How Not To Treat Customers

Very recently I attended a Business Networking meeting which was being held in a room at a country pub.

The meeting was to start at 6pm. This is how you should not greet customers.

I travelled with two other members and we were the first to arrive at 5:45pm. The pub front door was unlocked and we entered.

Now at this point you would expect at least a warm greeting. The owner of the pub stepped forward and said, “We don’t open until 6 o’clock.” I replied, “We are here for the network meeting.” His reply “We still don’t open until 6 o’clock!”

At this point I offered to go back outside and his reply to that was “You’d better go through now you’re in.”

What a lovely way to greet your customers!

Here are some lessons for this pub owner.

If you don’t want people on your premises lock the door and clearly sign your opening times but just in case someone slips in still greet them properly.

This is how I would have handled it.

“Good evening gentlemen, welcome”

“We are here for the business meeting”

“Great, the room is at the back, please go through. I’m afraid the bar doesn’t open until 6pm but do come for a drink then”

Would you go back to the pub with the first or second approach.

Interestingly I heard after the meeting that this pub owner is going to get out of the business because it is not paying! I wonder why?

What are your experiences of good or bad customer service. Please leave your comments in the box below.

Roland Millward
The Entrepreneur Club

Image: Pixomar /


19 thoughts on “How Not To Treat Customers

  1. It’s astonishing that an owner would behave that way but even more astonishing that he can’t understand why his business is failing.

  2. We offer a ‘mystery shopper’ service for our clients, some of whom are in retail and for others who are in the service sector, particularly their telephone answering service. It is so important when you are at the customer face to get it right. So often businesses are blind to their short comings and it is so important to get a third party objective view to point out the obvious, even when people don’t want to hear it!

    I think my worse experiences are with the huge faceless companies, particularly BT. My business partner goes pale at the thought of having to call them for a problem…. ironic one of the largest communications companies is unable to ‘communicate’ effectively!

  3. When you go into shops and the stafff are chewing gum , speaking on their phones, talking to each other about what they got up to, or about to do. Not saying thank you . Ignoring you because they are too embarrased to approach you. How many more do you need. Just a point to note , the approach by the pub owner worked for Basil Fawlty.

  4. We find that so many retail companies hire people to work the floor but never spend any time preparing that person on how to interact with the customer. Call center personnel are given some training but then expected to read a script based on the responses they are given. Things seldom go according to plan. Just ask anyone about their last experience with a foreign call center. Our firm has been working with companies to train their customer service people or even answer their phones for them. It is always surprising to see how many business owners do not realize how important the people that are the first contact or “Face of their Business” are to the success of their business.

  5. I doubt that the reason the business is failing has much to do with the landlord asking people not to come into the pub before opening time. Everyone in England knows that most pubs open at 6 pm and that allowing the public onto the premises outside licensed hours is a serious criminal offence, which could get the landlord into serious trouble. In asking Mr Millward to stay outside the pub until 6 pm, the landlord is doing only what the law requires him to do. No, the business is failing because of a general trend away from going to the pub in the evenings and the effects of the ban on smoking in pubs, which has damaged the trade seriously.

  6. In the course of a sales job I did selling pub, restaurant, and hotel owners advertising space in a travel book. I used to ask them 2 questions ;
    Why would anyone want to come here?
    Why would they want to come back?

    Most of the owners had no trouble answering the first question. Usually something like -“we have a lovely location, and an extensive menu of fresh produce cooked to order”
    When it came to the second question it was so easy to spot the difference between the successful and the not successful.
    The successful people said – almost immediately – something like “because we look after people and give them a good time”
    The not so successful people usually thought for a minute and then rehashed their answer to the first question. THEY JUST DON’T GET IT.
    The reality is now that there are more goods and services in the world than there are people with the money to buy them.
    It’s no longer just what you sell, but how you sell it.

  7. Actually the law relates to serving alcohol not opening times. Why was the door open if you don’t want people to come in? As my post mentions a sign and a locked door would suffice. Many pubs are making a success and the position of this one is ideal for doing that with the right management. If you are rude to customers whether they know your opening times or not you will lose business.

  8. @ Ken johnson: I had no idea that pubs weren’t allowed to open until 6pm. I think every pub in my town must be breaking the law in that case!

    I’ve had some pretty ghastly customer services experiences. Not necessarily obvious to anyone else other than me. Pet hate is when you’re in a buying scenario and the shop assistant makes you feel awkward. I went into Sainsburys the other day and all the main check out queues were 4 or 5 people long. So I took my basket tyo the cigarette counter which had no queue at all (shop assistant standinf idle staring into space). She promptly counted my items and then told me I had too many items to be served. I told her that there was no sign to that effect and it was only 2 items over the limit. She ended up letting me buy my items from her. This is obviously an example of an employee but in the case of small businesses I think sometimes people forget that being in business is a SOCIAL thing so it helps if you genuinely have an enthusiastic attitude when dealing with people – and it pays off massively because word of mouth is still the best form of advertising!

    Sounds to me like the pub landlord just had the wrong attitude or maybe lacked confidence as his “greeting” sounded a bit defensive.

    When I see a prospective customer (or a return customer) I genuinely feel great inside even if they are catching me at the wrong time!

  9. This reminds me of my experience in Iceland when it re-opened in Devizes. I bought a few items and as I waited to pay I noticed the cashier talking to another cashier and to the customer in front of me. She then served me while continuing her conversation. During the whole process she uttered ONE word to me which was the amount I had to pay. That was it, no hello, no good bye, nothing! All she was interested in was the conversation with her mates.

    I haven’t been in there since!

  10. Hello Angelika

    I think you will have to go there a few times before the young woman regards you as a friend and starts to talk to you. Or you could try talking to her and see whether that works.

  11. Lol, Ken,

    I didn’t want to have a conversation with her, but a thank you or good bye would have been nice. Instead I felt in the way as I stood between her and the other cashier…

    How inconsiderate of me, I should have gone to another till so she could have continued her conversation without the interruption of an inconvenient customer 😉

  12. @ Angelika & Roland: That’s happened to me also. To my mind a quick greeting and eye contact it simply something all shop staff should do. To acknowledge another human being who is in “your place” is common courtesy – whether they are small independents and owner managed or national chains. It’s engaging for the customer, puts them at ease and encourages them to come back – customer service 101 really. Good customer service depends on what shop your in. In my experience places like waitrose and sainsbury have very high levels of customer service – places like Iceland and Asda have poor customer service. Result: Waitrose and Sainsbury get my custom and Iceland and Asda rarely see me.

    @Ken: I don’t agree that it is down to the customer to make the first move in this scenario. It is down the the staff of a store to make customers feel welcome in “their place”. In the example Angelika gave the cashier ingnored her. From a customer perspective this is plain rude no matter what way you slice it. And Angelika illustrated the outcome for the business – the loss of a customer.

  13. Hi Ben. So true. I have changed from one store “where every little did not help” to Sainsbury die to the difference in the way the staff act towards customers. It is not up to customers to initiate a conversation although I have tried to do this in some stores with no success!!! Thanks for your comment.

  14. Hi Roland, not been on this blog for a little while but I hope this isn’t a certain pub that I am thinking of? If so I have had a similar experience.

    For someone to be so dismissive and rude when there are 20 odd people visiting is totally foolish. Everyone knows if you say an event starts at 6.00 people will get there from 5.30 onwards – at the very least the organisers should be there in plenty of time to ensure everything is set up.

    Customer service in the pub trade is absolutely massively important. My local pub had landlords who had a habit of barring anyone who disagreed with their opinion (on small matters) were rude to customers, didn’t go out of their way at all and wondered why customers didn’t come along.

    Now, since new people have taken over, we have a thriving local village pub. They work their socks off, create a welcoming environment to all, organise village events etc. This has led I am sure to great business for them!

    With these guys attitude, anyone would think the pub industry is thriving.

  15. This is not about the law of opening times as licenses don’t work like that now. The 6pm time will have been set by the landlord and he can allow people in the pub when he wishes, its the old way of working in not being flexible. Anyone turned up at my pub outside opening times, they were more than welcome and would remember this and come back again and again… Pubs are generally on their knees, what was this landlord thinking. We really do need to improve in our industry….

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