How Do Your Employees Treat Customers? In This Case, It Wasn’t Great

How’s your employees’ customer service?

By Darrin Tonsfeldt
The Village Business Institute

Have you ever been in a store and as you checked out with your items, the clerk just stared at you, or didn’t even look at you? Or have you been in a restaurant when the server made it very clear you should be thanking them? Leaves me wondering if the whole process of customer service etiquette; “Please,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome” has gotten very confused or lost.

Something happened the other day that got me thinking about this topic. I was standing in line behind a woman as she was unloading a cart full of items onto the check-out conveyor belt. One by one the clerk dutifully scanned each item and bagged it. After the last item was scanned the woman slid her credit card through the reader and then loaded her bags back into her cart. As she handed the woman her receipt, the clerk said in a flat voice, “Here is your receipt Ma’am.” There was a pause and then as the woman put the receipt in her purse she said, “Thank you.” The clerk turned away, saying nothing, and started scanning my items.

It struck me there was something missing in terms of customer service and just plain old being polite in this exchange. I wondered how satisfying of an experience it was for the woman to be a customer at that store, and I wondered if the clerk had ever been trained on the importance of being appreciative to customers. When it was my turn to take my receipt I also paused, looked at the clerk, and waited for her to say something. She faintly smiled, said nothing, and turned to the next customer.

Was I upset, angry, or incensed that I did not get a thank you from the clerk? Not at all, it was not that big of thing compared to all that goes on in the world, and I got the items I wanted. Did I feel appreciated or was any kind of customer loyalty encouraged by the clerk’s actions—“No.” For me, the lack of a thank you from a clerk made my experience at that store unremarkable at best. Will I go back there? Maybe or maybe not, but I do tend to frequent stores or businesses who appreciate me as a customer far more often than those who don’t.

Did I blame the clerk for the part she played in this far less than a great customer service experience? In part, yes, because each of us is responsible for our own actions and how we treat others. In part, no, because I understand how much an employer’s work culture affects employees and the level of customer service they provide.

Employees often treat customers in ways they feel treated by their employers. Sometimes as employers we unintentionally send the wrong messages about what we expect of our employees. And, at times, actions like cutting training or benefits to save money can backfire and cost the business in terms of lower productivity, decreased customer service, and employee turnover.

As an employer, do you train supervisors to train and appreciate their employees? Do you provide a safe place to work? Do you offer meaningful and worthwhile benefits to your employees to help them be productive and well? All those things matter and impact how your employees treat your customers.

If you have questions about how your business or organization can provide remarkable customer service, give us a call at The Village Business Institute, 800-627-8220, or visit our website at

Darrin Tonsfeldt, The Village Business Institute

About the blogger
Darrin Tonsfeldt, director of The Village Business Institute, has a background of program administration, employee supervision, and clinical experience, as well as 20 years of experience in organization consulting and planning. He provides oversight of The Village Business Institute and Fargo Counseling Services programs along with consulting services that include: strategic planning; career, leadership, management, and executive coaching; corporate training and group facilitation; crisis response in the workplace; and organizational consulting. Tonsfeldt is a MN Licensed Psychologist, ND Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Certified Employee Assistance Professional, and Senior Professional in Human Resources.

2 Responses

  1. Nancy Leingang

    Thank you for writing this article. I agree with you completely. When I am a paying customer, and a clerk hands me a receipt or my purchase without saying,”Thank you” my response is “You’re welcome!” His or her response is priceless!

  2. Rita

    Thanks for sharing lack of thank you. I see this in many stores and cannot understand what has happened with friendliness to those that shop. My most shocking experience was when I was so excited that a small business opened near where I live in a mall that needs all the shoppers it can get. I approached the counter to decide what I would purchase and the person did not smile,say hello or recognize I was standing there. I ordered three items , she took my money and did not say a word until handing back change and then she said thank you. I went on to get my hair cut and talked of this to my stylist and found out the person I was talking about was the owner!! Have not been back and when I take a peek at the business when passing by , still have not seen a smile !

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