A few years ago, my husband, brother and sister-in-law hopped in a van with my parents for a long road trip to attend a family funeral. As with many road trips, highway truck stops were quick and convenient for meals. My dad, wonderful man that he is, has a unique sense of humour that not everyone appreciates.
We stopped at a lot of truck stops and diners on that trip. The response from the servers to my dad’s attempts at humour were met with indifference, the occasional eye roll (not literal but wow … I could see the mental eye roll!) and in some cases, good-natured laughter and ribbing back. Guess which servers were smiling and had tables full of smiling people in return? Guess which servers got a better tip?
Customer service is not always easy, but when I hear service providers complain about their stupid customers or the stupid things customers say and do, I want to remind them that those customers mean they have a job.
I’m not talking about valid concerns regarding abusive customers. I’m talking about all those complaints around lame jokes or stupid questions. I’m talking about complaints about rude, demanding customers.
That lame joke may be the customer’s attempt to establish rapport because the service provider sure hasn’t tried. Or maybe that lame customer just needs someone, anyone to acknowledge their existence, to make them feel a little less alone for just a moment. And that stupid question? It may seem stupid to you but chances are it’s not stupid to the customer. That’s why they asked! Maybe they do know the question is stupid but they needed someone, anyone to acknowledge their existence.
As for the rude customer … yup, they are out there and they’re not fun to deal with. We don’t have to like or approve of their behaviour. We’re not responsible for their behaviour. We are responsible for our behaviour. Instead of focusing on rudeness, focus on how to respond positively and professionally.
Customer service is not all fun and games. Sometimes customers try our patience. I get it. I’ve heard the lame jokes and the stupid questions. I’ve dealt with downright rude customers. I’ve also learned that complaining, mentally rolling my eyes and focusing on the stuff I don’t like, doesn’t make my day any better. When we spend all our time focusing on the lame jokes, the stupid questions and the rude customers we lose sight of the individual person in front of us or on the phone.
The service providers who laughed at my dad’s jokes or who joined in and played along were much happier than the eye rollers. Be good to yourself and be good to your customer. Focus on the positive, the humour and have fun!