I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

What is so hard about being pleasant to customers?

bagel.jpg

At my local Brueggers Bagel shop, the early morning counter staff is anchored by two men who look remarkably similar. Brown hair, rosy cheeks, early 30’s, just a little shorter than average. Going on appearance alone, they are easy to confuse. On personality, they could not be further apart.

Dan, the manager of the restaurant, is unfailingly cheerful, polite, and helpful.  The other guy, whom I call “Fake Dan” (I don’t know his name), is competent and efficient but his bagel-side manner leaves much room for improvement.

Here is a typical Fake Dan exchange with a customer who speaks too softly:

Fake Dan, “May I help you?”

Customer, (speaking quietly, either because they are shy or not a native English speaker), “Sesame bagel with cream cheese please.”

Fake Dan (with a mocking sneer on his face), “Mrmrmfmrmrrfffrrrmmmrr?”

His cruel ridicule of the hapless customer invariably results in an even less confident second request. Similarly, Fake Dan has a habit of wishing all customers “Have a nice day” at the end of a transaction, and then pointedly waiting to be wished “You too!” by the exiting customer. Woe to anyone who fails to respond “appropriately”…that customer is the immediate recipient of a series of exasperated sighs, hands-on-hips work stoppage, and dirty looks.

I try to imagine the twisted psychology behind someone who works in a public-facing job yet would deliberately choose to make himself miserable all day long. It is so much easier to be the pleasant Dan. His employees and customers love him. He inspires positive responses.

On the other hand, Fake Dan has no fans, that I can tell. If other customers are like me, they have silently learned to return his “pleasantries,” all the while seething inside knowing that his “have a nice day” is anything but sincere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: