In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10 year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked. “50¢” replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.
“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient. “35¢!” she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left.
When the waitress came back, tears rolled down her eyes as she wiped the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies. You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.
According to Ron Kaufman, a New York Times bestselling author who has built service cultures within a variety of mega-organizations and founded his own management consultancy firm, customer service has fallen into a crisis mode and we, as customers, sometimes have to take responsibility for our bad service experiences.
“Often, we get poor service because we’re poor customers,” says Kaufman. “It’s a two-way street. When we’re rude or impersonal to service providers, we get rude and impersonal treatment back. This creates low expectations on both sides, which affects our next service interactions.”
So, if bad customer behavior breeds bad customer service and bad customer service, in turn, breeds bad customer behavior, the cycle of inconsideration and negativity can easily become ingrained in our culture.
Kaufman believes that the chain can be broken if we all commit to becoming “service champions,” or people who take responsibility for uplifting others’ experiences whether they are serving someone else or being served.
“When you are an appreciative and considerate customer, service providers will often go the extra mile to serve you better,” says Kaufman. “But if you rant and pound the table, people may serve you grudgingly, if at all.”