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  • Writer's pictureJesse Good

Bringing Energy to Customer Service

This piece is the an entry in the "Happy to Help" Series, ongoing articles focused on elevating customer service experiences.

A True Story

At the bowling center one particular evening, I was chatting with customers at each table, and trying to ensure that all of the guests were having a great time. As I came from the pool hall toward the front desk, a woman bowling on the first lane asked for my attention. She asked if the manager was present. I explained that I was the manager on shift that evening and asked what I could do to help her. She told me that the employee who set them up on their lane looked very grumpy and unhappy.

She politely suggested that I should not employ front line staff who were “incapable of smiling.”

These were her exact words. They still ring through my ears. She and her party were clearly unhappy with the service they were given. Hoping I could ensure that these guests would leave happy, I asked what I could do to compensate for the poor service they’d received. The woman replied that she was not interested. As a last attempt, I offered some free passes for their next visit. The woman then replied,

“Thank you for the offer, but we do not need the passes. We will not be coming back.”

In short, they were given such “unbelievable” guest service that they decided to not return, even given the opportunity to do so free of charge.

The benefit of this experience was that she was willing to talk to me. Research indicates that only four percent of customers bother to complain. For every complaint you hear, 24 others go uncommunicated to the company, but not to other potential customers. Odd as is sounds, a complaint is a gift, and customers who complain are some of the best customers you have.

Although this customer was unhappy with her experience, at least she let me know why. And she let me know, specifically, that a lack of energy was the reason for them deciding to do business elsewhere. Being energetic can include a whole array of emotions and attitudes like being happy, friendly, enthusiastic, genuine, pleasant and all around enjoying your work.

Bring the Energy

Along with being polite to your customers, guests should be able to sense your happiness and overall enthusiasm for working with people. They can tell when you are happy to help. Keep in mind that this means being energetic even when you are not really feeling energetic.

It doesn’t matter if you are having relationship problems, money problems, or you don’t like your coworkers. These are not the problems of your customer, and frankly, most of them don’t really care about your personal problems, they just want good service.

Ari Weinzwig offers a prime example: “When you go to the theater to see a play, do you really care if the lead actor is in a good mood? Do you care if the actor and actress are mad at each other? Are you concerned about whether or not the lead actress is bored with her role? I’m not. I just want to see a good show. I paid my admission fee, and I want to see good theatre.”

Another great example comes from the book The Experience Economy. The authors discuss how work should be seen as a stage, and every employee, an actor. Think about Disney and how cast members can be onstage or backstage. When they are onstage, they remain in character, regardless of what emotions or personal issues they may be facing.

It’s important to understand that we are talking about customer service performance. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to attend a seminar with Frank Price. Frank Price operates the Birthday University, a consulting practice that teaches entertainment facilities and other businesses how to Deliver memorable birthday party experiences. He spoke about how it isn’t just about creating fun for the birthday party; it’s about creating fun for everyone.

Speaking to managers, Price specifically stated, “You have to make it fun. If you are not having fun, then your employees won’t be having fun. And if your employees aren’t having fun, then your customers definitely aren’t having fun. And if they aren’t having fun, why are they there?”

Solving the Problem

While part of the problem may be the attitude of employees, keep in mind that managers set the tone. If employees are not Delivering energetically, then look first to management’s energy levels. If management is energetic and front line employees are not, there is likely some training that needs to be done. If the employee has been trained, and still won’t do it, I suggest corrective action from management.

Am I suggesting that you terminate an employee because they will not smile or be energetic? Yes, I am.

At the bowling center, our average customer group size was four people, spending an average of six dollars per person or twenty four dollars per group. Our average customer came to the bowling center four or more times per year. That’s almost a hundred dollars that I lost because of a single group I knew would not be returning. Multiply that by the other twenty four people who didn’t speak up and this employee is potentially costing me $2,400 in business—every time she works.

Yes, I will throw myself under the bus regarding the employee who was “incapable of smiling.” I knew that she didn’t always smile. I knew that she had a tendency to seem somewhat cold or lacked a desire to interact with customers. You know what I did about it?


I was still young in my customer service management career. I incorrectly assumed that my bursting ball of energy was enough to compensate for the lack of hers, and I was wrong. In addition, I knew less at that time about training employees and how to have a conversation about changing an attitude.

Additionally, I didn’t have the authority to terminate anyone, and it would have been difficult to convince upper management that someone should be let go from the business because she didn’t smile. The expectation needs to be set up front, so when it is not met, it can be easily addressed.

Following are a few tactics that will help you Deliver energetically:

  • Make a game out of work. Have fun with it. Like Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and, *SNAP* the job’s a game.”

  • Find a song that you enjoy that really energizes you and puts you in a good mood. Listen to it before you start work.

  • Watch funny cat videos before you go to work.

  • Find appropriate ways that you can joke and have fun with customers. When you’re having a great time, everyone else will too. Energy is contagious.

  • You’ve heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it.” While I think it catches the essence of Deliver energetically, I prefer the quote, “Smile till you mean it!”

How It Should Be

I was recently speaking with Brandon, a former coworker of mine. Our conversation turned toward property and home ownership. He shared that he had recently had a problem with his last mortgage payment. When he called the company to address the issue, he hit the call center jackpot.

“I called and a gentleman named Will took my call. He was nice right from the start. I could hear a hint of a Southern accent, and he later mentioned that he was in Fort Worth, Texas. Boy, talk about Southern hospitality. He was so nice and helpful.

“He answered and introduced himself, and politely asked what he could do to help me. I explained the issue to him, and he paused for a moment to investigate the issue.

“He quickly discovered the problem, and then briefly and effectively explained to me the reason for the error. He also explained that there is usually a lengthy process to rectify this kind of issue, but if I didn’t mind waiting, he would put me on hold and see if he could resolve the problem right now, though it might take a few minutes.

“I was on hold for probably four minutes, listening to classical music. When Will returned, he apologized for the wait and joked that he knew it wasn’t the most appealing music to listen to. He then explained that he was able to get approval and have the issue immediately rectified. He gave me my new total for the monthly payment. He was so happy and enthusiastic. It was clear that he really enjoys what he does.”

Certainly, Delivering energetically sets you apart from your competition.

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Jesse B Good

Speaker, Author, Customer Experience Marketing Expert

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