It’s not what you said. It’s the way you said it.

A friend of mine was sharing his disdain for a local sandwich shop today and it totally reminded me of a particularly hilarious incident I had at that same establishment.  We may share his story later but I’m still working on getting the rights.  Trust me, it’s good.

Anyway, so we strolled into this restaurant and on that day, the line was out the door and there was a sign on the door saying “Our credit card machine is down.  Cash only please.”  Clearly they were not having a good day.  This may give away the name of the place when I say that all employees were trained to say “Welcome to ____________” when new guests entered the restaurant.

On this particular day, we walked in and in the most annoyed and unfriendly voice possible one employee said “Welcome to ___________” and then followed that up with a sigh and a roll of their eyes.  I can only imagine the tone they were supposed to use and what was communicated to them in training.  The way it was communicated to me, the employees would have rather me gone next door and had a burrito.  I wish I could convey to you how funny it was in that moment.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time dissecting this incident but I think there are two observations I would point out from this story.  First of all, imagine if the owners of the shop were behind the counter instead of some minimum wage employee?  Wouldn’t they be beyond excited that there was a line of people out the door waiting to be served?  In my book, crowds are a good problem, not a bad one.

My second observation goes back to training.  Have you ever played a game of telephone where you sit in a circle and share a message with the person next to you and typically after the message has been passed a few times, it morphs into something entirely different?  I recently trained a group of our staff to call customers with friendly reminders for various activities on their account and am struck by the fact that unless I train and coach these employees effectively, what I envision as a friendly reminder may be lost in favor of a robotic, unfriendly shadow of my original vision.  Yet another example of the need to communicate better.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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