VerticalResponse Blog

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on

When it comes to running our companies, we all get into a rut from time to time. One big rut is not having enough time in the day to really assess all of the ways our customers are interacting with us, whether it’s digital or good old face-to-face. With all the access customers have to products and services other than your own, it’s extremely easy to lose opportunities to make them happy.

Take a look at your business and see if any of these pitfalls could be turning your customers away:

Employee Chatter

How many times have you walked into a store and you hear employees talking to each other about their shifts, the fact that they hate working today, or how they can’t wait to get off work to go clubbing tonight? It happens more often than you think and it might be happening right within your walls. Your customers want a pleasant and positive experience with your business, whether they’re on the phone with your sales team or in your store or office. Let your employees know how important it is for them to focus on the customers and save the idle chit-chat for when customers aren’t around.

Phone Tree Hell

Have you ever called your own business phone number to see what the customer experience is like? I do it all the time. If your phone tree has lots of branches and your customers or prospects can’t get someone to talk to in a quick and easy fashion, you could have lost them forever. Don’t greet your customers on the phone with the “Please listen to the following as our menu has changed” message. That takes a solid five seconds that a customer could be in touch with you faster. Also, assess what most of the calls coming in are concerning. If they’re usually about a specific topic, then that should be the “Press one for … ” option. If you’re selling out of a specific product or you have an issue that your customers might be experiencing, you can set that to be the first thing callers hear. Don’t be afraid to change your phone tree.

Mobile Mania

Have you ever had to wait for someone to get off his/her mobile device before helping you? Think of a customer coming into your business and experiencing the same. It’s maddening. I’ve literally been at a restaurant and waited for 10 minutes before I was asked if I wanted a menu simply because the wait staff was updating Facebook. And it doesn’t only happen at retail locations; it happens in the office environment, too.

At my small business marketing company, VerticalResponse, our employees used to always have their laptops on or type away on their mobile devices during meetings. It was terrible and had to be curbed; no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you’re going to miss something important if you’re typing away. It shows a lack of respect for your customers or co-workers and it says to them that whatever’s happening on your phone or laptop is more important that everyone else’s time. And time is money. Make sure your employees put customers first, before texting and Facebook, and if they want to do those things, then it should be during their breaks.


If you’re a customer and you like to frequent a particular business, you expect a certain level of performance that you’ve grown accustomed to, whether it be a website that works properly or the quality of a meal at a restaurant. If you think you have the best pizza in New York, it better be the best pizza every single time you serve it. If your customer service is outstanding, all of your customers need to experience that outstanding service each and every time. Remember that your repeat customers are telling your new prospects about their experience, so make sure it’s always the same stellar experience.

Welcome! (Or Not?)

Have you ever walked into an office building and had no one pay attention to you? Or ever shopped at a store and no one asked if you needed help? My husband walked into a local store, shopped for an item for about 10 minutes and none of the four employees (who weren’t busy) asked if he needed help. He then brought his purchase to the counter and gave the check-out person his credit card. The entire transaction happened without a word. Really? The Gap makes it someone’s job to welcome people into the store. Restaurants have hosts that greet you and get you seated. Offices should have some way of knowing when a visitor has arrived. Make sure you and your people are smiling and welcoming newcomers into your place of business; you never know who they might be.

These five things may sound very simple to avoid, but they could be happening right under your nose!

© 2012 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

  • Peter Soponyai @ Marginal Boundaries

    It’s an eye opening article, thanks for publishing it!

  • Ken


    So many business owners are absent nowadays. They buy a business, or a franchise, set up some systems and a cool uniform and “look”… and walk away. LEaving their business to rot while being run by staff who care nothing. I can say I like the post, but with my own gripes with awful businesses and awful customer service these days… I reckon I could keep going on and on with the list. Too many need to take their heads out of the sand.

  • Akaawol

    I was always told how jeans give the wrong impression. Like my ability to know and sell you a phone. I notice it wasn’t on the list (thank God) and perhaps business should take notice. I now live in Singapore and they don’t seem to have the hang up. Just wanted to point that out. Thanks 🙂

  • Jessica

    As some others have said I disagree with almost everything on this post. The only thing I agree with is the one about the phone tree. For #1, I actually appreciate coming into a business and seeing that they have people being themselves, talking to one another like real people do. I hate it when I think a business has put pressure on its employees to be working their hardest and being 100% perfect every second of their shift. The only time employees chatting becomes a problem is if I have a question and need help but I am being ignored. For #3 I honestly don’t care if I see an employee on a cell phone, again as long as they are not ignoring me for the phone. Like I said I like to see businesses that allow their employees to have a moment or two of rest on the job, it shows me that you care about your employees. #4 I get because you should always try to have great quality at your business, but getting things perfect every time is impossible and I prefer not to shop where I think that they put a lot of pressure on their employees to be perfect. And as for the last one this is the worst! I absolutely DESPISE it when they make employees ask if you need help. Like others have said, if I need help I’ll ask. I don’t mind a greeter, but I wouldn’t care if they weren’t there either. It’s not important to me either way. I also hate chatting with the cashier when I’m in a hurry, and I definitely don’t want to make small talk if the cashier doesn’t want to. If the cashier wants to chat it needs to be genuine not something he/she is forced to do by the company. Most of the time I want to shop in quiet and if I want to chat with the cashier I should be the one to initiate conversation.

  • Cody

    It seems that a lot of us don’t care to be greeted as we walk in a store. I can honestly say that I feel somewhat offended when I walk into a store and a stranger asks me if I need help. There are many companies these days that I will visit (usually retail) and I will be bothered by an employee at least three times in just a ten-minute period. I’d much rather get in, get my business done, and get out without people nagging me and making me feel uncomfortable. I’d expect them to be approachable, but not annoying.

  • Feras

    The only thing I agree with is the phone talk while you are standing and need assistance.
    The most effective thing to do is “SMILE” don’t say anything, don’t nag over the customers, stop stalking them in the store, etc… Just smile as they enter and stay out of distance.

  • Jeremiah Mason

    I have seen all of these live and in action, both as a customer, and a restaurant manager, it is 100% true that you lose customers this way.

  • Joseph

    As for a retail store, as long as they have the product I need I don’t care if I am greeted or if anybody asks me for help. As for offices I try to avoid them like the plague! =)

  • MD


    I totally disagree with the last one.
    I find it totally annoying when employees don’t let you do your shopping on your own. As others already said, if I need help, I’ll ask.
    I have left MANY stores where I probably would have bought something otherwise, just because the employees made it impossible for me to do my own shopping business without the feeling of being closely observed by several employees.
    At the counter, of course they can talk to you.

  • Rose

    I completely disagree with this entire post. I couldn’t care less if employees are chatting to themselves, how boring must it get standing in a shop all day. Also, I’ve never once heard people talking about “the fact that they hate working today, or how they can’t wait to get off work to go clubbing tonight”.
    Also I despise being welcomed/asked if I need help in a shop/pathetic chat to the cashier. If I want help, I’ll ask for it, if I want to chat to the cashier, I would.

  • Steven

    I too have to disagree with the last one. If I need help I’ll ask, otherwise leave me alone. I also don’t need idle chitchat, or your opinions on my purchases, when I’m buying something.
    As for the first one, if your employee’s are spending too much time standing around talking, I see two problems. First, your management/supervisor team isn’t doing a good job, and second, either you have too much staff on and you’re wasting your money on unneeded labor, or they aren’t doing the work you should be assigning them to do in their spare time (you are assigning secondary jobs right? Retail always has shelves that need facing, stock that needs put out, dusting that can be done, general cleaning, etc.) and they are wasting your money.

  • aaron

    I personally would have to disagree with you on being welcomed or not, I don’t care to be welcomed or asked if I need help in stores, if I need help I’ll ask for it, I also don’t care to have a conversation with the cashier, but I will concede that in a restaurant having that friendliness is important.

  • kate

    Totally agree with this post. For to increase your business income you should be very attentive on customers desires too 😉

  • William

    Don’t greet your customers on the phone with the “Please listen to the following as our menu has changed” message.
    This is a personal pet peeve of mine when companies do this. Thank you for bringing up this annoyance.

  • shelah

    Nice job Janine, as a VR client I know you put these key principles into action.
    There are two reasons why I ever call a business, 1) I want to buy something, 2) I am having issue with their product.If I can’t get either done – I bolt. As the editor in chief of I am on the road and don’t have time to spend with people who are not serious about their business.
    Keep up the good work!

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