Service of Being a [Great] Customer

March 27th, 2009

Categories: Appreciation, Attitude, Courtesy, Customer Service, Gratitude, Service, Staffing

We welcome this guest post from R C-F, a New England-based high school math teacher whose approach reminds me of what another calm, gentle woman I know says if, in spite of being gracious to the person serving her, she’s treated rudely. “I’m sorry you dislike your job so much.” Sometimes she needs to repeat this because the comment surprises the perpetrator. Often this bit of understanding turns around a surly attitude.


On to R C-F who writes: “I keep thinking of instances when courtesy makes a difference in this world especially when it comes to service, interactions and community. Courtesy, thoughtfulness, awareness of the needs of others, reaching out even when it makes you look and/or feel foolish, all those are essential to the survival of our culture, or so it seems to me.


“Just recently I was at a Starbucks and got a shrug and “we don’t have that” to a query about a mix of regular and decaf. I sympathized, asked about the equipment and how business was and suddenly, I had a mixed espresso coffee that was delicious.


“And when I went back to the counter to tell the man that the coffee was wonderful, he was at first suspicious, then broke into a marvelous grin. Nice. Nice for both of us.


“Helping people who are working in a store, helping to pick up a mass of cans that a customer in a hurry knocks over, helping report broken glass or excellent service to a manager–all these things take time, may be frustratingly treated lightly, but I think they are always worth it.”


When you’re the customer, what techniques do you use that turn around an inappropriate attitude? Or do you stay silent and vote with your feet and never return?

7 Responses to “Service of Being a [Great] Customer”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    I fully concur with R C-F’s thinking and often take the time to register my satisfaction with good service in person or via the telephone. I just assume it benefits all concerned, and that it relates to the importance of manners discussed earlier on this site. I also always hope that the employee will eventually be acknowledged. It seems that this should help to making our day to day living more pleasant. Given the current economic anxiety and concerns, it would seem more important than ever to act in a positive fashion.

    As for assisting with spills etc., or reporting potentially inconvenient or hazardous situations (broken glass, etc.) the golden rule certainly should apply. If it is possible to avoid a disaster, and in our ligitation-crazed society, legal actions, it is certainly worthwhile to engage in acts of kindness that should actually be instinctive.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I just thought of what I did on a snowy evening in Manhattan years ago. Cars were frozen in their spots on the street because ploughs had stacked piles of snow fender-high. All garages were full. At the last one I tried, I asked the attendant if he had any ideas and he told me of a new garage hidden in a building.

    I entered and parked my car precisely at the sign that said, “Stop here.” I got out, pulled out grocery bags, pocketbook [I was going to have dinner with my mother], put the leash on the dog, closed the car doors and looked for the attendant.

    Then I hear, “Move the car over there.”

    I was clearly not in the driver’s seat–didn’t want to disappoint my mother and drive home mission not accomplished–and something so unfamiliar popped out of my mouth: “So, I work for you now? I parked at the sign.”

    I remember this so vividly because I’m usually achingly polite, especially under desperate circumstances, but the bossy tone got to me and the thought of moving the dog and my body bulked up in winter wear back in the car was too much.

    I took the receipt and left. I don’t think R C-F or Martha Takayama would agree with the approach but sometimes it’s a relief not to bend over backwards.

  3. Simon Carr Said:

    I believe R C-F makes a very good point in reminding us of our responsibility to respond fairly to those who serve us. I make a point of over tipping for good service whether in a taxicab or a restaurant or elsewhere (one reason I don’t agree with the service charge applied in Europe to restaurant and hotel bills), and under tipping even to the point of no tip for mediocre or bad service.

    “Thank you” are also a good words to over use.

    As to helping out the person serving me, it all depends on the situation at hand. For example, if you are the boss, and you give your subordinates a particularly nasty job to do over a weekend, it makes all the difference if you give up your weekend also and help out.

    As a trustee of a secondary school, I’d like to ask R C-F a question or two. How often do the students you serve thank you? Do administrators thank you? Do board members thank you?

    One of my deepest regrets is that I never thanked the greatest teacher I studied under in college for what he did for me. He was fired the year after I had him in class because of the “Publish or Perish” policy then in place at that institution. Years later, after the advent of “Google,” I found that he had gone on to a distinguished career as a history professor at a preeminent New England college and indeed had published, but that is another story. What hurt was that he had died before I had had a chance to write to thank. I’ve felt guilty about it ever since. If you want to do something, do it now for tomorrow may be too late.


  4. Lucrezia Said:

    As my name implies, I do not react well to shrugs, retorts or similar unprovoked unpleasantness. A confrontational response to unprovoked nastiness may solve the problem. Bad manners can be a form of bullying, and when they are met with resistance, the offender usually backs down, and a reasonable relationship follows. I am rarely mistreated, but have found saying nothing is wrong. One leaves the incident feeling wounded, and the culprit is encouraged to beat up on others. A firm, but civil put down to customer abuse is basically a service to society, not to speak of onesself. Mr. or Ms. “Rude” is warned that such behavior produces consequences – perhaps even loss of employment. He or she will not try this again with you on a subsequent visit, and may well become wary of trying to act up with others. Think “Pavlovs Dog!” In one memorable instance, I enjoyed a long time friendship with a would be barracuda who attacked while I was looking through a clothes rack in “her” store, and picking out the wrong size.

  5. R C-F Said:


    I guess I live in an extraordinary world, but students often thank me as they leave the classroom. It may be just this generation of students, but I have been noticing it recently since I have to say “you’re welcome!” multiple times. And it isn’t brown nosing. It is just an almost automatic action taken as they leave the class. And not all students do it, obviously. But those that do make a cheerful place of the classroom as they leave.

    Do the administrators thank me? Well, on Christmas cards, or “Season’s Greetings” cards, yes. “Thank you for all you do for the school.” “Thank you for your dedication…” And sometimes the Head praises us all at a faculty meeting, but that usually follows difficult and complex meetings.

    Do Board Members thank me? Yes – when there are gatherings of Board Members and faculty and we get to talk. I do wish Board members would come around to see classes more; and then thank the teacher whose class they saw adding praise (or criticism if necessary) afterwards. Board members have told me that they wished they could do that more, visit classes that is. I am not a faculty representative to the Board, but I often attend the open Board meetings.

    And I agree, too, with Simon. It is too bad he never got to thank the Professor he found so special. One of the most wonderful things that can happen to a teacher is to hear from a student that they made a difference in the student’s life. That has happened to me, and I have never forgotten those encounters or messages.

    One last thing: In my classroom I am quite relaxed, but if I hear rudeness, thoughtlessness, unkindness I snap back quickly, invite the student(s) to talk later, forbid that kind of negative output. I hope I get to influence my students!

  6. Simon Carr Said:

    R C-F, What a lovely reply to my questions! You must be some teacher, and your children the more lucky for it.


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