Having taught customer service for more than seven years through the CTA program and at conferences, and compiling customer service how-to articles and posting them weekly, I tend to believe the message is getting out. Some of these basic customer service practices are being adopted.

It’s surprising then when I experience real bad customer service. I’m not talking about the waiter that doesn’t refill the water or the customer service agent that doesn’t smile during her call. (You CAN hear the smile and when you’re not smiling, it can really sound like you’re upset.)

No, I’m talking REAL BAD customer service. No smile. Hardly looked at me – let alone looked me in the eyes. No greeting. Instead, the first words I heard from him were, “What do you want?” There’s casual, and then there’s rude casual. Had he greeted me, made small talk, looked me in they eye, and smiled, I might have understood it as okay-now-we’re-comfortable-and-I-can-be-casual. But it was the first thing said.

I order. He says the total. I hand him cash. He hands me a receipt. No ‘thank you’ so I intentionally stand at the counter to see what response I get.

“I’m done with you.”

What!? “I’m done with you”?

No “I’ll call your number when the order is ready.”

No “We’ll bring your order to you.”

Not a “Is there anything else I can help with?”

Or a “Have a question?”

Maybe “Need to add something to your order?”

There’s probably a dozen more responses other – and definitely better – than “I’m done with you.” A ‘thank you’ – any comment of appreciation – would have been welcome. But no, “I’m done with you.”

Needless to say, I’m done with that coffee shop/restaurant!

Luckily a few nights later, another young man gave me encouragement that not all is lost in the service industry. Pleasant greeting. Smile. “How are you doing?” “Are we celebrating Mother’s Day?” (It was indeed Mother’s Day.) He made a comment about or reference to Kansas. Being a Kansas kid I asked him where he was from. “Dodge City.” I shared my mother taught at the college there. I went to college there. Met my wife there. Have done business there. A LOT of ties and memories to Dodge City. We chatted a bit then got “back to business.”

The rest of the visit he was friendly, jovial, and really took care of us (filled drinks, cleared table, etc.) Some of that was the “Kansas connection” and my sharing the connection. But it started with him. It started with his demeanor being outgoing and not simply, “may I take your drink order.”

I don’t remember his name, but he got a sizable tip, and we will be returning to that restaurant.

The difference between retaining my business and losing my business? Customer Service.