Category Archives: Customer Service

Workplace Ghosting—Another Bequest from Covid

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We have been living with the merciless Covid virus for over two years. Our personal lives have changed in ways we could never have imagined. Our professional lives have changed, and our interactions with others have changed. We do not communicate as we used to. In many cases, we do not communicate at all. This has led to a behavior known as “workplace ghosting.” If you are not sure what it means, it is just as it seems. Ghosts are invisible. Ghosts are silent. Ghosts are simply not there.

During the pandemic ghosts have emerged—so to speak. Perfectly normal healthy people have become ghosts. Businesses and corporations have become ghosts. You know them:

  • Ghosts do not return your calls.
  • Ghosts do not answer email.
  • Ghosts do not show up for meetings.
  • Ghosts do not answer the phone.
  • Ghost cannot take you call “due to higher-than-normal call volume.”
  • Ghosts hide behind technology.
  • Ghost use automation where the non-human on the other end of the phone says, “You can talk to me like a real person.”

Real people do not seem to exist anymore. And if they do exist, they have gone into hiding.

When the real people emerge from their hiding places and come back to the traditional workplace, their former office or the new one, they are going to have to dust off their people skills and start practicing effective communication and relationship building.

So, what can you do to facilitate courteous communication and build stronger professional relationships? For starters, put an end to workplace ghosting.

  • If you drop the ball, acknowledge your error. You accidently deleted the voice mail before you listened to it. The email got buried in your inbox. You forgot to check your calendar. Things happen, but the way you deal with them is what makes the difference.
  • You dread having to deliver unwelcome news. It’s your jo so do it and do it person. If it makes you uncomfortable, consider this: most people would rather hear the bad news than nothing at all.
  • Do not use technology to relay complicated or sensitive information. Email, texting and instant messaging are no substitute for in person communication. Pick up the phone or arrange to meet.
  • Use every opportunity you can to have personal interaction with your coworkers, colleagues and clients. It’s time to go back in the water. (Thank you, Jaws.)

The return to work is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for people and organizations to sharpen their communication and relationship-building skills.

***The inspiration for this article came from reading one written by Patrick Galvin, professional speaker and author of The Way series of popular business parables. He is also the chief galvanizer of The Galvanizing Group, a learning and development company.

Tipping for Takeout – The Latest Etiquette Dilemma

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Are you confused about tipping for takeout? It’s the latest dilemma facing diners. Just when you thought you had it straight and knew the rules for adding a15%, 18% or 20% gratuity to your bill, now you are challenged by what to add or if to add when you order takeout.  There is a mega controversy swirling around the topic.

One more thing we can blame on Covid. Pre-Covid takeout was no big deal. In struggling to keep their doors open, restaurants began the practice of offering food to go. Some decided to offer curbside pickup so customers could remain in their vehicles. This practice remains in place today in spite of the relaxation of some Covid protocols.

So, if you have ordered takeout—where you go into the restaurant and pick up your order at the counter—do you need to tip? If so, whom do you tip? How much should you tip?

At this point, I am tempted to jump in with my opinion and close the subject. But you probably need to hear the opinions of others. I’ve done my research and found that, as usual, everyone has an opinion and not all agree.

There are those who think if all someone does is hand you a paper bag over the counter, there is no need to tip. There are others who believe that the person who hands you the bag should be tipped. Why? Because it is generally known that restaurant owners pay their staff below minimum wage. Their customers are expected to tip to make up for the difference. As one person wrote, “So I am expected to pay the employer and the employee?” Interesting point.

I confess to being baffled. I don’t want to appear to be the 21st-century version of Ebenezer Scrooge, but I don’t get tipping for takeout. Think about it. We have been using the drive-through lane at fast-food chains for years without giving one thought to tipping that person handing you your food through the window.

And please don’t ask me before you give me my order if I want to tip. That’s not only inappropriate, but it’s also awkward and embarrassing.

If an employee brings my order to me curbside, that warrants a tip. I tip more if they have to troop through inclement weather to do so.

I believe that etiquette is always about being kind, courteous and respectful. In the case of tipping for takeout, here’s my advice. Do what feels right to you. Every situation is different so you may tip on some occasions and not on others. It’s entirely up to you.

Covid Cranky—Confessions from the Heart

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Is there anyone who has not experienced what I call “Covid Cranky”? Whether it has been in person, online or over the phone, I am willing to bet you can relate. Covid cranky exists in all aspects of our daily lives. Sadly, it has become such an everyday occurrence that I find myself bracing for it. Whether I pick up the phone, open my email or head out on a simple errand, I am like a knight going into battle, armed with my sword and shield.

What a sad state of affairs. This is not how we should be living our lives. We no longer “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” We plan for the worst and expect the worst.

Let me stop here and confess that I find myself becoming one of the Covid Cranky. Pre-Covid I gave myself credit for being a “nice” person. I have made a career out of being kind and courteous. Sadly, “niceness” is becoming history. I prepare for battle every day.

Do you do that? Are you preparing for the worst and expecting the worst? If you are willing to admit to it, what are you willing to do about it? I had to ask myself that same question. Do I want to end every day counting the notches on my belt of those I have taken out along the way?

Amid my introspective dilemma, I had an unexpected experience with a customer service rep. The company was Instacart. I had been offered a discount for placing an order with them. It seemed like a good idea so I gave it a try. When I completed my order and received my receipt, there was no discount. What to do? Contact Instacart? Good luck, I thought. I bet they don’t even have a phone number. To my surprise they do. I called prepared for the worst.

To my delight and amazement, the man on the other end of the line was pleasant from the start. After listening to my issue, he immediately offered up how he could help. His solution involved some technology steps that I was unable to manage. No problem…he said he’d go behind the scenes and hit a few buttons. It didn’t take long before he returned to say that he had resolved the problem and I would immediately see the discount applied to my account.

Whew! That was easy. I was happy. But it was not over yet. His next words were, “Have I made you happy? Have I made you smile today?” I wasn’t smiling. I was grinning. When was the last time someone has asked you if they made you smile today?

We seem to have forgotten how important it is to make people smile and to make them happy. I am still blown away by this act of courtesy. And, yes, I am still smiling.

What if we all focus on how to make people smile? It doesn’t take much beyond an attitude of helpfulness and intention.

I am reminded of the Jimmy Buffet song “It’s my Job”. This rep at Instacart understood that it was his job to be better than the rest. Hopefully, it made his day, as well as mine, better than the rest.

The Business Apology

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The business apology can be worth its weight in gold when done properly. With an intentional strategy, it becomes a part of the overall customer experience and part of a plan involving customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty. It goes without saying that an apology is critical when a company has made a mistake. Just as important, it needs to be part of the customer service approach when the company has not made a mistake, but the customer believes it has. It’s incredible how many organizations don’t know how, when, or even why to apologize and fail to train their employees on the value of uttering with sincerity the words, “I’m sorry.”

There are nine simple steps to a good business apology.

  1. Say, “I’m sorry.” In spite of what your lawyer may have told you, those should be the first words out of your mouth. (Note: If the incident could result in any kind of legal action or liability then delaying long enough to seek legal advice is prudent and necessary.)
  2. Be sincere. Your body language and tone of voice need to match your words. First, people believe what they see more than what they hear. A fake apology doesn’t fool anyone.
  3. React quickly. An apology that is several days old loses its credibility and effectiveness.       A lot of damage can be done if you wait too long.
  4. Drop the excuses. Take responsibility for whatever you said or did. You weaken your apology when you start piling on excuses such as “I was having a bad day” or “I just broke up with my girlfriend.” The last sentence actually came straight out of the mouth of a server in a restaurant. The customer was not impressed.
  5. Forget the blame game. It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. It happened.
  6. Make amends. Do whatever you can to set things right. I recently sent one of my products to a customer. The item did not arrive on the day I promised, and I had an unhappy individual on my hands. I apologized and sent a replacement overnight. There was an additional cost to me, but I won over the customer who has since come back for additional products and services. The shipping company was at fault, but the customer didn’t care and it was up to me to take responsibility and correct the situation.
  7. Don’t get defensive and argumentative. Once you get your dander up, you are headed for trouble and will only make the situation worse. One of my favorite sayings is “Never argue with an idiot.  Those watching may not be able to tell the difference.”
  8. Listen without interrupting.  When customers get upset, they need to vent.   Often they require something to chew on and that may be you. Let them. You may learn something important from what they say. When you interrupt people, you are likely to miss hearing valuable information that could help you resolve the issue.
  9. Finally, don’t go overboard and over-apologize.  Say what you need to say and do what you need to do, then move on. You will only make matters worse with excessive apologies. As the saying goes, “When you find yourself in a hole, don’t keep digging.”

People can come up with any number of reasons not to apologize, but there are many more reasons for the business apology.  Number one is because it is the right thing to do. Plus, it is good customer service, which is good for business and that’s good for the bottom line.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Mind Your Manners Especially When Complaining

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I watched in dismay as the man ahead of me in the grocery store checkout line verbally assaulted the cashier. He had remained silent while the woman at the register rang up his purchase of a single tomato, accepted his money and handed him his change along with the bagged item. Having waited for just the right moment, he lashed out at the unsuspecting employee in a voice that could be heard all over the store. His exact words were, “I want you to know why I don’t shop here. It’s because your tomatoes are the highest-priced in town. I’d rather drive farther to another store than shop here.”

The cashier’s immediate reaction was several seconds of stunned silence, giving the customer the opportunity to repeat his accusation in case she and everyone else within earshot had failed to hear him the first time. At this point I’m thinking, “Excuse me, don’t look now, but you’re here in this store and you just bought that tomato.” The cashier had evidently heard complaints like this before so, finding her voice, she launched her rebuttal in a futile effort to justify the price of the tomato.

Conventional wisdom says that the customer is always right and that the employee does not bicker with the clientele. In a perfect retail environment, managers train their employees in the art of customer service. Too bad they can’t teach their customers how to treat employees with courtesy and respect as well.

Several things seemed obvious in this situation. No one forced the man to purchase the tomato in question. There are enough grocery stores that surely he could have found one with prices more to his liking and spared the blameless cashier and others his abusive outburst.

More importantly, if he wanted to convey his message in a constructive way, the cashier was not the person to tell. The unhappy shopper should have asked to speak to a manager and shared his observation in a positive tone. Another option would have been to  put his concern in the form of a question and asked, “Could you explain why the price of your tomatoes is so high?”

The rules for customer behavior are simple:

  • Take the complaint to the appropriate employee—that is usually not the frontline person.
  • Do it privately—there is no need to involve other customers.
  • Be pleasant—a confrontational attitude only makes matters worse.
  • Even when the customer is right, he does not have the right to be abusive and unkind.

One of my favorite quotes when I am counseling groups or individuals on the art of customer service is from Mark Twain who said, “Never argue with an idiot, onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference.”

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

How Much is Rudeness Costing Your Business?

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Business Etiquette - The Key to SuccessHave you ever thought about how much rudeness may be affecting your bottom line? What is the cost to your company when the people who represent you lack proper manners?

Do you know how many clients are turned off by employees who would rather carry on a conversation with each other than with the client? Can you count the number of people who hang up and call someone else because the person who answered your phone put them on hold without asking permission?

How does the client rate your professionalism when the employee who welcomes him to your office looks as if she is dressed for a day at the beach? Are your employees treating each other with courtesy and respect? Do they work as a team and help each other out or do they act like cast members on Survivor?

Try taking this quick true/false quiz to test your own business etiquette expertise. Then run it by your employees to assess their rudeness quotient.

    1. Business etiquette is based on rank and hierarchy.
    2. If the information on your business card is incorrect, draw a line through it and write the correct information on the card.
    3. Business casual means dressing down one notch from business professional.
    4. In today’s relaxed business environment, it is not necessary to ask your clients’ permission before using their first names.
    5. Callers do not mind holding for information as much as holding for a person.
    6. Handwritten notes are out of place in the business world.
    7. A man should wait for a woman to put out her hand in business before offering his.
    8. When composing an e-mail message, complete the “To” line last.
    9. Small talk around the office is a waste of time.
    10. If you receive a call on your cell phone when you are with a client, it’s fine to check to see who’s calling, but don’t answer.


    1. In business, you defer to the senior or highest ranking person, regardless of age or gender.
    2. Handing out business cards with information that is outdated is unprofessional. Have new cards printed immediately.
    3. Business casual is not an excuse to wear your favorite old clothes to the office. It’s business. Look professional.
    4. Don’t assume you can call clients by their first name. Use titles and last names until asked to do otherwise.
    5. Clients will wait patiently while you search for information on their behalf.
    6. Handwritten notes have become as rare as the typewriter. Stand out from your competition by sending your clients handwritten notes.
    7. In business it is off-putting when a man hesitates to extend his hand to a woman.
    8. If you wait until you have carefully proofed your message before you hit “send”, you will never be embarrassed or have to apologize for your email errors.
    9. Small talk in the office is a great way to build relationships among co-workers.
    10. It is just as rude to check your phone to see who called as it is to take a call in front of a client. Turn your phone off and check your messages later.

If you had trouble with any of these questions, your employees will, too. If you want your employees to be at ease in business situations, to represent you well and help build your business, give them the information they need. If you haven’t engaged in business etiquette skills training lately, do it now. Don’t let rudeness cost you business.

No one is born with good manners. People have to be taught, and from time to time, they need to be reminded of what they already know.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.


Telephone Etiquette is Crucial to Customer Service

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Telephone etiquette is a critical ingredient to making a positive first impression.  Make sure that you and everyone else who has access to your clients by phone know and practice professional courtesy. A training session on telephone etiquette is one way to insure consistency and professionalism.

Make no assumptions—not everyone has appropriate manners. Whoever answers your phone represents the entire organization and its philosophy about customer service.

Here are some suggestions for what your employees need to know.

Answer the phone promptly. Every call should be answered between the first and third ring. In many instances the caller hears a preliminary ring that you may not. What you think is the first ring may in fact be the second. We live in a world of instant expectations. If you don’t answer the phone immediately, people assume that you are either closed for the day, out of business or simply provide poor service. Answer the phone as soon as it rings, and grab that customer before your competition does.

Identify yourself immediately. One of the top complaints about telephone etiquette is that people fail to give their name. Whether you are placing or receiving a call, identify yourself right away. No one wants to guess who you are or be put in the awkward position of having to ask.

Be prepared with pen and paper. People are not impressed when you have to search for pencil and paper. If you aren’t prepared to take information, perhaps you aren’t prepared to do business.

Take accurate messages. Because of voice mail we don’t take messages as often as we used to, and we fail to mention this vital step in our telephone etiquette training. If you need to do so, check that you have written the information correctly. Repeat the spelling of the caller’s name. Double check the phone number as well as the wording of the message.

Transfer calls smoothly. Most of us cringe when someone says, “Let me transfer your call.” We have visions of being passed around from person to person and telling our story over and over again before finding someone who can help. If you need to transfer a call, ask the caller to hold while you confirm that you are sending the call to the right person and that that person is indeed available.

Manage the hold key with courtesy. In most telephone surveys, people rank being put on hold as their biggest frustration. Ask your callers’ permission before placing them on hold and wait to hear their reply. Answering the phone with a “hold, please” and immediately hitting the hold key will gain you nothing but an annoyed caller.

Put a smile on your face when you answer the phone. Even if you aren’t feeling cheery, your callers don’t need to know. A smile changes the entire tone of your voice and is audible over the phone. You would smile if the customer was standing in front of you—or I hope you would—so smile on the phone. Fake it if you have to, but do it.

At the end of the day, ask yourself what kind of impression you gave your callers. Was it your best and your company’s best? Did you treat every caller as valuable? If not, remind yourself that there is no such thing as an unimportant phone call and that you are the voice of the business.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Please and Thank You – The Most Powerful Business Words

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In just about every language in the world, there are words for saying “please” and “thank you”, but there are people who seem to have forgotten them or simply dropped them from their vocabulary altogether.  In business and in personal life, using those few phrases and the body language that reinforces them, adds to your success.  Whether you are dealing with a client, a coworker, family member or friend, expressing courtesy and respect will take your farther faster than a speeding BMW.

A simple “Thank you for taking time to meet me today” when you greet your client or “Thank you for calling” when you respond to a phone call, makes that person feel valued. In today’s online environment, “please” and “thank you”, should have a place in your email and text messages as well even if, sadly, they show up as “pls” and thx.”

Practicing civility not only makes other people feel good, it can also make you feel good. It’s the power of positivity.  As a result of you using these polite words, you will drive more business your way. And you will enhance your relationships with clients and customers.

That magic word “please” –as your mother called it—needs to be a part of your everyday language.  When you ask someone to do something for you, adding “please” turns a demand into a request.  When the clerk shoves a paper in front of you and says, “Sign here”, it sounds abrupt.  When that person takes the time to add “please”, the interaction turns pleasant. A “thank-you” seals the deal.

Using the right words is critical, but if the body language and the tone of voice don’t match, it will do you no good.  When you deal with other people, take the time to look at them, make eye contact and smile.  The smile on your face will resound in your voice, and your eyes will send an important message—one that says you are focusing on the person in front of you.

Think of the times you have gone through a check-out line and the cashier has not acknowledged you with so much as a greeting, a smile or eye contact. How did that make you feel? Invisible? Unimportant? Unappreciated? If so, join the army of people who have felt the same way. Is this how you want your clients or potential clients to feel?

In the high-tech world, we need to be careful that speed and efficiency don’t replace the personal touch.  Using the right words with appropriate body language and tone of voice make all the difference in the world, especially when you assess the bottom line. Once again, adding polish builds profits.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is a  business etiquette expert who believes it’s not about rules–it’s about relationships. She is keynote speaker, trainer and author of several books. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.


Customer Service Means Taking The Heat

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Customer Service

Are you good at taking the heat when your customers lose their cool?

Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you try to please and provide good customer service; there are people who seem determined to be difficult?  These people get downright cranky or out and out angry.  Trying to soothe an irate customer is challenging, especially when so many people feel entitled to act as rude as they possibly can.

Let me suggest a process that I learned from a fellow speaker, Judy Hoffman, the author of Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat: Dealing Effectively with the Media in Times of Crisis.  She also produced an audio program, Dealing with Angry People, where she outlines a method for “taking the heat.”  She uses the acronym “HEAT” for handling troublesome encounters and diffusing tense situations.

“H” stands for “HEAR”. That one thing we seldom do.  We don’t hear because we fail to listen. Some people are hard of hearing; others are hard of listening. We don’t pay attention to what the customer is saying because we are either too busy thinking of what we are going to say next or because we assume that we know what the problem is before hearing the person out.

Listen. Don’t interrupt.  Let the person finish the tirade before you jump in. You’ll be amazed at what you can hear when you keep your mouth shut.

E” is for “EMPATHIZE”.  The dictionary definition of “empathy” is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Let your customers know that you understand how they feel and why. Recently I was with friends at a local restaurant. We had reservations, but the table we had requested was not available and would not be for some time. Even though we all behaved like polite adults, the hostess took the initiative to say that she wouldn’t blame us if we had gotten upset. She acknowledged that she herself would have been unhappy. Good call on her part.

A” is for “APOLOGIZE”.  Offer an apology even if the problem is not your fault. It is easier for some people to say they are sorry than it is for others.  Don’t pull a third-grader and try to blame someone else. Often all the angry person wants is to hear the words, “I’m sorry.”  Taking the high road and apologizing, even when you didn’t do it, can calm even the most irate customer.

T” is for “TAKING ACTION”.  Once you’ve heard the person out, empathized with the situation, offered an apology, let your customer know what you will do about the situation and do it.  Even if your action is to take the issue to a higher level for resolution or compensation, act without delay and let the customer know how you are handling the problem.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to remain angry or have an argument with someone who won’t fight back.  If you resist the urge to become defensive and confrontational, your unhappy customer will soon lose steam and begin to calm down.  Your cool headedness can diffuse a hot situation when you remember to “take the heat.”

How Do You React to Poor Customer Service?

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How often have you encountered a surly sales clerk or a sour server? Unfortunately, most of us find ourselves on the receiving end of poor customer service more frequently than we’d like.  Some people just seem to show up for work in a bad mood. Like your mother used to say, “They act like they got up on the wrong side of the bed.” When the cashier ignores you or the waiter doesn’t have time to be friendly, it shouldn’t be your problem, but it is.  How should you, as the customer, react when you run into this kind of behavior?  Should you respond in kind, chastise the employee, report the incident to the next level or simply go away and never come back?

Start by treating others as you would like to be treated.  That’s not such a novel idea. Everyone knows the Golden Rule, but some people seem to have forgotten it or perhaps they made a conscious decision not to play by it.  When you find yourself face-to-face with a grump, take the high road. Start by making eye contact, smiling and speaking in a pleasant manner. The grouchy person might possibly perk up and react positively to your behavior.

If your upbeat attitude does not rub off, resist the urge to counterattack.   Going straight for the throat at the first sign of trouble will only make the situation worse and cause you to look bad in the eyes of everyone else. In today’s world, people tend to take matters into their own hands. We see examples of rage and anger all too often, and they never end well.

When you encounter poor customer service or rude behavior, report it to the appropriate person and do so politely. Stay calm. Your concerns will be taken much more seriously if you are cool and collected.  If you rail at the manager, your complaint will be discounted. You will look like the problem rather than the employee.

You can choose to avoid the issue by walking out and vowing never to return. With this kind of non-reaction, you do the business a disservice. Since avoidance is the last thing any establishment wants, give the owner or manager a chance to correct the problem.  Find a manager and report the issue.  The way those in charge react to your problem will let you know if your business is appreciated.

We all want to feel valued, especially when we are parting with our hard-earned dollars.  It is never too much to expect to be treated with kindness, courtesy and respect. Those businesses and their employees who don’t make customer service a priority and the responsibility of everyone in the organization will find themselves wondering where all their customers have gone.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is on a mission to stamp out rudeness and enhance professional conduct in the workplace. She is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, sought-after speaker, trainer, author and newspaper columnist. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products. The author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners, Lydia is available to speak at your next conference or meeting.