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How to Avoid Bad Customer Service

Updated on February 21, 2018
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Susan has been a high school teacher for 26 years. She has a BSEd in Elementary Education and an MSEd in Secondary Education and English.


“Whatever happened to customer service?” we hear ourselves asking over and over again.

It seems that some business owners either take their trade for granted or believe it is okay to allow employees to treat customers as if they are an inconvenience.

How many times have we gone to a restaurant and had a waiter or waitress who didn’t smile?

How many times have we gone into a retail store and had a clerk seem unconcerned that we have even entered?

How many times have we felt like the employee sees customers as an inconvenience, rather than their job and responsibility to serve?

There are many good employees out there with excellent people skills, but there are some who seem to have no personality.

It seems to be more common to see employees who do not care about the customer.

Is it that they don't care or that they do not know better? In today's society, it is hard to put a finger on that one.

Employers must take action to improve employee/customer relations, via customer service.

Is Bad Customer Service Really "This" Generation's Fault?

Can we really use the old cliché “kids these days” anymore? After all, isn’t it actually the adults who should be teaching the kids?

If I were a business owner I would be telling my employees exactly what I wanted them to do when it comes to the business and customer service.

I am a teacher, and I have seen surly kids, entitled kids, shy kids, and loners; but I have also seen many wonderful kids who have an awesome work ethic and who have wonderful personalities. When it comes down to it, almost all kids are willing to learn, even the ones who seem disinterested.

All of them need guidelines. Show them the expectations and see them and your business flourish.


Old-Fashion Customer Service

I love watching Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. He lands in the 1950s and one of the first things he sees as he walks through his hometown are four men at a gas station running out to a car that just rolled into the gas station (or as my mother used to call it, the filling station). One fills the tank, one checks the oil, one cleans the windshield, and one checks the tires, then one of them stays to talk to the customer sitting in the car and receives the payment. All four of them are smiling and appear to love their job and the customer.

I show this movie at the end of the year as kids are working on their final reviews. They are all surprised to see this scene. "Did they really used to do that?" they ask in wonder. I tell them that was before my time, but I do remember going to the gas station and the service man would do all those things. He always had a joke for my mom and candy for me. He had a booming business and had the most popular gas station in town because of his great service.

Some states still require a full service station, but not in Missouri. My students have never experienced such service.

The point is that we need to teach our new and young employees the value of customer service because when my students see this movie scene, they can't fathom it.

A Personal Account of Learning the Value of Customer Service

When I was 18, I worked at the jewelry counter for the Service Merchandise chain. The first week consisted of watching videos on customer service. The videos showed a variety of scenarios, ranging from dealing with that sweet old lady to that grumpy old man to a kid who wasn’t sure what he needed. It also showed a plan of action if someone tried to steal the jewelry. Okay, so what?

I thought these videos were ridiculous at the time. I mean, who didn’t know that you were supposed to be nice to the customers? Who didn't know that you call security if a theft occurs? This is "easy" stuff. Then I thought, “Oh well, I am getting paid to be here even if it is a waste of time.” On the contrary...

Watching the actors deal with those situations shown in the video seemed like a breeze when I watched them, but actually dealing with them was a completely different ball game. One, I got my feelings hurt over and over by people who were rude. I was just a kid and took everything personally, and customers can be extremely rude. And, two, my training taught me that I should never respond rudely, but hold that smile and understand business is business, not personal. Without those videos to fall back on, I would have walked out the first week.

Customer Service Survey - Are You Training Your Employees?

What kind of training best reflects your business practices?

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How to Improve Customer Service

Whether running a small business or a large business it is “big business” to have a plan for your new employees.

  • Have a mission statement. Your mission statement should clearly outline the expectations of your company.
  • Make your vision for your business part of your employees’ vision, too.
  • Have training videos, if possible, to show new employees different scenarios.They might take them for granted as I did, but they will appreciate them later.
  • Teach employees about the different types of customers and how to handle each situation - the good, the bad, the ugly.
  • Make sure your employees know their actions, behaviors, and outer demeanor reflect your business. If there are violations in their behavior, you may lose a customer or several customers.
  • The customer is never wrong. In today’s society, it seems we want to always be right. Make sure you train your employees to politely handle a dissatisfied customer.You want your employee to jump through hoops to help that customer.
  • Do on-the-job-training.Be the example or delegate training to someone who is an exemplary example.All your employees should know how to do their job and how to behave on the job before they are ever turned loose on their own. It doesn’t matter what the age or experience level.If you want results for your business, each employee must know exactly how you want those results obtained.
  • Teach your employee the ins and outs of their job.If they run into a situation where they do not know the answer, make them feel comfortable in getting someone in the workplace who can help.
  • Treat your employees with respect so they will treat your business with respect.Their respect will overflow to the customers.
  • Show them what is inappropriate: rudeness, apathy, laziness, sloppy appearance, messy work area, and complete lack of knowledge of their job, to name a few.
  • Teach employees the Golden Rule. It is not a given that all people understand it.Explain to them that they should put themselves in the customers’ shoes and treat them the way they would want to be treated if under the same circumstances.
  • Teach “Service with a Smile.” A happy face and good attitude go a long way with customers walking through the door.It makes them feel welcome, which in turn makes them want to buy your product or service.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

Business always has a bottom line, which is customer satisfaction and loyalty. In turn creating good customer service improves business, reputation, and profits. Word-of-mouth is a powerful advertising tool. If you have one employee who cannot work with one customer, it could turn into losing customers or potential customers and profit. It is your business and your responsibility to have a plan because each employee is an extension of your business. The best way to save business reputation is to create customer service training that extends employee job targets for attracting business into the future.

Funny with Elements of Truth


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