I want to encourage you to look at the ways that you, your business, and your employees may be making your customers feel like they’re interrupting your business, rather than that they are the point of your business. If you make them feel like an interruption, they’ll get a pretty clear message that their patronage as a customer doesn’t mean that much to you. A feeling that they’ll ultimately reciprocate, by not forming much of an attachment to your business, either.
Here are specific behaviors, some general and some specific to particular types of workplaces, that are guaranteed to make a customer feel like an interruption, rather than central to your company’s existence.
• Foodservice workers: Remember to yield at any potential collision point within your restaurant. In fact, not only should you be yielding if a collision is otherwise imminent, you should be using your senses to allow you to yield before the guest even realizes that there is a potential collision point.
• Physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners: Stop standing in the exam room while talking with (seated) patients. And please, please get your hand off the doorknob (making it seem like you wish that you were already out the door).
• All customer-facing employees: Never talk with your co-workers—never—without situating yourself in a way that allows you to use your direct or peripheral senses to allow you to stop when a customer approaches, before the customer is made to feel that they’re taking you away from how you’d rather be spending your time. (To put this bluntly: Your customer probably won’t appreciate coming in contact with your backside before your face.) When you do talk with co-workers, never—even for a minute–make a customer or potential customer wait for you to finish your conversation, even if your conversation is work-related. Drop that conversation mid-sentence, assist the customer, and then come back to it after.
To summarize what these points have in common: You make your customers feel like an interruption when you fail to serve them with speed and enthusiasm. In many business situations, of course the customer will, eventually, be served; there’s no way to definitively ignore them. If a customer’s standing at a counter awaiting service, they’re not going to be flat-out turned down. But will they get served after the nearest employee puts down her cell phone with a tiny accompanying grimace? After she finishes the note she is writing? After she finishes the sentence or paragraph she is sharing with her co-worker? Or right away, and with a smile? The difference here is a matter of seconds, or even just milliseconds. But that brief time span, and the attitude it evokes, makes all the difference in how the customer feels about your company.