These Two “A” Words Will Kill Your Business

It is said that customers will leave your business and go elsewhere because of APATHY and PERCEIVED APATHY that they receive from the staff that they deal with or from the company itself.

When a customer feels ignored, the ignoring may not have been intentional.

Or it may well have been intentional….

However, the PERCEPTION of the customer that they have been ignored IS VERY REAL, and if a business has customers who are feeling that they are being ignored, and are going elsewhere, then it is up to the owners and the leaders in that business to ERADICATE that conveyed apathy, and conveyed ignorance.

Because the customer’s perception is indeed the reality.

The business’s intention, and the staff’s intention are both irrelevant if the customers are feeling ignored.

The business must train its staff to be alert for perceptions of apathy and ignorance being received by its customers.

Just last night I was lined up to be served at my local pub, and had reached the bar. There were two areas at that bar where patrons could be served at, and I had reached the front at one of those areas, while there were three patrons waiting at the other area.

A bar attendant was serving one of the patrons at the other area, when a second staff member arrived in the bar and immediately walked up to that same area and took an order from another patron over there, instead of surveying the bar and asking the simple question:

“Who’s next please?”

And although I was thirsty, I was not really in a hurry to be served.

But I wasn’t keen to stand around and be ignored either.

In fact I asked the second employee, while she was preparing that order that she had just taken, whether I was actually lined in the wrong place or not.

And I wasn’t.

It does take a certain skill to be able to sum up a busy workplace and try to serve the next person waiting, but SKILLS CAN BE LEARNED and in the service industry, a basic skill like this one needs to be learned and applied quickly by front line serving staff.

Last Sunday…

Last Sunday Jayne and I had cause to travel across to the other side of the district where we live and in so doing thought that it might be nice to grab a bite of lunch at a restaurant that we had not visited for some time.

It was good to be there, and coincidentally, a few of the fellow diners there were friends of ours and people that we know.

The meal was good but the service had a few moments that left us disappointed.

Jayne has a rule that if the service falls short of our expectations then we don’t “reward” the restaurant and order dessert, no matter how appetising the dessert menu looks.

So, what happened was that at the conclusion of our meal, our dirty plates were not cleared from the table in what would be considered a reasonable time to do so. In fact we sat for ten or fifteen minutes with these dishes still on our table, and with nobody coming to ask us whether we’d like desserts or coffees. And the restaurant appeared to be well staffed with competent staff.

What’s even worse was that the three elderly ladies sitting at the table beside us had experienced an even longer wait to have their table cleared. So much so that they had even scraped their own plates and stacked them in a pile because they were sick of looking at them.

When a waiter finally came to clear our table, Jayne politely said to him:

“I think those ladies next to us have been waiting quite a while to have their table cleared…”

To which the waiter replied:

“I’m sure there’s plenty of people waiting who’d like to have their tables cleared.”

Now I don’t know whether the waiter was trying to be funny, or thought that he actually was funny, or was an unemployed comedian, but no matter what he thought about Jayne’s comment his reply should have been:

“Thank you for letting me know. I’ll get on to it right away.”

The reply the waiter gave to Jayne was incorrect because it was taken or perceived by both me and Jayne as being ARROGANT and offensive, when all that Jayne was trying to do was to point out something to the waiter that had obviously been overlooked.

I learned a while ago that intended humour goes down like a lead balloon if the recipient of that intended humour is not looking for “funny”.

And in the same way that perceived apathy may not be intentionally conveyed, PERCEIVED ARROGANCE that is conveyed also needs to be eliminated.

A business’s intention, and the staff’s intention are both irrelevant if the customers are perceiving arrogance from the staff.

Businesses must train their staff to be alert for perceptions of arrogance being received by its customers.

Employees displaying arrogance or apathy towards people spending money in their place of employment need to understand that that arrogance and apathy will cause some of those customers to leave that business and take their patronage elsewhere.

Some businesses are OK with that.

But some customers are not….

In dental practice…

In a dental practice, just like in most businesses, the owner of the dental office is not present at the frontline where most of the customer service experiences take place… the dentist is like the auto-mechanic who is under the car , doing the grease-work, not answering phones or dealing with arriving and departing customers.

In a dental office, it’s really important to ensure that the attitudes and behaviours displayed by all employees are congruous with the mission and vision of the practice.

Otherwise our missions and visions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Your dental practice needs to ensure consistency of delivery. That’s done with systems.

Otherwise, you’re a rabble.


P.S. Both the pub and the restaurant are currently advertising for staff. Maybe this is because unemployment in Australia is so low at the moment, and good staff is difficult to find…

PPS. These tales mentioned here are both but one example of apathy and arrogance perceived. In each example, both businesses did display more than one other action that should also have been performed better….


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