The other day I was in a toy store when I heard a manager say something that left me absolutely dumbfounded. She was at the back of the store when one of her employees approached her, complaining about a “problem” customer. In a mocking tone of voice, the employee said “OK, now she’s demanding to talk to a manager. She’s still pissed about the wait.”
The manager’s response: “Ugggghhhh … If she doesn’t like it, she can just leave. I don’t care if she doesn’t shop here. I don’t have time for this sh*t.”
Seriously? How many things are wrong with this picture? I can count at least three glaring problems:
- Cursing. Not only was this loud enough for multiple customers to hear, but it was also in a toy store with children for goodness sake! Even the use of “pissed” by the employee could have offended many customers.
- Tone of voice. Both the employee and the manager displayed a blatant disrespect for the customer and a lack of empathy for her frustration. Anyone who overheard the conversation might assume—logically—that the store’s employees consider all customers to be a nuisance.
- Lack of concern for the store. Employees who “don’t care” whether or not they lose a customer’s business are bad enough. A manager with that attitude is simply toxic.
Now, I have no idea what the customer’s complaint was—whether it was justified or completely ridiculous. I do know, however, that had I been considering a purchase and not just browsing, I definitely would have taken my money elsewhere.
This was a pretty extreme example of what not to do, and if you’re reading leadership and management blogs, you’d probably never say something so stupid in front of customers. However, it wouldn’t hurt to reflect on the messages you are sending to your customers and employees with your words and tone of voice. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do my customers or employees know when I’m having a bad day? Are my personal or work-related frustrations tainting my interactions?
- Does my attitude reflect my organization’s mission? Would a casual observer be able to identify my organization’s values and priorities by watching me?
- Do my employees know what’s appropriate and inappropriate to say in front of customers? Do they hold personal conversations in front of customers rather than giving the customers their undivided attention? Do they complain in front of customers?
- Do my employees or I use words that might offend others? Do we consider diversity of perspectives when choosing our words? (Example: A former colleague once explained to me that she didn’t like the word “sucks” because for her generation, it had strong sexual connotations. For my generation, the phrase “this sucks” is more innocuous, but I made sure not to use it at work after learning how my older colleagues might interpret it.)
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard an employee or manager say in front of customers?
[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/jasonalley.]