Customer Service Is About Listening To Customers, Not Throwing Money At Them

By Bob Phibbs

customer service tipsIt’s a long slog from Albany to Vegas, even with upgraded flights.

So the morning after I arrived, when I went down to breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel, I just wanted to get my breakfast, read the New York Times, and hope the cold that I felt in my chest was anything but…

I wish you could have been there as I approached the counter at the restaurant. A guy in a suit and tie was helping a customer in front of me. Another woman stood next to the man watching him punch his computer screen.

After a couple minutes, I simply asked the woman behind the counter, “Can I just take a seat?”  She said, “No. Could you just wait?”  The Suit took the customer off to the side as the woman who asked me to wait explained it was her first day. We had a pleasant conversation until The Suit returned.

He demanded,“What’s your name? Are you staying at the hotel?”
Yes, Phibbs, PHI

Pib,” he repeated as he punched the screen.
No It’s PHI, Phibbs.

What’s your first name?

What’s your room number?
346. Geez, all of this just to sit down?

Clearly miffed, The Suit led me to a table and asked, “Do you want a paper?"

"OK. No more questions.” And with that he left me alone.

I ordered my tea, and the server asked if I would be charging it to my room.

“Yes,” I said, “The other guy already got all of that.”

“No.” he said, “We don’t get that. I need your name and room number.”


Has something like this happened to you as a customer?

It’s frustrating because you can’t figure out the logic behind what is happening.

After breakfast, I went over to the front desk just to let them know I would not be returning for the charade again, and I wanted the manager to know.

The pleasant young woman listened and went into mute mode which was fine. She got my room number and was going to have me speak with the restaurant manager. “No,” I said, “I’m sure that’s the guy in the suit training the new woman.”  

“Here’s what I can do. I can give you $25 off.”

I interrupted her. “No, I don’t want money. I wanted you to understand what it felt like to be a customer here.”


Why has the customer service movement aligned with the marketing department to say that the only way you build loyalty is to throw money and discounts at the customer?

I think that has led to more abuse as many customers know they’ll get something off their bill if they just complain.

Live By The Sword...

I just added a new feature to my website. Now, on all 1200 pages, a graphic comes up and asks if you found the article helpful.

customer service tips

It allows for direct feedback to me if the person enters their email and name.  Because of this, in just a few days, I have found a broken link on a blog, a missing photo, a non-responsive call-to-action, and request for clarification on an example.

I now can use this actionable information to make my product and your experience better.

Sure, I get the occassional FU from disgruntled employees on my popular post about 50 Things Employees Should Never Do,   but the overall goal is to improve my service.

What are you doing to collect and use customer feedback?

At the Sheraton in Boston one morning, when I found a 4” cockroach in my bathroom, the young woman at the front desk wanted to throw money at me by giving me a free breakfast.

That wasn’t the point. What I wanted to hear from her was OMG! Let me get the head of housekeeping on the line right now. We certainly don’t want that to ever happen again.

If they still wanted to offer free breakfast, that would have been fine, but just throwing money at me felt impersonal, formulaic, and devoid of any real reason to try to do better.

What Does Feedback Look Like In Your Business?

In a coffee shop when the customer picks up a ceramic mug and tells the barrista, "This is dirty." The barrista replies, “No, they’re just stained.”

In a boutique when the customer says, “I couldn’t find parking.” The employee counters, “Yeah, it’s tough.”

In a dress store when a customer says, “I would come in more often but that woman is so unfriendly.” The the employee answers, “Yeah, she’s been here a long time.”

Fix it!

Get new ceramic mugs...

Tell them parking options...

Fire Bitter Betty!

In Sum

Customer service for 2015 means give your customers good reasons to shop with you.

Oftentimes, the reasons why they don’t come back are there... but only if you’re listening.

Are you listening?

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