A new store opened in our community and my mother, who had recently moved here, was excited to transfer her “membership” to this new location.  That excitement was short-lived.

The first time she visited the store, with her $10 dollar coupon in hand, she encountered an unhappy and surly employee. When my elderly mother presented her credit card at the register, the employee aggressively pushed it back and said very assertively “we don’t take that card here.” After she finished ringing up the order, my mother explained that the cashier did not deduct the coupon. The employee claimed she did, began ringing up the next customer and ignored my mother. Another associate came over and told my mother she would take care of it.

As my Mom and I discussed the incident, she began making excuses for the sales person. She reminded me that she is new and the store is still training people and that it is hard to find good people. All of that is true. However, in a business, the front-line people aren’t salespeople, or cashiers, or clerks or a host of other titles they are called. They are simply “First Impressions Specialist.” This organization chose to put someone who is unqualified and poorly trained in customer experience in front of the customer.  The most disturbing part is that another associate came to the rescue, which was great for my mother, but an indication that the employees know this person is not caring for the customers. Such behavior indicates a toxic culture in this business.

I don’t know if my mother will return to this business or not. It’s highly unlikely I will ever visit because I am infuriated that a business would treat an elderly guest so disrespectfully. Further, it does not practice principles that that I think are important to a remarkable guest experience.

Instead of focusing on principles, this business is focused on the rules. What are some principles this business could consider to better serve their guests? I would suggest these:


  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s a new business in the community. Put your best talent in front of the guest, not your talent-in-training.


  1. Treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect. “Everyone” includes guests, but also co-workers, vendors, delivery people, etc.


  1. Never make the customer wrong. I am not sure I believe the customer is always right. The customer is not right when they become abusive to employees or other guests. They may not be right about a number of things, but don’t make them wrong. Instead of shoving the credit card back to my Mom saying, “we don’t take this card,” a better response is, “I’m so sorry. We don’t accept this card, but we do accept ______.” Don’t argue with the customer. Take the time to look at the receipt to assure them that you deducted the coupon, discount or rang up the order correctly.


  1. Don’t allow a toxic employee to become everyone else’s responsibility. While I am thankful for the other employee who came to my mother’s rescue, I also feel badly that she works in a business where she has to cover for someone else’s behavior. It makes her job so much more difficult on a daily basis and leads to turnover.


  1. Select customer service talent with a heart for customer service. If someone does not enjoy serving others, no amount of training will overcome that mindset. Whatever business we are in, we are in the people business first. Only allow talent who enjoy helping and serving others to interact with guests.

The formula is simple but the execution is difficult. Create a remarkable culture where talent can flourish and guests enjoy every visit. Select extraordinary talent and steward them well. Teach the talent the principles that are most dear to the business and allow them to apply those principles to create amazing guest experiences. Click To Tweet Repeat this process over and over again to be known for legendary customer service. This is how you win the hearts of your customers.

You can learn more in my new book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers. Order Bet on Talent