In the last four years, I have facilitated over 100 customer service training sessions. By far, the majority of people in my sessions want to provide their customers with great service. They are excited to learn about the concept of internal customer service; they want to learn how to present themselves as professionals and how to effectively manage unhappy, disappointed customers. They are eager to share their experiences with others in the group.
But every once in a while, someone will show up in a session who simply does not understand why they should provide some of the basics, never mind go out of their way to make a customer feel valued. They believe that unhappy, disappointed customers are rude and demanding and refuse to consider using techniques to manage difficult situations.
I had one participant openly admit to spitting in a customer’s burger when it was pointed out to her that the burger wasn’t cooked as ordered. (I must admit to thinking that was an urban myth. Nobody would do that, right? Wrong!!) Another participant told me he had absolutely no intention of ever apologizing to a customer or trying to find a solution to a problem because “Customers get what they get and if they aren’t happy, they can just deal with it.”
Each time this happens I am astounded at the negativity. We need customers. Customers pay our bills for us; they pay for our new car, our dream vacation, our children’s education. Yes, sometimes customers come to our businesses with unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the customer is “wrong”, but that does not give service professionals the right to treat the customer with disdain and disrespect.
Why do some employers put up with this type of behaviour?
Here are two reasons I’ve been given.
1. The employee is great at everything else. Because they are technically proficient, they are allowed to get away with atrocious behaviour.
2. They fill a time slot in the schedule. Sometimes labour shortages result in the “hey, a living, breathing person who shows up for work at least 80% of the time is better than nobody.”
I understand the temptation to let high customer service standards slide a bit in those situations, but don’t give in! The reality is that an employee with this type of negative attitude damages your business. Having toxic, negative, people-haters showing up for work damages your reputation, your current customer leave and potential customers stay away. Not only that, but the work environment becomes increasingly toxic as the negativity starts infecting previously positive attitude employees who see bad behaviour not being addressed.
Attitude truly does count. You can teach someone HOW to complete a task, but you can’t train them to complete it with professional and personal pride or to care about their co-workers or their customers.
Upright, breathing and technically proficient isn’t good enough! Hire people that want to succeed. Hire people that would not dream of settling for “barely good enough” . Hire people that actually care about and like people.