It’s all-too-easy to complain about poor customer service.

We’ve all done it.

We blame the cable company for hiking up rates and madly call the company (only to be placed on hold for way too long). The result of the call is poor customer service paired with not getting what we want (boo-freaking-hoo).

But what about our customer behavior? Who holds us accountable?

Brené Brown, TEDx speaker and author of Daring Greatly, asks:

“Everyone wants to know why customer service has gone to hell in a handbasket. I want to know why customer behavior has gone to hell in a handbasket.”

I recently had an interaction with a barista that has changed the way I view customer service.
It reminded me that those providing us with customer service deserve to be engaged and interacted with, paid attention to, and humanized.
The interaction went something like this:

I ordered my high-maintenance drink.*
I paid, and then stepped aside to wait for my drink to be made.
This waiting period usually involves whipping out my smartphone to check email or facebook.
But this time, my phone stayed put in my purse.
This time, I watched the barista.
She poured the fat free/whole milk combination with precision (making it a perfect blend of 2% milk).
She carefully measured a teensy bit of chocolate.
She steamed the milk.
She drew the shots of espresso when they were done (not letting them sit too long), and then poured the milk into the espresso-light-chocolate mixture, and made a cute design…only to cover it up with whipped cream.
When she handed it to me, I looked her in the eye and said one word: “Beautiful.”
She looked back at me.
Her eyes welled up with tears and said: “You just made my day.”

I remember smiling, walking away, and thinking how my one-word compliment didn’t deserve to make her day.

But regardless, her response has inspired me to start giving better customer behavior.

Because if you want better customer service, work on giving better customer behavior.

*A short 2% latte with less than a tablespoon of chocolate, but still topped with a dollop whipped cream.  Yes, I realize that technically, this is a mocha, but when I emphasize to the barista that it’s more latte than it is mocha, they put the correct amount of chocolate in it.

6 replies
  1. Peter Chee
    Peter Chee says:

    Annie, the thing that I LOVE about how you write and express your thoughts is that you start by looking inside first. In the Bizzaro World that Seinfeld, Superman, and everyone else lives in, it’s seems like everyone creates standards for everyone else to achieve. Expectations are set for everyone else to either live up to or fail. Everything is backwards. I know its your servant leadership style that makes you such a great leader!

    • Annie Duncan
      Annie Duncan says:

      Good point, Peter. We definitely do live in a culture that sets up expectations for others, and feels entitled to a certain type of service and behavior.

  2. Sami Dyer
    Sami Dyer says:

    I must be emotional today, because this brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for bringing insight to all of us who set high standards for others and not ourselves. What a special moment to make someone’s day!

    • Annie Duncan
      Annie Duncan says:

      Sami – I love that you said you must be emotional :) I think it’s your caring heart that makes you react to a story like this! You’re the best.

    • Annie Duncan
      Annie Duncan says:

      Exactly! There are so many moments when I feel tempted to withdrawal…to avoid eye contact, to look down instead of up at someone, to pretend to be busy in order to not pursue engaging…but all those things are second best to actually engaging with others! It was a good reminder to myself, as well.


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