Don’t laugh at your customers.

Not too long ago, I saw this post on the 37signals blog. The basic idea? Don’t laugh at or make fun of your customers.

Laughing at or making fun of customers in general is rude and unprofessional. Making fun of customers in front of other customers is even worse. I’ve always told companies to do their best to prevent employees from saying negative things about customers. It doesn’t give off the right vibe to other employees and it degrades a group of people that should be treated with the utmost respect (the customers).

Besides the risk of the negative comment being overheard (and/or getting back to the customer), talking negatively about customers gives off the wrong impression to employees. If you were a new employee at a company, how would you feel if your co-workers were complaining about how stupid customers were right in front of you (and perhaps them)? It could easily give that employee the wrong impression of the company and what it stands for. Employees that are unhappy and insult customers make everyone look bad. If it goes on enough, it can have a negative impact on the company’s culture.

There is more to this than just avoiding insults. Being condescending, sarcastic, etc. are all things that can upset customers and present the wrong image. Tone is a big part of customer service and any tone that comes off as contrived will hurt the customer service experience.

The rule of thumb is simple: if you wouldn’t say it to the customer’s face while standing next to your boss, then don’t say it. As a manager, if you hear an employee saying something bad about a customer, explain why it isn’t a good thing to do.

8 Responses to “Don’t laugh at your customers.”

  1. Sydney BMW Sales said:

    Sep 05, 08 at 9:02 am

    Just like in the playground with kids, the adults who make fun of others usually have some insecurities themselves.

    Not only is it good business not to make fun of people, it’s more mature and probably more psychologically healthy to find a way to accept all customers as people.

  2. Dreamsubmitting said:

    Sep 06, 08 at 1:47 pm

    I like to say thanks to you.

    Yes this is very bad impression to any seller if we laugh or make fun of them.


  3. Robert Coleman Double Eagle Sprinkler said:

    Oct 15, 08 at 11:46 am

    Customers pay the bills, the rent, and the payroll. They return, over and over again, when they receive excellent service AND respect. To disrespect a paying customer, whether to their face or to anyone else, is to bite the hand that feeds you!

    The key is to remember that that customer can go anywhere with his business. He got on the phone, on line, in contact with you because HE OR SHE WANTS TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU (or at least give you a shot at the business.) Don’t say anything that would derail that train of thought!

  4. J. Christensen said:

    Oct 15, 08 at 12:34 pm

    Very true!!

    And it goes beyond the employees at the store. If there is a corporate culture of contempt for the customer, it will trickle down, too.

    I once worked for a major mid-tier retailer, and the buyers in the corporate office would refer to the customers as “Joe Six-Pack” (ie, unsophisticated); and if sales fell because they had the wrong merchandise at the wrong time (ie, wool blend sweaters in August), it was because the customer “just doesn’t get it”.

    It isn’t the customer’s responsibility to “get it” – it is the retailer’s (or any service industry’s) responsibility to “get” the customer and give them what they want.

    If people at the corporate level treat their customers with contempt, it WILL be reflected at the store/customer contact level – either in the product presented (ie, buying “pseudo-sophisticated” styles that the buyer likes but the customers don’t), or in policies that are designed to benefit the corporation, not the customer.

    In a tight economy, customers aren’t going to open their wallets easily. Whether you’re selling sweaters or cruises or hammers, you need to understand and RESPECT your customer’s needs and wants – or they’ll give their money to someone who does!

  5. Internet Marketing Guru said:

    Mar 05, 09 at 2:37 am

    Laughing at customers is a great way to lose them!

  6. Sprinkler Guy said:

    Dec 02, 10 at 11:56 pm

    I have been in the service business for a long time. Treating your customers right is everything! Everyone communicates with others. All it takes is one bad experience to ruin your reputation.

  7. Dallas Sprinkler said:

    May 01, 11 at 7:37 pm

    Whether we are talking about customers, employees or associates – it all comes down to respecting them as individuals. Treat people the way you would wish to be treated, and the world becomes a happier place.

  8. Iron Fence Dallas said:

    Jul 21, 11 at 8:59 pm

    I always make sure my guys treat customers (and other team members) with respect – no joking at others expense. What’s funny to one person can be insulting to another.