Avoiding the Gutter: How Not to Embarrass Your Customers

This post comes from guest blogger, Danny Snow.

As a customer experience speaker, I often share how the smallest interactions can impact a customer's perception of a brand. It can be in negative or positive ways. A recent experience at a bowling alley brought this to light in an unexpectedly vivid way.

While enjoying an afternoon of bowling with my son, a seemingly minor interaction on the lane next to us caught my attention. A young man who was in his mid-20s was there with his girlfriend and he was struggling at the beginning of his first game.

After his third consecutive gutter ball, an employee happened to see this. The employee walked by and jokingly offered to put up the bumpers for him. In my mind, I found this to be rather amusing. It’s the same kind of joke I would make to a buddy of mine if we were bowling together, and he did the same thing.

At the same time, I realized how embarrassing this moment must have been for the guy in front of his girlfriend.

Having been a league bowler at this particular alley for the past year, I knew the employee who made the comment. I also knew her intention at that moment was light-hearted. Had this been a regular bowler at the alley, it likely would have been received very differently. Unfortunately, the man was clearly embarrassed. He likely found the experience to be rather emasculating.

Enhancing Customer Experiences

I’m a big believer in having fun with your customers (when appropriate). You should always be on the lookout for opportunities to interact and connect with them throughout your daily work routines.

When I worked on Big Thunder Mountain at Walt Disney World, we’d see thousands of people every day. As cast members, we all tried our best to interact with as many guests as possible in the brief moments we had with them. We knew it was close to impossible to have a moment with every guest. But, with that mindset, we knew we had the opportunity to elevate the experience for a large number of guests every single day.

This particular interaction at the bowling alley illustrates a critical aspect of customer experience: reading the situation and understanding the customer dynamics. As I mentioned earlier, joking with a friend or one of their regular customers would have likely been received with laughter.

But, the same joke to a customer that you don’t know in this particular setting resulted in a very embarrassed customer. Embarrassing your customer isn’t a winning strategy to build loyalty.

Critical Aspects of Exceptional Customer Service:

  1. Empathy in Customer Experience: Understanding your customer's feelings and situation while doing business with you is crucial. Connecting and having fun with your customers is a key component to building ongoing loyalty. However, your connection should be customized to each customer based on their unique situation. What might be a joke in one context can be embarrassing or hurtful in another.

  2. Training for Customer Service Excellence: Proper training in customer interaction can help avoid these pitfalls. Employees should be equipped with the skills to engage in a positive manner with customers, recognizing the thin line between a light-hearted comment and one that might be offensive.

  3. Building Brand Image and Customer Loyalty: Every interaction contributes to the overarching perception of your brand. Negative experiences, even if minor, can overshadow previous positive impressions.

Final Thoughts:

The incident at the bowling alley serves as a potent reminder of the complexity of customer interactions. It's not only about what we say but understanding the broader context in which we say it. As businesses, it's our responsibility to cultivate an environment where our customers feel respected and valued at every turn. By fostering empathy, training employees, and always considering the context, we can avoid embarrassing our customers and build lasting, positive relationships.

Our actions, no matter how small, can impact our customers’ perception and loyalty. Strive to make every moment with your customer count!

Would you like to read additional articles by Danny Snow? You can find a couple of them here;

The Subtleties of Customer Experience: Lessons From a Real World Scenario: https://snowassociates.com/blog/the-subtleties-of-customer-experience-lessons-from-a-real-world-scenario

The Importance of Walking The Talk As A Leader: https://snowassociates.com/blog/the-importance-of-walking-the-talk-as-a-leader

If you want to learn how Snow & Associates, Inc. can help your organization deliver memorable customer experiences, visit us at https://snowassociates.com/.