Several years ago, I went to a chiropractor who did a great job of working the kinks out of my back and neck. I liked the doctor, his office location was convenient, and I could usually get in to see him on short notice when I needed an adjustment. I was getting treatments frequently, and got to know the doctor, his wife who managed the office, and their employees.
Being the people-person that I am, I showed an interest in the people who worked there, and they spent time chatting with me when I was in the office. I almost felt like part of the family. Unfortunately, it was a dysfunctional family who loved to gossip and complain about each other.
The doctor and his wife gave the appearance of having a more-than-comfortable lifestyle. They both drove expensive foreign cars and wore classy clothes. The doctor’s wife wore lots of showy jewelry. The employees assumed the doctor was making lots of money, and were dissatisfied that he didn’t pay his staff well. They felt underpaid and underappreciated.
The employees believed they were doing their part to build the practice, and they wanted to be rewarded. They felt like they were treated with indifference and even disdain by both the doctor and his wife. They told me they thought both were disrespectful in the way they talked to the employees, even in front of patients. Employees who took good care of the patients and who had been there for a long time did not get the raises they expected. Consequently there was constant turnover among the employees.
I began to realize how this negative gossip affected me as a patient. The more I listened to the employees, the more they gossiped. The more they gossiped and tried to get me to take sides, the more it bothered me. There was nothing I could do about their situation. I started to dread going in to see the doctor because I didn’t want to subject myself to the employees’ pessimism or hear about their problems. I went to the chiropractor to feel better and more energized. Instead I felt emotionally battered and drained.
I was not the person who was going to solve the employees’ problems. They needed to address their issues to the doctor and his wife, or find another job. My solution was to leave this staff to sort out their own problems while I found another chiropractor. The doctor never knew why I left his practice.
As an employee, understand that you may be tempted to gossip with a sympathetic customer. You may think you’re gathering support by sharing your problems and frustrations about the owner, manager, supervisor or coworkers. You may feel better for a few minutes after you vent, but you’re doing yourself and the business that pays you a huge disservice.
Your concerns may be valid, but your gossip is tainting your customers’ impressions of the business, and making them uncomfortable. Your customers come to your business for your product or service, not to be your family therapist.
No matter how well you think you know your customer or how much that customer engages in your gossip, don’t do it. Instead, do what I teach my clients to do in my workshops.
Put on your best customer service smile, crank up the most outstanding service you can deliver, and tuck your personal problems far away from your customers. Give them the impression you love your work there in Paradise. Don’t give them reasons to run to your competition to protect themselves from the negativity and gossip.
Exceptional service is what drives the success of your business. Keep it professional and keep your customers coming back.
Lynn Murphy, M.Ed.