Let us now praise customer service.

th-1Over on my daughter’s website is a post that I wish would go viral. The theme of “Don’t just complain” is simple: When you encounter good service, say so.

That can be in person or via e-mail or letter. Not the calculated-to-get-something kind of letter, mind you: I don’t know I ever survived without Product X! It’s miraculous! (And will you please send me some freebies or at least some high-value coupons?)

No, I’m talking that rarity: A note that says “you got it right – thanks.”

Stuff like, “Your help-desk employee was very patient in explaining something to me” or “Bill the cashier always has a friendly word – he brightens my day.”

I want this idea to go viral because we need an antidote to our current culture of complaint. If you’ve ever dealt with the public then you know that we are, by and large, a nation of nitwits. We’re rude, impatient, petulant and loud. We demand the impossible, delivered yesterday and it damn well better come with free shipping.

Ever see Louis CK’s “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy” routine? He’s got it nailed. (Warning: Adult language, amusing content.)

We have so much yet we spend way too much time complaining about what we don’t have. Or about what we perceive that we don’t have. The coffee shop being out of your favorite kind of scone is not the end of the world. More to the point, yelling at the poor kid behind the counter will not make that scone magically appear.

Good for the soul

That’s not to say that we should let bad customer service go by, or eat that raw-in-the-middle steak when we’d ordered medium well. Abby and I both know the value of a well-placed complaint.

Lately, though, she’s making a specific point to notice the things that go right. In part that’s because she works on a help desk herself and knows what it’s like to be at ground zero of consumer ire.

Abby knows how rare it is for someone to take the time to write your supervisor about the excellent job you did. Thus she knows it could make someone’s day to get an attaboy! instead of an up-yours!

This accentuate-the-positive trend is for her own good, too. Specifically, she wants to keep from always being “the angry customer.” th-2

“It’s bad for the soul to only write negative things,” she says.

I agree.

So if you see a friendly attitude or a go-the-extra mile gesture, say something. Tell a supervisor. Write a letter. Leave a comment on the company’s Facebook page: “Employee X totally rocks!”

It’s good for others to hear that they’re appreciated. And it’s good for you to notice something besides that missing scone.

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  1. Brilliant as always.

  2. I do this frequently and have done so for years. Since I need help with things in stores, I all too often come across some teen who does not want to help the woman in the electric cart, sighing and rolling her eyes. I don’t want special treatment, just not to be treated like a leper. Whether I am rolling now or walking as in the past, I resent the clerk who flings a hand out and tells me to look over “there.”

    Sometimes, the compliment is not driven by the person’s willingness to help me. Oftentimes, the clerk is just so darned friendly or cheerful that it makes my day. Of course, I don’t complain about a clerk who maybe is just off her mark that day.

  3. I agree with this. Letting companies know what they’re doing right helps them–and it is a great way to reward the employee who did something right.

  4. In my job, roughly once a week I end up having a long phone call with some poor customer service assistant who is explaining some product/process to me. If they do a good job (and honestly, they usually do), I make a point to get their name, and to thank them by name before the call ends. Sometimes even that tiny gesture surprises people who are used to being barked at. For exceptional service (and again, this happens fairly often), I’ll write a follow up e-mail just saying I appreciated all the help, and listing the exact assistance they gave. If I have any clue who their supervisor is I copy them in on it.

    Here’s one thing I’ve learned: it makes MY day better when I sincerely thank someone else for their hard work. It’s not why I do it but it’s a pleasant side effect.

    Also, I just love Louis C.K.

    • Donna Freedman

      Bless you for noticing when people do their jobs right. If you were one of those customer service types who feared losing his/her job in this economy, it sure helps to have your supervisor say “Schmei, I’ve received three attagirls about you in the past month. Well done, you.”
      And I’m with you (and Abby): It’s good for us to do this.
      Thanks for reading, and for being such a consistent, thoughtful commenter. (Hey, it works! I feel better already!)

  5. All four of my nephews and my son work or have worked in retail. Last Christmas I got one of them a bumper sticker which read: I know there is a hell—I work retail. Naturally he loved it. All of the boys are well-mannered, considerate gentleman. Yet they come home or phone telling me how many rude customers they’ve had to deal with. I shudder listening to them sometimes.

    And it’s not just retail folks which need a thank you from time to time. Sometimes it’s the lady at DMV who looks up a nearby inspection station for you or the nurse’s aide at the hospital who always remembers you don’t like green jello or ice in your water. It’s all those nice folks who go out of their way, sometimes just a little.

    • Donna Freedman

      Agreed! Whatever happened to being courteous because it’s the right thing to do?

  6. Ha! I didn’t know that was your daughter. Small world. But I follow her site and featured the article on a recent weekly roundup.
    The piece struck me as a suggestion to do something nice when we often miss such opportunities. Yes, it was viral-worthy.

  7. Sandra J

    I do this occasionally, but not often enough! You inspired me. I just sent a note off for a local eatery 🙂

  8. rosarugosa

    Earlier today I sent an e-mail to a manager in another dept at work to compliment the consistently good service I receive from one of his employees. It did make me feel when I did it, and of course, I’m feeling extra pleased after reading this post 🙂

  9. Thanks for your post. I work retail, and can tell you that a sincere “thank you” makes a world of difference in my day!

    • Donna Freedman

      Good to know. I always say “thank you” when I conclude a transaction. Now I’ll keep saying it.

  10. I was just thinking today about how much time is wasted by being rude. I try and have manners but sometimes I think I am alone. Can you see that I am having a pity party?
    Woo Hoo for the mother, daughter team changing the world, one thank you at a time.

    • Donna Freedman

      I think of it this way: Even if you’ve just had ghastly service, Miss Manners says you can’t be rude in response to rudeness. You can only be more polite. Save your ire for the letter you write to the manager or whoever — and even then it should be civil ire.
      Takes the same amount of time to be courteous, understanding or even coldly correct as it does to yell at someone behind the counter.
      Once I was standing in line behind a woman who was bitching out a grocery cashier. I can’t remember what the reason was but it struck me at the time as a mistake that could simply have been pointed out so that it could be corrected. The complaining customer caught my eye. In a manner that invited me to tell her how right she was being, she said “It’s not that I want to make a big fuss.”
      “And yet you are,” I replied.
      There really was no need to be such a self-righteous nitwit. A simple “I’m afraid there’s been a mistake” would have sufficed.

  11. Pamela

    I had to comment on this. I just recently did this for my postal carrier. She went above and beyond her duty to find my package which had been lost for a month. Turns out someone forgot to leave me a note saying there was a package waiting for me!

    I had to call the post office 3 times before I finally got a hold of the station manager but I was BOUND AND DETERMINED to make him hear how wonderful she was.

    I love this article! We are so focused on the negative – we need to focus on something postive – it’s good for the heart!!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      Good deal! So often people carp and moan about the USPS.


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