“How are you folks tonight?” asked the new bartender in the most positive, upbeat, and enthusiastically genuine way possible.
The couple looked him up and down.
“Do we look like folks?” asked one of the two in a manner that was neither positive, nor upbeat, but sadly, was enthusiastically genuine.
In customer service not all things are all things to all people. What is good service to one is over the top to another.
“How are the two of you this evening?” asked the new bartender to the next couple, adjusting her approach.
“A little formal, don’t you think?” asked the man in the second couple.
“Yeah, loosen up a little,” replied his date.
The new bartender looked at them like a deer in the headlights. Then she laughed.
“What’s so funny?” asked the date.
The new bartender returned to the deer in the headlights state.
Customer service is a variable, and that variable is always the customer. There is no person in long term customer service who has never gotten a complaint. Somehow, somewhere, someone, has taken offense.
“They looked at me wrong.”
“They seemed annoyed.”
“They acted like this; they acted like that.”
“They were rude.”
If there is a royal “we” then there certainly is a plebeian “they.” And trust me, you don’t want that. Sadly, in our current social environment there has become an overreliance on being offended. Or more correctly, taking offense. And people infer offense all the time.
In fact, someone out there somewhere is probably already offended by this.
“Don’t you mean ‘imply?’ that someone is probably already thinking.
No, I don’t. I mean “infer.” Because we really don’t know for sure what someone is implying. All we know for sure is what we are inferring. To understand what someone is implying, we would have to ask. And many people don’t get that far.
“Taking offense has become America’s national pastime,” once wrote Pulitzer Prize winning journalist George Will. “Being theatrically offended supposedly signifies the exquisitely refined moral delicacy of people who feel entitled to pass through life without encountering ideas or practices that annoy them.”
And that really is it in a nutshell. Being annoyed is not the same thing as being offended. And while arguably no one deserves to be offended, nobody is immune from being annoyed. But we cling to our annoyance and rebrand it as offense. And then we act.
Ever notice how being offended is always one way? Can two people be offended at the same time? By each other?
I once worked with a server who gave up a table because she was having difficulty with the people at that table. I don’t remember exactly why, but somehow, they just weren’t connecting. So, she turned it over to another server.
“Where’s the other waitress?” asked one of the members of that table, using a term sure to offend someone, somewhere, somehow. Funny how customers often don’t think that they, themselves, can be offensive. No matter what they say. The customer is always right, right?
“She thought I might be a better fit for you,” replied the new server.
Boy was that the wrong thing to say. How dare someone not want to wait on us? HOW DARE THEM!
I once had a customer tell me to “sit and stay” making a motion like you would to a dog. I was 40 years old at the time, a college graduate, a professional, a homeowner, a father, and a husband. And here was this man sitting at a bar talking to me, literally, like I was a dog.
We thew him out immediately.
“It was a joke,” he kept saying. Like that made a difference.
Ironically, he returned several times over the years, and he always brought it up and then tried to explain how funny his joke had been and how it wasn’t offensive. Ironically it always resulted in him being asked to leave again, until finally he was asked to leave permanently.
There are times when offence is intended and is given. And there are times when it is not intentional but happens anyway, and then there are times when it is completely made up.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Sometimes taking offence itself can itself be offensive.
-Customer service is not for the easily offended, nor is it for the often offensive.
-The saying, “the best defense is a good offense,” might be true in sports, but it isn’t true in real life.
-“A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill. He knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it,” once wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky.
-Great, now I am offended.