The Mistake of Being Nice

Ask a service person “What is the most important aspect of the job?  You will hear:  Be nice to my customers.”          

In my customer service training sessions, my participants share frustrations when ‘being nice’ didn’t  work.  Nice did not satisfy the customer, did not solve the problem, and did not leave the service person with good feelings.  My participants empathize with each other and reinforce their belief that when being nice fails  – it’s the customer’s fault.

I think the mistake my participants make is in their definition of “being nice.”  Bonnie Marcus (Award winning site Women’s Success Coaching) in her August blog  “12 Tips to Kick the Nice Girl Habit…” notes that nice girl behavior can “sabotage” careers.  I love her retooled definition for Nice and believe her definition applies equally to customer service.

Bonnie writes  “True ‘nice’ is about being clear on your worth, being confident and in control, making the best choices you can in each situation, and acting consistently with a positive and professional attitude.”  Found at

Let’s look at the definition’s four points for providing customer service and retaining your personal values.

On your worth   You often hear “don’t take it personally” when a cuss-tomer has been rude.  What that really means:  don’t lose your sense of self worth.  Don’t allow someone to undermine the belief you have in yourself and in your competence to help them.   Treat them with genuine respect and politeness.  Keep your balance with empathy for the customer’s feelings.  (Who knows, perhaps you might feel the same way, even if you express yourself differently.)

On confidence and control   Confidence starts with your ability to reduce tension and to solve problems. How well do you know the products and services?  How well do you communicate with your customers?  The behaviors that reduce customer tension?  Steady eye contact with that look of understanding AND listening without interruption.  Picture your past successes giving customers satisfaction.  Infect yourself with confidence that puts you in control to help your customer.

On the best choices   Customer confidence in you cements the problem-solving rapport for a successful outcome.  Even if you have determined the best solution, you make the best choice by involving your customers in the choosing. You are not “being nice” now; you are engaging in a meaningful conversation. An exchange that reinforces customer confidence in you.

On consistency and professionalism
Customer service professionalism?  Value yourself and your customers – in every meeting, pleasant or distressing.  Helping attitudes and helping successes drive this professionalism.  You have met or listened to these service professionals.  Perhaps, you were in that line where the travel agent carefully explained travel requirements to an elderly man, whose wife insisted upon completion, to repeat the same questions and seek the same assurances. The young man never missed a beat. His profound kindness and respect radiated out, not only to the couple, but to the line of waiting travelers.

Focus on being nice puts your needs first, the customers’ second.  The emphasis on how nice I am implies the payoff that you will be nice to me in return.  What the customer really wants is  someone to pay attention to his problem or to listen to her frustrations.

Focus on hearing the customer out and grasping the problem and its accompanying frustrations puts the customers’ needs first.  It does not discount your self worth; it engages your values and challenges your competence and builds your confidence.

About mcgntr

About Ann I was lucky and grew up in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts surrounded by the arts, industry, literature, and family. I had a great education-- undergraduate work at Caldwell College and my masters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I began business life as Training Assistant. Returning east, I continued in the training profession, and ‘fell’ into Human Resources - first, Recruiting and Employment, Director of Human Resources and finally Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Training. I bowed out of the corporate world with the white collar layoffs in early ‘90s – and started a new venture McGill Enterprises: HelpQuick Human Resources Advisory & Training Services. I have enjoyed great opportunities - publishing 3 training books, mentoring HR professionals, creating a wide variety of training programs, writing scripts, and becoming an adjunct professor.
This entry was posted in Customer Service, Employee Performance, Training & Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s