Customer Experience Rule No. 1: Don't Be Rude!

by Jeannie Walters

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customer experience rulesIn the “not rocket science” category, “Don’t Be Rude” has to top the list of customer experience rules. And, yet, certain companies (Zappos, Starbucks) consistently provide experiences that are rudeness-free. And believe me, that grabs a lot of attention.

So as we continue to give more and more of our business to customer-focused companies, those who still don’t get it create a stark contrast.

Consider this scenario:

I was lined up at the UPS Store. Yes, it’s a franchise, indepently-owned, blah blah blah. It is BRANDED as UPS. So I hope they care.

I was second in line, and there was quickly a line of 6 more behind me. The store had just opened at 9:00, and it was clear the clerk was in over her head. Too many people were arriving, and yet she was the only worker there. I watched her carefully. She did two things really well – she was as efficient as she could be with most requests, and she stayed relatively calm.

However…there are a few things she could’ve done better. She could have acknowledged people as they came in, instead of just when they approached the counter. She could’ve let the phone call go to voicemail instead of prioritizing the phone over the line of people in the store.

She could’ve done a better job with Rule # 1 – Don’t Be Rude.

When line member #4 asked, a bit impatiently, if anyone was coming to help her, the clerk replied “Not until 10:00!” This notification was given without making eye contact, with a sigh of frustration and basically in a gruff, rude way. This is a classic example of a wasted opportunity to be kind, win friends or influence people. Kindness can go a long way.

In the clerk’s defense, she was on her own.

There was nothing she could do about that. Who knows what the back story is – perhaps she’s asked the boss to provide more backup or perhaps someone called in sick. She was doing her best and seemed knowledgeable about how everything worked. But saying to the increasingly disgruntled crowd SOMETHING about how she could empathize with their situation would have been a great way to gain some empathy back in her direction.UPS Signature Required

I left without seeing the conclusion to the drama as my later line-mates grew restless, but I did see it as a reminder of a basic customer experience lesson. Create a culture that discourages rudeness on every level – and remind your customer-facing folks to just be nice. Seriously, that’s it.

It’s bigger than this, clearly, but it’s a good place to start, don’t you agree?


Photo credits: sfbike and Brave Heart via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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