Smiles are free: When the service is good, customers leave happy. *Overseas iStock photo
Smiles are free: When the service is good, customers leave happy. *Overseas iStock photo

FRIDAY, JANUARY 11: When it comes to customer service, my attitude is quite simple and direct: provide me with bad customer service just once and I’ll never patronize your business again.

There’s a distinct difference between the way we share our good or bad customer service experiences.

Excellent customer service used to be what Bermudians were remembered for, back in the day.  But my how things have changed.

I’ve been trying to figure out for quite some time now if customer service standards have really dropped so low or if my tolerance level for sales people who don’t seem to want to be there is lowering as I get older.

So far, I think it’s a combination of the two.

As a youngster my friends and I learned the importance of good manners — how to greet people, make conversation, help the elderly, give up our seats on the bus and to be mindful of the right and wrong things to say to people.

These were just some of the things that were instilled in us at home. Home training set the foundation for customer service.

Our home training helped us to be kind with tourists. After all, back in those days, all of our stores and service industries thrived off the tourist industry.  And tourists talked about how friendly Bermudians were — so much so, that their relatives and friends flocked to our shores.  Customer service was top notch.

Fast forward to today. 

How many times have you walked into a store, been in there for a minute or two and never been acknowledged by the sales person? 

How many times have you walked into a business only to have to wait for the service provider to finish a private conversation on the company phone, or finish texting personal messages on their own personal devices?

How many times has the sales person addressed you or treated you in such a manner that has made you head for the exit sooner than you intended.

By now, I’m sure many of you are having a few “ah-ha” or “uh-huh” moments as you reflect upon the poor customer service treatment you have experienced.


Over the past two weeks, a few incidents come to mind.

I walked into a large chain grocery store at night, about ten minutes before closing.

The cashier was near the door tidying her work area. As I entered the store, she glanced up and me, looked at her watch, and sucked her teeth.

Clearly, I was cutting things a little too closely to closing time.  While my friends tell me I should have grabbed a shopping cart and took my time browsing up and down each aisle, I simply left.  Her attitude simply reminded me that my $20 could have been spent elsewhere.

Same grocery chain, different night — I approached the counter and the young lady was smiling beautifully.

Oh how my heart and face lit up. I had never experienced such a greeting so close to closing time.  As I placed my items on the counter I greeted her but there was no reply. Her smile disappeared, too. Ah-ha! I began to understand the transition in her face as she stealthily placed her cellphone to the side of her register before quickly sending off her last text message before serving me.

I packed my own few items as she continued to text with the cell phone discreetly resting between the register and the plexi-glass.  I glanced back. Her smile had returned. 

There is absolutely no excuse for poor customer service.

Next week, I shall share some good experiences — and I’ll tell you who they are.

But in the meantime, just know that people you encounter should not be subjected to your negative attitude.

And remember too, that if you are in the business of serving customers, your hard work will determine if the business which pays your weekly salary thrives and stay open for business.

• Shawnette Somner is an educator and mother.  Email: