Don’t Embarass Your Customers!

As you all know, I ride an inexpensive commuter bus from Philly to NYC a couple times a week for work.

Yesterday was a day like no other day. 6:30am. Bus is quiet. No traffic. We’re zooming to the city.

A girl sitting across the aisle from me stands up and walks up to the driver. This is a common sense “no-no” but she does it anyways. I watch her lean over and ask the driver something. He stares straight ahead with a glare on his face, shaking his head. She immediately returns to her seat with a worried expression. Then, the bus driver clicks on the intercom and makes this announcement:

“Listen, to the girl who just came up and startled me, we’re going 70 mph and if you have something mindless to ask me, don’t do it while the bus is in motion. Save your unimportant questions until we stop at our destination. [insert sarcastic laughter] Come on now, why would you even do such a thing? Girl, you stay in your seat and no one else come up here!”

Ok, so he has a point. Obviously, it’s NOT smart to be trying to talk to the driver when the bus is in motion. But, did he really have to say it in this manner? Couldn’t he have just said something like:

“Attention passengers: When the bus is in motion, please remain in your seat for your safety. You are welcome to use the restroom at the back of the bus but please do not approach the driver. I appreciate your cooperation!”

I look over at the girl after the announcement was made and she shrinks down into her seat. She puts her hood on and takes out her phone. I hate to say that I was being super nosy, but I was and she pulled up the website for the bus company and went to their support page, most likely to let them know about this experience.

While this was on a moving bus, the same type of experience can be used with phone support. There’s no reason to make your customers feel insecure or embarrassed—use words properly and professionally to make them understand the point but not feel stupid.

What are some customer service situations in which you’ve been talked down to? Have you ever had to modify your own statements when helping a customer to ensure they do not feel “dumb”?

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One comment

  • This is really amazing. Similar story that happened to me. I was on a plane and you know how crazy they are about carry ons now that everyone is carrying on luggage? Well I put my bag in and in a hurry/panic stuffed it in and had moved a guy’s bag and didn’t realize that the door wouldn’t close. Honest mistake.

    Anyway the flight attendant said of the other guy’s bag “Whose is this?” and the guy pointed to me and said “This guy moved my bag” to which I drew the ire of the people around me. To which I said “I’m really sorry. It wasn’t on purpose.” So I felt less than human in that instant. How could that flight attendant have responded differently in a way that didn’t automatically assume the customer had malicious intent?

    This is a great reminder to go into things with an open mind and hear all sides of the story.

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