduling a visit by the cable company, the best employees will often first state that there is normally a 24-hour service call response time but that they were able to. “find a technician in the area who just finished early and who should be able to get there today — would 3:00 today be okay?”

    Taking that angry or rude customer and making them into a satisfied customer is a good goal for top performers.

    On the other hand, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and just annoys the pig.”

    The owner of a local Hyundai store owed me $100 for a referral I made after I purchased a new car from them. It was to my daughter, actually, who needed a larger car for my new grandson. After a YEAR and a bunch of complaints to the store, I generated a 2-page letter to Hyundai. The Dealer Principal called me, got my VERY specific feedback about people and promises unfulfilled and all that. Then, he suggested that he would have a check available for me to pick up. I waited 3 weeks just to see if he would followup and maybe like, “MAIL” me the check since store was 20 minutes away from my home. NOPE. That took another call from me — and he never understood the issue! He then had the check mailed to me Priority Mail (and wasted $9) instead of $.46 for postage, like that Priority Mail would have impressed me.

    You can imagine how things really operate for customer service at his store and how effectively he leads the charge to exceed customer expectations. (Never did get a response back from Hyundai corporate, though. Weird…)

    • Thanks for your insight Scott. If the owner of the Hyundai store couldn’t get it right, I imagine the rest of his team isn’t doing such a great job either. Glad you brought that up. It is always slightly amusing (I’d rather laugh than cry!) when I hear owners/managers lament about poor service complaints and then turn around and speak poorly about their customers (both internal and external), don’t keep their promises, refuse to apologize, find excuses and won’t own their role in the customer service experience. Would they be the pigs you referred to? LOL ..

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