Sinful Service

Customers are the lifeblood of an entrepreneurship. And yet, many entrepreneurs have or condone a rather cavalier attitude about their customers. I’ve written before about the Net Promoter Score (NPS) which is one of the best measures of customer satisfaction. A poor NPS is a pretty good indication that something has gone awry with how customers are being treated. Comcast has a -5 NPS. Bank of America and Honda USA have an NPS of zero. By contrast the NPS for Amazon is +62 and for Apple it’s +72. For more information on the NPS, link to

There are several surefire ways to drive down a Net Promoter Score. Explained another way – there are a number of errors that are made that drive away customers. Let’s look at a few sinful service flubs that are all too common.

  • It’s not my job. I’m sure we’ve all encountered someone who tells us this. The implication is that this person really could care less about me as a customer. It’s more important to him or her to color inside the lines and take no responsibility for helping me with the bigger picture. By contrast, I’m pleased to report that I recently visited a Bed Bath & Beyond store and asked a salesperson where to find a certain obscure product. Not only did she tell me exactly where it was, but she escorted me across the store and helped me find the right item. Maybe that’s why Bed Bath has a +44 NPS!
  • I’m going to give you the royal runaround. The “it’s not my job” approach leads to a far worse malady called, “the royal runaround.” This happens to me frequently when I’m calling a customer help line. First, I have to spend several minutes punching my way through the automated attendant to eventually get to the right person. I don’t know about you, but when I call for service, I don’t want to listen to a recording. I want to talk with a live person. Sometimes when I finally succeed in this quest, the person is friendly and solves my problem immediately. But in other instances the person may tell me that he or she can’t help me and I need to be transferred to another department thereby increasing the chances of being disconnected, or finding out that the next person is also going to shuffle me to still someone else.
  • I’m just following policy. This one is just lovely. We try to understand why the defective item we purchased at a particular store cannot be returned to that store, but instead must be sent directly to the manufacturer. “I didn’t buy the item directly from the manufacturer; I bought it from your store,” I explain. “That’s just our policy and there’s nothing I can do about it” I’m told by the customer “service” representative at the store. Makes me wonder why I need to pay a mark-up to the middleman if I’m going to have to deal with the manufacturer when the product fails.
  • My job sucks and I’m going to treat you like dirt (or worse). It’s easy to tell when someone who interacts with the public hates their job. I once had an encounter with a person who worked for a large company. I went to the office of this company and was ushered into an inner waiting area. The person I was to meet was sitting at a desk across the waiting room. She had a permanent scowl on her face and refused to acknowledge me. She fiddled around with a variety of menial tasks and finally at ten minutes after my appointment time she motioned me over. Not once did she make eye contact. She asked a couple of perfunctory questions; stamped a piece of paper, and shoved it back across the desk without saying a word. Her loathing of her job was palpable.
  • I may be smiling, but I’m still lying to you. This is pure poison. When a customer can no longer trust the company with whom he or she is dealing, then all is lost. Here’s the scenario. We are talking with a customer service representative for a consumer products company. We’ve had an issue with one of their products. The representative is most pleasant and assures us that the issue will be resolved immediately. Days pass with no resolution. We speak with the representative again and are told that the problem is being resolved. More time passes – still no resolution. Finally we speak with a different representative and learn that there is no resolution and never was to have been. We were fed a pack of lies from the very beginning.

As we grow our entrepreneurial endeavors, we must be ever vigilant to ensure that our customers are completely satisfied and we avoid the pitfalls of sinful service.

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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


I stopped at the grocery store the other day to pick up a few small items. I didn’t need a cart – only a small hand-held basket, but there were none at the front door as there usually are. I found a store employee who was wiping off a self-checkout monitor and asked her where I might find a basket. She walked with me past several of the checkout stands until she found a basket that I could use. This woman was very friendly and helpful which left a positive impression with me.

The day before my grocery visit I was on an aircraft preparing to fly back to my hometown. In the row next to me were two seats without seat cushions. After a short delay a maintenance person for the airline arrived and installed new seatbelts for each seat. Then he left. The seat cushions still were not re-installed. After another delay, a supervisor showed up and surveyed the situation. Then yet another airline employee came and cleaned the seat bases and then repositioned the seat cushions.

Both examples cited seem relatively innocuous except for one thing. In each case the employees had a serious case of Not-My-Job-itis. The grocery store employee did not bother to tell a manager that there were no baskets at the front door. She was helpful in finding a basket for me, but apparently it wasn’t her job to see that the lack of baskets didn’t become a problem for the next customer (and when we left the store there still weren’t any baskets to be seen). In the airline situation the maintenance technician wasn’t able to clean the seat base – this evidently was someone else’s job. How easy it would have been for the technician to have installed the seatbelts, cleaned the seat base and repositioned the seat cushions.

Not-My-Job-itis causes inconvenience for customers. It causes inefficiency for the company which may indirectly result in higher prices for the customer. In an entrepreneurial environment Not-My-Job-itis is toxic and undermines the culture we are trying to create. One large company that seems to get it is Southwest Airlines. At the end of each flight I watch the flight attendants don latex gloves and move from row to row cleaning out seat pockets and preparing for the next flight. I’ve even seen pilots do this as well. Many old-line large companies are afflicted with Not-My-Job-itis as a result of union work rules. Non-union companies should avoid this malady at all costs.

As entrepreneurs we need to set an example for our team members. Whenever possible, we should pitch in and help our team with whatever functions need to be performed. When I walk through our corporate office and see a piece of trash on the floor, I bend over and pick it up. I see others do this as well. When I visit one of our apartment properties during a snowstorm, I won’t hesitate to grab a snow shovel or a broom to help clean the sidewalk. As the CEO is this my job? You bet it is! My job is to meet the needs of our customers and to be a role model for our team. If I’m not “too good” to shovel snow, then no one in our organization should be either.

The benefits of eliminating Not-My-Job-itis are many. And there is no downside to it. Our customers are the winners when we teach others that we are never too important to provide assistance wherever it may be needed.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.