You start your morning running late and sprint into your local coffee shop for your morning cup of joe. As you breathlessly place your order, you notice the barista doesn’t smile at you. She utters a flat, “Here you go” as she hands you the steaming cup — “Why didn’t she put the cardboard sleeve around it?” you wonder irritably — and moves on robotically to the next customer. As you bolt for the door, hands burning, you think, “Well, she was unfriendly. When did customer service get so terrible?”
It’s true: As the way our society does business has changed, customer service in general has fallen into crisis mode. But in the case of the rude barista, ask yourself this: Did you look her in the eye? Did you say “Good morning?” Did you say “please” or “thank you?” In short, how much of the bad service experience do you have to own?
Often, we get poor service because we’re poor customers. It’s a two-way street. When we’re rude or impersonal to service providers, we get rude and impersonal treatment back. This creates low expectations on both sides, which affects our next service interactions.
In other words, bad customer behavior breeds bad customer service, which breeds bad customer behavior … and so on. To break the cycle and do your part to create uplifting service, be what I call a “service champion” — someone who takes responsibility for uplifting other people’s experience, even when those other people are serving you.
The crisis we’re facing has a lot to do with the way companies think about service. They tend to silo it in one department rather than making great service a part of their overall culture, and that just doesn’t work in our global economy. Customers can’t do a lot about this, except take their business somewhere else. But what they can control is whether or not they contribute to the traffic of goodwill that flows equally between customers and service providers.