Customer Service Tip #3 – The Power of Pleasant

female sales clerk at cash register

The skills and actions involved in creating excellent customer service are many and varied. Achieving all of them, even half of them, with every staff member, especially in a large corporation, demands constant vigilance and commitment.

Fortunately, the foundation of customer service is easy and very straightforward. Its absence is costly resulting in both the loss of customers and qualified staff.

A recent early-morning retail experience had me thinking about all the challenges we face โ€“ labor shortages, supply chain issues, the economy (to name just a few) โ€“ and the societal hum of stress, frustration and anger. And how this foundation of customer service is the one thing we can absolutely count on to make a positive difference.

What’s the easy, straightforward foundation of excellent customer service? And how is it related to my recent experience?

The First Experience

In mid-July both my husband and I had a 10 am appointment booked at a nearby retail location that also served as a community medical hub. The location was new to us. It was very easy to find and to park near the retail entrance.

When booking the appointment, I received the instruction “Use Medical Clinic Entrance”. With a large parking lot and road construction directly in front of the store, this entrance was not visible to me at all. Because I’m a bit compulsive about following directions, I went into the store to see what I could discover. Once inside I also quickly picked up some necessities.

At the very back of the store was a large sign saying “Medical Clinic”. Could David and I just walk back there, or should we be somewhere else? I decided to ask the cashier standing nearby who was talking with a friend.

Two things happened: 1) When she noticed me, she displayed her annoyance at my interrupting her social conversation; 2) When I explained my dilemma, she rolled her eyes, sighed and responded with sarcasm that the entrance was at the very back of the building. Then she rang up my purchases with obvious impatience.

Her attitude definitely got under my skin but I thanked her and remained pleasant. Because pleasant is easy. All it takes is a smile, which both warms and lightens our tone of voice. Pleasant is the extremely straightforward foundation of customer service excellence.

Walking back to my car, I wondered how the cashier’s attitude would impact others during the long day ahead. In the past two years, most of us have experienced some tough times … and for many, that’s continuing. Anger, impatience and even rage seem to be close to the surface. The simple act of being pleasant is not only important for customer service, it’s an essential survival skill.

The Second Experience

I easily found the correct entrance to the medical clinic. When David and I entered, more confusion ensued. I knew we weren’t expected at the family walk-in clinic. There was another space nearby with chairs but no signage … and no one there. As is my common practice, I asked another staff person for help.

Again, the answer was snippy, impatient and sarcastic. Sigh.

The Plea for Improvement

We’ve got to do better than this, especially now. If you are the leader of customer-facing staff, take the time to train and support the skill of being pleasant. It’s simple, easy and basic. Your staff’s experiences with customers will improve; they’ll get more enjoyment from their work.

And if you’re the customer, and someone’s attitude gets under your skin, set the example โ€“ be pleasant in return.

Curious about the 16 essential skills of customer service excellence? Want to investigate training for your team? Let’s have a conversation – click here.


4 thoughts on “Customer Service Tip #3 – The Power of Pleasant”

  1. So true and so hard… especially when you can’t get what you are looking for and you are the customer. I know…. empathy – and you don’t know what that person is dealing with. Sometimes it is hard… but you are absolutely right that tamping it down and being purposeful about being pleasant makes everyone feel better!

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • It is hard. And I think there’s a general exhaustion impacting each of us and that makes being impatient very easy. ๐Ÿ™‚ But, yes, being purposeful about being pleasant definitely improves communication and makes all of our days work a little better. Thanks for your comment, Stephanie.

  2. Oh, Mary Jane. I have SO many similar experiences that I could share. We have conversations at home about common courtesy — it’s not hard. “Nice” matters, being polite matters — these were FUNDAMENTAL elements of how I was raised. Goodness knows we could all use a little less unnecessary friction.

    • Yes, Susan, nice matters. While it is valuable to recognize that everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different, and that everyone is experiencing some difficulties in their lives, it doesn’t help anyone if anger and frustration become our “go to” responses. Times are tough from many people in many ways. A smile, a kind word … these things can have an amazing positive impact on someone’s day. Thanks for your comment and let’s keep encouraging others to be kind.


Leave a comment

What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.