Never apologize for your enthusiasm

Enthusiasm new copyOnce, while I was sharing a retail example of exceptional customer service during a seminar in New York City, a participant interrupted to ask, “But what if you don’t want the cashier to act all phony—like she’s your best friend? What if you just want to make your purchase and get the (heck) out of there?”

Knowing that such a question has the potential to steer the presentation into an unproductive debate between the two of us (while causing other participants to look at their watches, fold their arms, and mentally check-out), I posed the question to the larger group. Their comments ranged from “You can’t please everyone” to “It’s the cashier’s responsibility to read her customer and adjust accordingly.”

While I largely agreed with the comments shared during the ensuing discussion, it bothers me whenever genuinely enthusiastic service providers are labeled as “phony” or “goody-goodies” or worse… Instead of their passion and enthusiasm being seen as sincere, it’s viewed with suspicion—as an “act”—to earn a bigger tip, get mentioned by name on a comment card or online survey, or gain favor with management.

To all those truly enthusiastic employees out there who look forward to going to work and serving their customers, this post is for you. Jaded skeptics may question your authenticity but you know otherwise. Never dull the edges of your enthusiasm in order to fit in with apathetic or indifferent coworkers or to appease tenured employees who are content to simply go through the motions at work, relying on their seniority to insulate them from having to expend any discretionary effort.

There’s nothing phony about genuinely serving others. Exceptional customer service is not about masking your true feelings. It’s about actualizing them.

Don’t settle for ordinary. Choose extraordinary. (It’s always a choice.) Pre-order Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Steve Curtin (AMACOM Books, June 11, 2013)

Illustration by Aaron McKissen

  • KimH

    I admit I’m guilty of “ducking” enthusiastic sales associates, especially in retail outlets where I know the associates are evaluated by their sales numbers. In fact, there’s one store where I like to purchase items, but I won’t go unless I bring along a “blocker,” one of my daughters who will “block” the sales staff so I can shop without being pestered (usually there’s a pair of shoes or whatnot in it for the “blocker”).
    I can usually discern the sincerity of a sales associate in one simple step: Are they listening to me? If I say I’m shopping for a particular item, do they help me locate it or point me toward the seasonal specials? Does he or she make appropriate suggestions or blatantly try to up-sell my purchase?
    I agree that genuine service is a admirable and desired quality in associates and over time sincerity will be apparent and appreciated. If I discern that a sales associate holds my desires above his or her own sales quotas, I will turn from a “jaded skeptic” into a loyal customer.

  • Kim, I refer to this exceptional service behavior as: convey “authentic” enthusiasm. I agree with you that if the employee’s demeanor appears manipulative, self-serving or disingenuous, it will create a psychic barrier between you and the employee – that, in your case, may lead to a physical barrier resulting from your daughter’s role as a “blocker.” It’s not possible to provide exceptional customer service or create loyal customers in a sales environment that erects such barriers. Thank you for taking time to read and comment!