John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


I have this niece who is 20, and I have been bugging her for years to come work for me. I’ll even send her to beauty school! She is one of those bright, bubbly cute girls who lights up a room. She has a great personality and any business would love her working for them at the front lines as a receptionist, hostess, or any customer contact position.

ImageI got to see her over the holidays and asked her what she was doing. She said she has been working for a while at a Café and enjoys it.  I asked her what it was like and what her responsibilities were. As she explained them, one of the jobs the owner has given her was to make sure people who are not paying customers do not use the bathrooms.  My eyes lit up. I said, “Really?” She replied, “Yes, we even have a sign on the door that says so. Just today I saw someone who wasn’t buying anything headed to the restroom, so I ran after him and made him leave.  My owner says if they can’t pay for things, they don’t get to take advantage of our facilities because he then has to pay me to go in and clean up after them.”

I was shocked! This is my sweet adorable niece with the same family DNA. How could she think like this?  You are probably thinking how wrong I am about my niece, and that I shouldn’t want an employee like that.

Well, for starters, each of us has plenty of employees currently working for us, and I would love for her to work for me– with the proper customer service training, of course.  Her mindset is not unusual. It is more the norm.

It all goes back to Service Aptitude. No one is born with it; it is not innate. People’s Service Aptitude comes from two primary places: 1) life experiences and 2) previous work experiences.  Think about that. That’s it! No one is born with high service aptitude.  Most life experiences before the age of 25 don’t afford the know-how of what world-class service looks like.  And considering that nearly 80% of businesses out there are Average at best at customer service, that means employees have previously worked elsewhere. Not only were they not trained on what excellent service looks like, but they were poisoned with a policy-driven iron fist that teaches them that customers are out to take advantage of businesses and must be caught and stopped.

We all agree that the experiential side (how our customers are treated and cared for) is just as important as the technical/operational side of what the customer receives. However, our training contradicts that. We would never think of having an accountant, lawyer, nurse, doctor, hairdresser, or technician perform work without the proper technical training, certification, and licensing. Yet most companies have little to zero customer service certification.  To my knowledge there is no degree or even a college course that prepare our youth.

Action Plan

Don’t be discouraged.  This is the majority of our workforce. Keep reminding yourself that it is not their fault; it is our responsibility as an organization and as leaders to improve their Service Aptitude to a level that is acceptable before we allow them to interact with our customers. Make sure you re-evaluate what your soft-skill service training looks like, how well your existing and new employees know and understand your Service Vision, and how they impact it.  Be sure they know your Customer Bill of Rights, your Always & Nevers, the Secret Service Systems, what your service recovery protocols are, how they can easily go Above & Beyond, and that they have the permission and autonomy.

~John DiJulius best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the CVO of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. John DiJulius is the innovator of a methodology called Secret Service a customer service system which consistently enables organizations to deliver World-Class Customer Experiences. Find out more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, the #1 National Customer Service Conference.


Hi John, I appreciate your insight into customer service, but I’m not sure I agree with you on this one…or at least I feel like you didn’t finish the story. Ok, you feel that this company _should_ allow anyone and everyone to use the restrooms…? This doesn’t have to do with ‘customer service’; this has to do with ‘non-customer service’. In the case of this cafe, she is simply telling people that the restrooms are for customers only. Providing a complimentary service can cost time, money, and resources to a company. Is it bad customer service to not provide that? Should the cafe remove the sign? Should they not enforce their ‘rule’? At what point does it become an issue? Five people using the restroom a day? Five people per hour?

Using your Nordstrom example with your shoes…If Nordstrom had 15 people per store per day coming to them asking for a refund on shoes they didn’t even buy there, that is unlikely to help the company sell additional shoes. Sure they helped you, but you were a well-dressed man who looked like he belonged there. Would they do the same for a homeless-looking man off the street?

How do you know when as a business you are providing a service and when you are letting yourself be taken advantage of?

Comment by H.

Hi Heather,

I appreciate you reaching out and giving me your feedback. Yes, I absolutely do feel that this type of business, most retail or b2c businesses should allow anyone to be able to use their restrooms. What better “human service” is that. I want foot traffic, regardless of why, the more that walk through the doors, the more business they will do. Just today, I walked into a Starbucks, first thing I did was go to the bathroom, then I ordered my coffee. What if an employee saw me come in off the street and cut me off from going to the bathroom and told me I wasn’t allowed? Starbucks would never do that. I think the key to providing great customer service is assume everyone is like yourself, not out to take advantage of others. I believe that you shouldn’t punish 100% of your customers for what maybe only 1-3% might try to get away with. I am not smart enough to know which 3% they are, so instead of alienating everyone, I am okay with having a small fraction take advantage of me, because of what I gain by treating the vast majority of people the right way. So I believe that is an unnecessary sign, I call it a negative cue, it is the cost of doing business. Hope this helped. Thanks again


Comment by John

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