Being a Good Customer

As a customer service speaker and author, I spend most of my time talking or writing about what organizations can do to be better service providers. In this post I thought I'd divert from my usual theme and spend a moment talking about a different, but certainly related subject. Being a better customer.

More times than I can count, I've stood in line at a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, or store observing an employee trying to take the order of a customer who is chatting on his or her cell phone. Everything gets slowed down as the customer tries to order and talk on the phone at the same time. The employee often doesn't know if the customer is talking to him or to his phone companion. The employee gets frustrated; the other customers in line get frustrated. And the phone addict is oblivious to it all.

I can think of few customer behaviors ruder than disregarding everyone around in order to hold a cell phone conversation. What the offending customer is saying is, "I'm more important than the rest of you." Most employees I've observed have handled the situation in a patient manner, but you know they've got to be silently shouting, "Get Off The Phone!" I know I am.

Another common breach of cell phone etiquette is the customer who boards a plane while talking on the phone. They juggle the phone and boarding pass while ignoring the gate agent. Most frustrating of all, the rest of the boarding passengers are delayed as the cell phone addict tries to put luggage in the overhead compartment with the phone tucked under the chin - and it never works. And other passengers and the crew are the ones who suffer as the perpetrator obliviously chats away.

I firmly believe in employees doing what it takes to provide great customer service. I make my living helping organizations and employees do just that. But I also believe that customers have a responsibility to be reasonable customers. There are plenty of other examples of rude, arrogant, or uncaring customers. And employees need to be able to graciously handle those situations (unless it crosses the line of being abusive). But the cell phone talker is a special case because his or her arrogance impacts everyone around them. I guess it can be called "exponential arrogance."

Let's be sure we are good customers by respecting those who are doing their best to serve us and by respecting our fellow customers.