I should have known better.
As a corporate trainer, I have had the joy of training thousands of front line employees on how to become the best customer service professional possible. Nothing brings me more professional satisfaction than providing people with the skills and knowledge to not only make their jobs easier, but much more enjoyable too.
Sounds great, right?
Who knew that after all of these years, I was missing half of the message.
Thankfully, one of my students came up to me to shake my hand after a customer service training class and said, “This class was awesome! Have you ever thought about teaching a class for our customers? There’s nothing out there that teaches them how to be a great customer. God knows that many of them could use it.”
Sure, she was half-kidding, but as soon as she walked away, I slowly rubbed my chin and thought to myself, “You know what? She’s right.”
Consider this post my effort to uncover the other half of the issue–the customer side of the customer service equation. The goal of this post is not to create good customers or nice customers, I’m interested in creating customers who are the best of the best. Better yet, I’m interested in creating customers who are epic. If you are too, then read on, my friend.
Following are 21 inescapble laws that must be followed, respected, and burned into your consciousness if you are interested in claiming your epicness as a customer.
Fair warning though–don’t be naive and dismiss what you’re about to read as “common sense.” Doing so will expose you clearly as someone who has never spent a minute working in customer service. Believe me, “common sense” isn’t nearly as common as you would think, and these 21 Laws are broken on a daily basis. Who knows, you might even be an offender yourself.
Most importantly, I’m confident that if every customer followed these 21 laws consistently, we could create a happier and nicer world far quicker than we ever imagined.
Remember, making the world a better place is a responsibility for people on both sides of the counter.
Let’s jump in.
1. Remove “The Customer is Always Right” from your vocabulary.
Your journey to become the most epic customer who has ever set foot into a place of business will come to an immediate screeching halt if you ever allow this mindlessly foolish phrase to exit your mouth. You will look even sillier if you attempt to use this phrase in hopes of gaining some sort of imaginary leverage over the front line staff. This phrase is played out, annoying, and most of all, it isn’t true.
And besides, it’s dead.
What? You didn’t hear the news? I killed it.
2. Include the words “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” in your vocabulary.
Not all of the laws in this post will be difficult to put into action. In fact, this one might be the easiest of them all. If you ask for something from an employee, don’t do so without saying “please.” When you get whatever it is that you need, say “thank you.” Need to get an employee’s attention or you bumped into an employee accidentally? Say “excuse me.” This stuff is simple, right? Good manners might have temporarily gone out of style, but it’s time to make it cool to be nice again. A while ago, Justin Timberlake made a song about “bringing sexy back”, well this year, I’m bringing manners back. Hey, someone’s got to do it.
3. Clapping, snapping your fingers, or loudly whistling to get an employee’s attention.
Seriously, don’t do these things. Ever.
4. Making judgements about the employees’ education
If you mistakenly believe that front line work is only for brain-dead, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses who sign their measly, pitiful, poverty-laced paychecks with an “x” because that’s all that their illiteracy will allow, please allow me to do a little educating of my own.
Many front line employees that I’ve either worked with, supervised, trained, or know personally are college educated (no, that doesn’t matter AT ALL, keep reading…). So, next time you want to hop on your high horse and clown a front line employee by smugly muttering, “too bad you didn’t stay in school so that you could have done more with your life,” please check yourself.
Choosing to be of service to others is a not a lowly profession like some non-epic customers would like the world to believe. Serving others is one of the highest callings in the world, and some of the greatest human beings who have ever set foot on this planet knew the importance of a service-oriented mindset very well (Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and the men and women who serve in our military, to name a few). You think you’re better than all of those men & women, Mr./Ms. High Horse? Yeah, I doubt it too.
The service professionals who I am fortunate enough to know personally aren’t working in these jobs because these are the only jobs that they can get, they’re choosing these jobs because they’re passionate about helping others. Please read that sentence again. If you think that’s an adequate reason to look down your nose at a service professional, then that likely says a lot more about you than it does about them.
Regardless of that, here’s the much more significant point: epic customers understand that the employees’ education is completely irrelevant. Does it really matter if the front line employee has a college degree? How does having a few letters after their names affect their ability to provide you with exceptional service?
Do you want to know what really matters?
The employee’s willingness to smile. His ability to be empathetic. His unwavering desire to give a damn about you and your needs. There isn’t a university in the world that offers a degree for mastering these skills, but I’m convinced that there should be one. These are real world skills–and to be honest, aren’t those the only skills that truly matter?
5. Cursing, yelling, and being a complete ass will not get your faster/better service.
For the life of me, I’ll never understand why some people believe that the best way to get their needs met is by being a total jerk. When the alien invasion of earth takes place, someone (besides me) is going to have to be on point to explain to the alien leader why this strategy has lasted as long as it has, because I truly don’t get it.
The next front line employee who is genuinely motivated and excited to meet their customer’s needs when he/she is cursed at, yelled at, and bullied will be the first. Stop with the childish temper tantrums and belligerent frat boy foolishness, and discuss your issues like the rational adult who you claim to be.
If you’re still not getting the type of service you feel that you deserve from the front line staff, escalate to a manager and if necessary, raise the issue higher than that. Yes, all of this can all be done without you having to look like an insufferable ass. Mama said that you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar for a reason.
6. Clean up after yourself.
When you decide to use store shelves as your personal trash can, or drop your un-purchased clothes in a heap in the middle of the changing room floor at the department store, or leave your disgusting food tray with half-eaten food in the center of the table as you walk out of the food court, do so knowing that you are creating more work for the employees. Someone has to clean up the mess that you just made, right?
Yes, you could argue that is part of the employee’s job, and to be honest, I can agree to a certain extent. However, if you are reading this because you want to be an epic customer, then part of earning your E.C. badge is realizing that you are not absolved of personal responsibility (or any other societal norms) when you walk into a place of business.
7. Watch your kids.
Disclaimer: I’m a parent of two beautiful little girls (3 ½ years old and 1 year old as I’m typing this), so I’m not writing this from the perspective of someone who has no clue of how exhausting it is to be a parent of young kids. Trust me, I get it.
But (you knew the “but” was coming), if you chose to be a parent, then you also signed up for the responsibility of watching the little humans that you helped to create. If we don’t do it, then who will? Please don’t say, “the employees of whatever store/restaurant that I’m currently in, duh.” Sadly, there are some un-epic customers who would like you to believe that.
To give a few examples that I’ve personally observed from this calendar year alone (and there are still 3 months left!), I’ve seen unsupervised kids: 1) climbing on store shelves to pull down their favorite toys, 2) grabbing food from the salad bar to have a mini food fight in a restaurant, and 3) racing shopping carts in a busy parking lot and bumping them into parked cars. Regardless of whether you love kids or hate them, we can all agree on the obvious fact that this behavior is unbelievably annoying.
Worse than that? It’s dangerous too.
If you’re too tired/lazy to watch your kids, please find motivation in the fact that they could be seriously injured (or worse) if the shelf they’re climbing on collapses, they end up choking on a piece of food during the food fight, or they get hit by car while racing shopping carts in the parking lot.
This law cannot be argued: if you want to be an epic customer (or in this case, meet the minimum common sense threshold needed to be a parent), then watch your kids.
8. Service professional does not equal servant.
The difference between service professional and servant is often confused by many non-epic customers, so I’ll do my best to clear this up once and for all.
A service professional is someone who is hired to use their expertise to assist you with your needs. They are “at your service” to answer your questions, assist you with any problems, and basically make it easier for you to buy their products and services.
A servant however, is someone who is expected to show unquestioned obedience and submission towards their boss/master (specifically in this case, the customer). As a servant, the master can treat you any way that he/she feels fit. Does that include disrespecting the servant? Of course. What about cursing at the servant? Sure, why not. Servants have no say in how they’re treated. Their sole purpose for breathing is to simply follow your orders, and do it with a smile.
I don’t know how I can say this any clearer: service professionals are not servants. Not even close. Please don’t make the mistake of confusing the two.
9. You don’t know how to do the employees’ job better than they do.
Have you ever driven in a car with a backseat driver? “Slow down!” “Speed up!” “Why aren’t your blinkers on?” “Put both of your hands on the wheel in the 10 and 2 positions!” It wasn’t an enjoyable experience for you, I’m sure. However, in many cases with backseat drivers, at least they’ve had some experience driving a car before. But even then, it’s still annoying. Imagine that annoyance, and multiply it by a factor of 100 when you decide to play the role of Mr./Ms. Know-it-All and roll through a place of business telling the employees how to do their jobs.
You see, unlike a backseat driver, you likely don’t have any meaningful experience doing what the employees do everyday for a living. Sure, it’s a possibility that you do, but it’s doubtful. Just because you watch Grey’s Anatomy each week doesn’t mean that you should be coaching the medical assistant on how to properly take your blood pressure during your appointment.
Most people don’t enjoy unsolicited advice–especially when it comes to how they should do their jobs. But if you dare to offer up your 2 cents from the peanut gallery, please be damn sure that you know what you’re talking about. Even then, it still is a better idea to stay in your lane and leave the driving to the professionals (pun slightly intended).
10. You are not the only customer.
Being an epic customer means that you possess a clear understanding that it’s not always about you. Although this law may seem obvious to most people, some epic-deficient customers struggle mightily with this one. At all times, please remember the following:
You are not the only customer waiting in line.
You are not the only one who is sick/injured in the hospital.
You are not the only person in the call queue listening to cheesy hold music.
You are not the only passenger in the airport whose flight was cancelled.
You are not sitting in the only table in the restaurant.
A service professional’s job is to provide excellent customer service to everyone. Of course, that includes you, but that doesn’t mean only you. This means that just like everyone else, there will be times when you’ll have to wait your turn. You don’t have the right to interrupt an employee who is in the middle of helping another customer because you are too impatient to wait to get your needs met.
Your needs are not more important than your fellow customers’ needs. Important, absolutely. More important, no.
Many years ago, I remember being told the story of a nurse in an east coast hospital who was rushing to respond to a patient who was coding (in this instance, not breathing). As she was running to the patient’s room, her path was temporarily blocked by the angry mother of another patient who wouldn’t let the nurse pass until she got her son some more jello. When the nurse attempted to explain the urgency of the situation to the mother, her response was “do you think I give a damn about your other patients?! My concern is my son, and he’s hungry and wants his jello!”
If this type of behavior is not a form of mental illness, then I truly don’t know what is.
11. Stop with the threats.
“I’ll have you fired!” or “I’ll sue you!” or “give me your name so I can report you to the corporate office!” are the common verbal weapons of the customer lacking in epicness. The good news is that you’ll never hear these threats being spoken by an epic customer.
Why, you ask?
Because they have a sense of perspective, that’s why.
They don’t want a person to get fired and lose their sole source of income because they were inconvenienced. They don’t want to “lawyer up” and threaten to sue the airline attendant because she informed them that their flight was cancelled due to an oncoming hurricane.
Epic customers don’t do drama. If the service in a particular place of business is terrible, they’re not wasting their energy searching for the phone numbers of their lawyer buddies or the company’s corporate office, instead they’re just going to chuck up the deuces, walk out the front door, and leave. Likely forever.
Epic customers know that the best way to hit a business where it hurts is not by threatening to sue (or worse, actually doing it), but by spending their hard-earned cash at businesses whose customer service is just as epic as they are.
12. Never say, “Do you know who I am?!” in an attempt to impress/intimidate the staff.
If you have to ask this question, then you should already know the answer. Stop embarrassing yourself by rocking your desperate need for self-importance on your sleeve.
13. Know cell phone etiquette.
This is a tricky one. Tricky in the sense that everyone has a different idea of what proper cell phone etiquette looks like. I know for a fact that I certainly don’t know all of the rules.
Here’s what I do know though. At minimum, if you are desiring to be an epic customer, then these are the two cell phone etiquette rules that you must follow at all times:
- When you’re at the counter about to pay for your stuff, put down your cell phone. Carrying on a cell phone conversation while an employee is attempting to serve your needs is not only ridiculously rude, but it also insinuates, “you are not worthy of my full, undivided attention.” Even worse than that, you will descend into deeper depths of customer horrificness if you think it’s socially acceptable to dismissively use hand gestures to communicate to the employee while you continue on with your cell phone conversation. This type of behavior will not lead you down the path to customer epicness. In fact, in some areas of the world it might get you punched in the face.
- Don’t use your cell phone in a place where others can’t escape from hearing your conversation. Examples of places not to use your cell phone include, but are not limited to, waiting rooms of any kind, movie theaters, in line anywhere, in a stall in a public restroom (yes, some people actually do this), and restaurants/coffee shops. This should go without saying, but no one gives a flying damn about your personal cell phone call except for you. Feel free to take the call, but step away to an area where your call won’t disturb anyone else.
I know, I know–this law is common sense, right? Maybe, but like I said earlier: is common sense really that common these days?
14. Never complain to an employee that you could get item X for so much cheaper at store Y.
If you’re an epic customer, there’s little chance that you’d ever say these words, because you’d already be at store Y buying item X, right?
15. Be prepared.
This law is simple. If you’re in line to pay for something, have your money/credit card ready. If you’re calling the customer service department to check on your account, have your account number ready. Act like you’ve done this stuff before. While violation of this law isn’t as egregious as violating some of the other laws, it can be quite annoying for employees to deal with and it will raise doubts about your epic customer status. You don’t want that.
16. Don’t complain to an employee about the store being short-staffed.
I can 100% guarantee to you that every employee in the store (or restaurant, or call center, or hospital, etc) is infinitely more pissed off that their place of business is short staffed than you ever will be. Taking out your frustrations on the people who actually did show up to work to serve you makes absolutely no sense and makes you look hopelessly clueless in the process.
17. Think before you enter a store/restaurant shortly before closing.
There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with going into a store shortly before it closes. Sometimes you need to get stuff at strange hours–I get it. However, there is something very wrong with taking your sweet time getting your shopping done or eating a leisurely meal and forcing the employees to stay well past closing in order to serve you. Doing so consistently will make you look like an inconsiderate ass.
Bottom line, never go into a restaurant shortly before it closes (unless you’re picking up take-out food) and if you’re going into a store, get your stuff and then get to steppin’ before the store closes.
Let’s be real for a moment–everyone reading this has worked a long day before. At the end of that long day, what was the one thing that you wanted to do more than anything?
If you’re anything like me, you wanted to go home.
You wanted to see your family. You wanted to get something to eat. You wanted to put your feet up on the couch and just chill. You wanted to sleep. You simply wanted to stop working. However, if you’re the customer who decides to stroll into the store or restaurant at the very end of the business day and decide to stay well past closing, you actually now become the one person who is standing in the way of the employee finally being able to do all of those things.
Please trust that reaching epic customer status is a mathematical impossibility if this is an act that you like to pull often.
18. If an employee says “good morning” or “hello” to you, don’t ignore him/her.
While I was working for a sneaker store in the mall during college, I remember this happening to me often. I was perplexed. When customers walked into the store, I would always greet them with a warm “good morning!” or “good afternoon!” Sadly, I cannot count the amount of times that the customer would look right through me, and with a dismissive indifference, simply say, “get me a size 9 Adidas in blue (or whatever shoe they wanted to try on).” Or worse, they would completely ignore my greeting and walk right past me as if I was invisible.
Honestly, I will never understand the mindset of a person who is rude enough to intentionally ignore another human being when he/she is simply trying to extend a warm greeting. How much effort does to take to say hi? As a customer, you are never too busy to acknowledge another human being. Never. For some reason, out of all of the laws, this is the one that annoys me the most when it is violated.
19. Yes, the rules apply to you.
That means, please don’t bring 25 items to the “10 Items or Less” line.
Don’t light up a cancer stick in a non-smoking area.
If the flight attendant says to turn off your cell phone, that doesn’t mean “after you’re done telling your buddy Shawn about the dime piece you met at the club last night,” that means “turn off your cell phone NOW.”
Don’t frantically knock on the front door of the department store before it opens in hopes that you can start shopping now, because you’re in a hurry. I actually saw this happen last weekend (#onlyinLA)
Here’s the thing: epic customers might not always agree with the rules, but they will follow them. And in the case where they don’t agree with the rules, instead of trying to bend/break said rules, or having a hissy fit about not getting their way, they’ll find another place of business with rules that match their wants and needs. Like I said before, epic customers aren’t about unnecessary drama.
20. Leave your religious and political agendas at home.
As an epic customer, you already know that outside of your friends and family, no one really cares about which political party you’re voting with or which religion you’re praying with. I can say with confidence that the people who care the least about your beliefs on either matter are the front line staff.
So please don’t ask the cashier about who she’s voting for in the upcoming election. Please don’t call up the customer service line and ask the rep if he has accepted Jesus/Buddha/Allah/Tim Tebow/whomever as his lord and savior. It’s awkward, annoying, and most of all, it’s none of your damn business.
21. Don’t go out to eat at a restaurant, if you’re unwilling/unable to tip.
Yeah, I said it.
Working as a member of the wait staff is challenging work, and what’s worse is that they get to deal with customers who often violate many of the laws outlined above. But, I’m not going to talk about that here.
What I am going to talk about is tipping.
I can’t speak for other countries, but here in America, if you’re going out to eat at a restaurant and you’re being waited on, the bare minimum you need to budget out is 15-20% of your bill for the tip. This is an absolute must. If you’ve received exceptional service, step up your game and tip more.
If you are a non-epic customer who believes that tips are unnecessary, tips $2 regardless of the price of the bill, or regularly tips less than 10% and is proud of your “generosity”, then please know that the waitstaff secretly hates you. There’s no need to sugarcoat this.
What’s worse is that if you’re a bad tipper, then you’re basically a thief too.
Think about it for a moment–when you go to a sit-down restaurant to eat, you’re not just paying for the food, but for the convenience of having someone serve you your food, refill your drinks, and supply you with whatever you need while you’re there.
What’s their payment for supplying you with that service, you ask? That’s right, your tip.
Next time you hire a plumber to fix your sink, tell him (after he spent the past hour fixing your sink), that you’re only going to pay for the nuts and bolts used to fix your sink, not his labor. Let me know how that works out for you after he calls the cops on you or punches you dead in the mouth.
Just like you’d be labeled a thief if you pulled a stunt like that with the plumber, you should be labeled a thief if you’re unwilling to tip the waiter/waitress who offered you a service that deserves compensation. Many waiters and waitresses live off of tips, for crying out loud.
If you still don’t understand what the big deal is about tipping, then I’ll stop trying to convince you to become a better tipper and ask that you limit your dining options to fast food joints and buffet style restaurants where your unwillingness to tip won’t be a big deal. Or better yet, stay at home where you can cook and serve yourself own damn food.
Epic customers always tip well because they understand that it is a requirement in order to receive that service. In the off chance that they receive crappy service, they either tell the waiter/waitress directly or they take the time to leave a brief note explaining why they are not leaving the full 15%-20% tip, so that it can be a teachable moment for the waiter/waitress. Epic customers don’t skip out on leaving tips without explanation like a cheapskate punk coward.
No one likes a cheapskate punk coward.
Don’t be a cheapskate punk coward: tip appropriately.
Bonus: If you receive exceptional service, tell someone.
If an employee goes above and beyond the call of duty to take care of your needs, you are missing out on an opportunity to make the world a better place if you mistakenly choose to stay silent about your experience.
Ask to speak to a supervisor. Write a letter. Post your experience on the company’s Facebook page. Tweet it out to your followers. Put a glowing review on Yelp. Look the employee in the eye and sincerely say “thank you.” Most importantly, do something.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools to ensure that desired behaviors actually happen again in the future. Not only are you making the employee’s day, but you have reinforced to the employee that people actually notice and appreciate his/her dedication to exceptional customer service. Believe me, that means more than most people might think.
Epic customers get it. They understand that their epicness not only has the power to brighten up an employee’s day, but their actions can actually help to create epic employees too.
Most importantly, it all begins with treating each other with respect and kindness, regardless of whether you’re a customer or if you’re paid to serve the customers. Every time that we step into a store, call a customer service line, or sit down at a restaurant to have dinner is a chance for us to follow the laws and claim our epicness. And it’s worth claiming too, because doing so consistently could potentially change the world for the better.
And that would truly be epic.
Which law bothers you the most when it’s violated? Did I miss any laws? If so, let your voice be heard in the comments!