The Invisible Wall (we hear you back there) by Dwayne Castle

The Invisible Wall (we hear you back there) by Dwayne Castle

"Customers are stupid!" I've heard variations of that from employees behind the service desk while I'm standing in line. I've heard it from employees while browsing the next aisle over. And I heard it earlier this week as I was drinking my coffee wondering what to write about. 

Yes, the barista was talking to her co-worker about the idiocy of a particular customer. As I drank my coffee, pondering this week's topic, I picked up that the guy is a regular and I was given enough of a physical description that I'll be able to pick him out in the crowd next time I'm here. Finally, I know that he has the money management skills of a monkey who happened to find a cash-filled wallet, at least according to the aforementioned employee. 

The problem is that as employees, we can sometimes fall into a trap called "familiarity". We make the workplace "ours" and forget that it exists for the customer. We talk amongst ourselves as if there is an invisible wall separating our words from the customer's ears and take no account that others in the vicinity may find the conversation inappropriate.

With that in mind, I realize that there are many things that I've heard over the years, that I shouldn't have while in my role as a customer. Below is my list of 5 things customers should never hear. For that matter, these things apply to every area of our lives. 

1) Derogatory comments about other customers. When you talk poorly about other customers (or people in general), it makes me wonder what you would say about me. It's not only rude but it's also contradictory to creating a welcoming atmosphere. As a business owner or the person responsible for its success, you want to create an environment that invites others to come again, to come often, and to bring their friends. Talking badly about people does just the opposite.

2) Disagreements among employees. Unity matters. When issues and disagreements take place, your arguing should be kept within the context of the involved people, not aired in front of people who happened to choose today to come into your shop (or your home.) Take it to the break room or the bosses office. Don't subject others to such an uncomfortable moment. It's a good way to ensure they don't come back.  

3) I hate being here. This is most commonly expressed with statements like "I can't wait to get out of here."  Most of the time you hear this from someone near the end of their shift and they are tired from a long, hard day. But the message conveyed is that you don't want to be there, to which I ask "If you don't like it here, why should I?" 

4) Personal life struggles. In my role as a customer, I've heard enough "baby mama drama" and "deadbeat dad" stories to fill a season of Jerry Springer episodes. I've heard about family illnesses, financial woes, and the need to get home to "crack a few beers."  I get it, life is hard but it is hard for many of your customers as well. Don't waste your opportunity to help ease their burdens.

5) Politics and other divisive topics. I've mentioned it before- we live in such a polarized world that no matter your opinion, you are wrong. At least to someone. I'm not saying to compromise on your principles, but you do have to ask yourself if exercising your freedom of expression on the job is worth the risk of alienating a portion of your customer base who can choose to exercise theirs. That is, does it make financial sense to alienate your clientele?

It is natural for people to make observations and to express their thoughts and opinions, especially in the place where they likely spend half of their waking hours. However, let's have consideration for the people that are choosing to come to your location to do business with you.  

Be aware of your surroundings. Take into account that not everybody thinks the way you do. Don't speak in negative, derogatory or demeaning tones within the presence of customers. It's bad for business.  Much of this can apply to every area of your life, not just your work life. 

What are your thoughts? Do you have anything to add to the list? What conversations have you heard taking place in front of customers, that were probably better off in a private setting? I'd love your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to read, like, comment, and share.