Customer Experience – No, Not That

Guest post from Dr. Debra Bentson

We talk a lot in the Customer Experience space about how to deliver CX – I’m putting this topic on its head to share a few things about customer experience.  

You know I love a good story – so here we go:


I walked into one of those shops we all know to buy a cup of coffee – as simple or as froufrou as you like. There was one other customer in the shop.  She was at the counter speaking to the barista.  I took my place, waiting for my turn.  I heard the conversation between the customer and the barista.  The customer was not happy with her order – the foam was too foamy, the volume of foam wasn’t to her liking, and she was not being bashful about bashing the barista.  The barista apologized and quickly worked to meet the customer’s expectations. The woman was still not happy, she wasn’t going to get happy, and her complaining continued.  Then something magical happened – the customer looked back over her shoulder and made eye contact with me, the expression on her face indicated her glee in running the barista through the CX chipper.  I interpreted her look as an invitation for me to join the party – thank you – I’d be happy to join.  I tell stories and know things so I gave the customer a primmer on kindness and manners.  I also introduced her to the underlying concepts of the psychology of people who bully people in service jobs who would be in job jeopardy if they defended themselves.   Her eyes didn’t leave me, she listened to my words, did not respond, simply turned back to the barista to accept her coffee, and left the store.  I did not curse or raise my voice when I spoke to her. I gained no satisfaction from the interaction – I was simply annoyed that it happened at all.  I stepped up to the counter, smiled at the barista, and asked for a large cup of black coffee.  She smiled back at me and said “thank you” and I said “you are welcome, that wasn’t right”. ‘Nuf said – I paid for my coffee with a smile, wished the barista a great day, and went on my way.  

We spend so much time talking about CX (customer experience) I though we should take a moment to talk about how, as customers, we should behave.  My lens is one of having spent the majority of my career in work directly providing service or in management roles in businesses that deliver service. I have talked to tens of thousands of customers and been on the receiving end of their behavior – for better or worse. I have been screamed at, cursed at, and even had a customer tell me the address of the building I worked and threaten to come to the office and assault me – that guy got a complimentary restraining order from my employer.  I have had customers help me to help them solve their issue, be kind, and laugh with me – really laugh – like out loud and just loud!  When I was a lead in a contact center, I actually liked the messy ones – they challenged and helped me learn how to de-escalate their situation, solve their problem, and earn their trust.  I liked the fun ones too 😊

In most service jobs – whether they be in a call center, restaurant, or something else, the employees usually have rules – and failure to follow the rules may result in being placed on some form of corrective action – including being fired.  They are sitting ducks for bullies and can be subjected to many unpleasant interactions during every one of their shifts.  This abuse not only ruins their work day but potentially kicks off a cascade of dominos including stress related illness, job loss, substance abuse, family issues, divorce, and even domestic violence. I have seen actual cases of all of these things.

Please treat people, whether they be in a service industry or not, properly.  Be kind, demonstrate courtesy and respect, even when you are the customer.  It literally costs nothing, but it will enhance your customer experience, the experience of the service person helping you, and incrementally will make the world a little better.  Thank you!

photo courtesy of Felice DeNigris, Flickr


Dr. Debra Bentson has spent most of her career in Contact Centers with an emphasis on building and leading Workforce Management teams. Her leadership style balances structure, empowerment, accountability, results, and fun. She is a member of the NCCCA (Nor-Cal Contact Center Association) Steering Committee and an ASUGA (Aspect Software Users Group Association) board member. Dr. Bentson is a member of the DNF (Did Not Finish) crew at the Antioch CA Speedway – push starting sprint cars, clearing wrecks, and supporting track safety.

Dr. Bentson follows this simple prescription for life: "Work and play, laugh loud and often, be safe and strong, and live on your own terms". Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.