Five Tips for Ruining a Customer’s Experience


On a recent shopping trip to the local mall, it seems like everywhere I went some small but annoying thing happened that negatively affected my experience. Since it happened so often I came to the conclusion that there must be some people who get up in the morning with the goal of ruining other people’s shopping experience. I guess we all have a calling and it was obvious to me that these people found theirs.

I realize now that I’ve done a poor job of serving these people focused on delivering memorably poor retail experiences. (PARODY ALERT!) So, out of fairness, I present Five tips for ruining a customer’s experience.


1. Tell the customer everything you can about yourself even though it’s clear they’re not interested.  If you’re going to be stuck at work being miserable you might as well take some hostages, right? I met a saleswoman once who holds a black belt in too much information. In return for making one small purchase I was treated to her complete life story. It’s amazing how many bad relationships that woman has had before the age of thirty. I’m told that the key to success with this bad experience tactic is that the minute the customer starts to share details about himself you ring him up and send him on his way. Who has time to listen to customers?


2. Continue to have personal conversations with your co-workers whenever a customer is near you.  Why should you have to quit talking just because a customer wants to look at something you’re standing next to? Give yourself extra points if you talk about recent drinking escapes or the last customer that was a pain in your you-know-what. Newer employees may have to make things up but that’s okay, it’s all in the name of bad customer service.


3. Answer the phone by speaking as fast as you can and then put the caller on hold.  When you think about it, it’s not really rude because you did say “please” before hitting the hold button. The only time you should avoid this tactic is when you’re ringing up a sale and the phone rings. In that case by all means carry on a phone conversation, especially if it’s a personal call. During the call, avoid eye contact with your customer until you can see that he/she is obviously annoyed. Once you see the customer in front of you is about to lose it, smile innocently and shrug your shoulders in a way that places all the blame on the caller. It takes a lot of skill to deliver a poor experience!


4. Never give a customer an estimate of how long they’ll have to wait.  This is a favorite tactic of bad customer service people since it usually leads to a long slow steaming buildup in the customer. Most customers really don’t mind waiting as long as they know roughly how long a wait it will be.

But when a customer has no idea how long a wait to expect the minutes can feel like hours. For this to be truly effective, avoid talking with your customer while they wait. For fun you can look her direction but the minute she makes eye contact quickly look away and go back to what you were doing.


5. When a customer says she’s ready to buy something, ring her up quickly and get her out the door.  I’m sure you’ve got more important things to do than help a customer find additional products that will enhance her purchase. If she needs accessories or additional products to go with her purchase she can always come back. Then again, she probably won’t. I’m thinking that’s the whole goal of bad service.


Obviously readers who want to deliver a memorable great experience will NOT be inclined to follow these tips. Whatever your experience goals, I hope you work for them with passion and a sense of purpose.


About The Author

Doug FleenerDoug Fleener is founder of the Dynamic Experiences Group. He is a veteran retailer with more than 25 years of hands-on retail experience with world-class retailers including Bose Corporation and The Sharper Image. He has also owned and operated his own specialty stores. Doug is now president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group LLC, a Lexington based retail consulting firm dedicated to helping retailers create unique customer experiences that results in higher sales and profits. Learn more at or at




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