Leadership and Main

Bettering Others and the World You Live In

Reverse Customer Service

reverse customer service

Ever heard of the concept of “reverse customer service?” Me neither, until it popped into my head yesterday. Between shopping for a Mother’s Day card and some garden items, I spent most of my morning experiencing customer service, or lack thereof.

I watched a store open late, a cashier failed to greet me, and a customer service representative walk away from the counter when most of us had already been standing in line for a while. In a world where we have grown accustomed to bagging our own groceries, quality customer service is at a premium.

Reverse Customer Service

I once heard someone say that you should tip out of who you are as a person, not the service you receive. This was a game changer for me. It is such a great reminder that no matter the quality of service I receive, it is more important to exemplify the quality of human being I desire to be. When the customer service I receive lacks, it can test who I am as a person.

Customer service is fundamentally about serving another person during a transaction. Reverse customer service is the act of serving someone who serves you during that transaction. Leadership is a series of transactions serving other people, who serve you. Here are four ways that the concept of reverse customer service translates to our daily leadership:

Ask An Important Question

When I am at an establishment and receive lukewarm customer service, I ask a simple question. The question is, “How are you?” You may get the standard answers of, “good, fine, or okay,” but it also opens up the window into what is going on in their world. It could be that they have been on their feet for ten hours straight without a break, the customer before was extremely harsh, they are shorthanded, or maybe…just maybe…something is off in their personal world. There is always a story behind the level of service you are receiving if you are willing to read it.

Leaders should ask this one question often and frequently. Leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Good leaders ask great questions.”  When the people we lead seem off, asking how they are doing opens that window into what is going on in their worlds. That simple question can easily reveal the struggles they are walking through in that season. The question shows that you love them, care for them, and are genuinely interested in their well-being.

Give Grace

Whether we get an answer to the question or not, we should give grace. Grace is essentially a gift that we do not deserve, it is unmerited. Maybe I am being naive, but I do not believe that most people get out of bed each morning intending to provide poor customer service. In the midst of receiving poor customer service, the issuance of grace makes me more patient and understanding. It keeps me from becoming the person I don’t want to be.

Great leaders show grace. There are certain lines that cannot be crossed, but for the most part, when our people fail to perform they need the Gift of Grace. Even if it is unmerited, it is needed until proven otherwise. They deserve the initial benefit of the doubt. For me, I tend to give grace, because I need it…you do as well. I generally tell the people that I lead, there is one promise I can make to you, “I will fail you at some point.” WHEN, not IF we fail the people we lead, we will need the same grace.

Say Thank You

A pet peeve of mine in the world of customer service is not saying thank you. Saying thank you seems to be a lost art. You complete the transaction, only to be given your receipt and sent on your way. Maybe it’s because the person is too busy, hasn’t been trained properly, having a bad day, whatever the case may be. A simple expression of gratitude can make the difference in a ordinary experience and an extraordinary one at a grocery store, restaurant, or retail establishment. You always remember how the experience made you feel and it significantly impacts your customer loyalty to a specific brand.

The ability for a leader to express gratitude consistently can make the difference between an ordinary experience and an extraordinary one for the people we lead. People have a genuine need to feel appreciated for the work they do. Whether it is through our spoken or written words, we must show regular gratitude for the people we lead. Saying thank you is a good starting point in exercising gratitude. Our people will always remember our gratefulness and it will significantly impact their loyalty to our leadership brand. Great leaders are grateful people.

Call Them By Name

One thing that is still common in the world of customer service are name tags. Try this next time you are in a grocery store or a restaurant, call the person serving you by name. Even though their name is plastered across their chest, it catches them off guard. It is uncommon, it creates an immediate and unexpected connection, it makes them feel special.

Leaders should aspire to be uncommon. We desire to stand out from the world, to be set apart. No one wants to be remembered for being ordinary, we want to be extraordinary.

Knowing the names of the people in your organization is important. If you lead a big organization, that may not be possible, but try to know as many as possible, it will be noticed. If you lead a smaller organization, it is easier for you, then go the extra mile and know the names of spouses and children, it will be noticed. It is more than showing off your ability to recall names, it demonstrates a willingness and effort that is uncommon.


Confession time…none of this is easy for me.  I am an introvert by nature, so asking a question to a stranger…tough for me.  Giving myself grace, much less someone else…tough for me.  Expressing my consistent gratitude to our team…tough for me.  I strongly believe that the Good Lord has given us a limited capacity for remembering names, you must forget one to gain one!  I can literally shake someone’s hand, introduce myself, they introduce themselves, and I completely miss it! 

Each of these four things places me outside of my comfort zone.  I get stretched, I adapt.  Each and every time I ask someone how they are doing and I potentially redirect their tough day…a win.  When I give grace…a win.  When I start each day with handwriting a note of gratitude to someone to develop a consistent discipline…a win.  When I call that person by their name that does not expect me to know it…a win. 

Reverse customer service simply serves the people that serve us.  If we desire to be a great leader, prioritize providing quality service to the people that serve us.  Putting our leadership in reverse will impact the forward direction of it.   

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