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How to Drive a Customer Crazy

How to Drive a Customer Crazy

Through most of my corporate work career I’ve been associated with the “hospitality industry:” hotels and resorts and all the amenities they are made of, e.g. restaurants, retail and recreational outlets and the like. The hospitality industry is a labor-intensive one, where the majority of employees do come face-to-face with the customer. Within it, nearly every manager can tell you how they will limp their way through the dreaded monotony of daily pre-shift meetings, sometimes called “the line up.” For most of the hospitality industry the purpose is the same: 10-15 minutes at the beginning of a work shift to keep staff as up-to-date as possible, and in-the-know enough to have a decently savvy stage presence for the customer.

Coming up with engaging conversations for pre-shift was this on-going game with me; I took it on as my own personal challenge to make the 10-15 minutes as entertaining for all of us as possible, while sharing the knowledge everyone needed for the day ahead. If we had to have line up, we may as well enjoy ourselves and learn something useful at the same time.

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One of my favorite line-up routines was to do a 5-minute brainstorm we called “How to drive a customer crazy.” We talked about what not to do in a way that had most of us rolling in laughter at the possible outrageous scenarios. However it was also very effective in actually speaking out loud those reminders of bad habits we really shouldn’t do. The staff would throw out suggestions that sounded awful, but usually they were possible: They really were big no-no’s, and saying them out loud, even in jest, kept us aware of them enough to keep them at bay.

Here are some samples of what would come up for us:

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How to Drive a Customer Crazy.

Pretend you haven’t noticed they are there.
Stay in first gear, especially when they are rushing.
Let them overhear your personal phone call, and make no attempt to end it.
Open late. Close early.
Say “That’s not our policy.”
Say “That’s not my job.”
Say “I’m not allowed to do that.”
Say “I have no idea.”
Say “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Slouch. Chew Gum. Twirl your hair between your fingers.
Give them a blank stare, or worse, roll your eyes.
Fidget distractedly. Appear bored.
Finish whatever other task you have at hand, while they wait for you to attend to them.
Talk story with other employees. Laugh at an “inside joke” they are not privy to.
Speak in a monotone. See how long you can go without smiling.
Be late for their appointment or with their reservation.
Take shortcuts with your service, saying “you don’t really need this part do you?”
Make excuses.
Have a quick comeback for every point they may wish to make with you.
Offer mechanical, routine service that is so uneventful, so ordinary, that they expect to pull a number and listen for you to call out “Next!”
Look at them with open disapproval or impatience.
Speak so softly, or in such a rush, that they need to keep asking “What was that?”
Give them directions so involved or confusing they have to write them down.
Give them “scenic” directions that take them out of their way when they really wanted a shortcut.
Ignore the very young and very old in the group, talking only to the ones you assume are the “responsible ones” – or the paying ones.
Assume that all customers are the same, and you already know what they want.


Is your pet peeve here?
What would you add to the list? What drives you crazy when you’re the customer?

Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog.

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Previous Thursday Column: From Mistake to Marvel.

More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

15 Best Entrepreneurs Books to Start Reading Now to Be Successful

Knowledge is power, and you’re going to need a lot of it if you’re going to be able to steer your business to success.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best entrepreneurs books to get inspirations about success and grow your business.

1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    This book has been dubbed the Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature, and it was actually the first book that gave a prescription of what it takes to be a winner.

    Napoleon Hill draws from the stories of millionaires like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison to illustrate the principles he put forth.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

      A lot of startups end up failing, but many of these failures are actually avoidable. The Lean Startup provides a different approach that is now being adopted all over the world and changing the way that companies are developed and products are being launched.

      In The Lean Startup, Eric Reis describes what is required for a company to penetrate the fog of uncertainty in order to discover a path to a sustainable and successful business.

      Get the book here!

      3. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

        In a revised edition of the 150,000-copy bestseller, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber refutes some of the myths that surround starting your own business and shows just how commonplace assumptions can end up getting in the way of being able to run a successful business.

        Gerber succeeds in walking the reader through the steps that occur in the life of a business, from infancy, through the pains of growing as an adolescent, to the perspective of the mature entrepreneur.

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        Get the book here!

        4. Rework by Jason Fried

          Most of the business books that you get today will give you the same advice: draft a business plan, study the competition, look for investors, and all that.

          However, Rework shows you a more effective, easier and faster means of succeeding when running a business. By reading it, you’ll be able to know why some plans are harmful, why you don’t really need to get investors, and why you’re better of shutting out your competition.

          Get the book here!

          5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

            This is one of the most successful motivational books in history, selling well over 15 million copies since it was released in 1936. The book is timeless, and it appeals to businesses, self-help startups, and general readers.

            Carnegie believes that a lot of successes come from an ability to communicate rather than having brilliant insights. In his book, he teaches how to value others and make them feel appreciated and loved.

            Get the book here!

            6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

              Through this amazing book, Malcolm Gladwell is able to take the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of ‘outliers’. He asks the question of what truly differentiates high-achievers.

              His answer to this question is that we tend to pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and less attention to where they are actually from.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

                This is the best personal finance book ever written. It tells the story of Kiyosaki and his two fathers; his real father, and that of his best friend (his rich dad), as well as how the two men helped him shape his opinions on money and investing.

                It refutes the myth that you need to earn high to become rich, and it distinguishes between working for money and having money work for you.

                Get the book here!

                8. The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

                  Niall Ferguson, in this book, follows the money to tell the story behind the evolution of the word’s financial system, from the beginning way back in ancient Mesopotamia to the latest occurrences in what he had dubbed Planet Finance.

                  Fergusson also reveals financial history as the backstory behind our very own history, with an argument that the evolution of debt and credit is as significant as the history of technological innovation and the rise of civilization.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

                    Michael Lewis landed a job at Salomon Brothers after getting out of the London School of Economics and Princeton within three years, he had risen to the rank of bond salesman, making millions for the firm and cashing out steadily.

                    Liar’s Poker is the amalgamation of these years — a look behind the scenes at one of the most turbulent times in American business. His book is Lewis’s account of an era where greed and gluttony were the order of the day.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Michael H. Pink

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                      A lot of people see money as the best motivator. Michael pink says it’s a mistake.

                      In this provocative book, he asserts that the secret to high performance anywhere is the need to direct our lives, to learn and create, and to do better by our world and ourselves.

                      Get the book here!

                      11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                        Outdated methods don’t work in today’s world. In this book, Allen shares some awesome methods for stress-free performance that he has shared with thousands of people all over the world.

                        His premise? That productivity is proportional to your ability to relax.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

                          In this book, Stephen Covey presents a holistic approach for overcoming both professional and personal issues. With insights and anecdotes, Covey presents a way to live with integrity fairness, service and dignity.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss

                            In this book, Ferriss dishes on the tips he has learned from studying the New Rich, a subculture of people who did away with the deferred life plan and mastered time and mobility to developed luxury lifestyles for themselves.

                            If you’re looking to make your way in this revolutionary new world, this here is your compass.

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                            Get the book here!

                            14. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                              The CEO of Zappos shows how a unique kind of corporate identity can help deliver a huge difference in the way results are being achieved — by creating a company that values and delivers happiness.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

                                From Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Records and V2 to Virgin Cola, Virgin Megastores and a wide array of other companies, Richard Branson is the rockstar billionaire that a lot of us want to be.

                                Branson, however, did business by following a simple philosophy:

                                “Oh, screw it, let’s do it”

                                Losing My Virginity is an unusual, borderline outrageous autobiography of one of the greatest business geniuses in the world. Branson and his friends named their business “Virgin” because that was what they were — virgins at the game.

                                Since then, he’s written his success rules, creating a global business that has no headquarters, no management structure no corporate identity as it were.

                                Get the book here!

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                                Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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