How the Wrong Words Kill Customer Loyalty. The Best Bon Mots

So, it begins with a desire to have a drink at an artful and attractive Band B, a drink in the garden as the sun sets.

There are no glasses, so I help myself to two. No ice. I find the refrigerator and help myself to ice.

The owner returns and glances quickly at the glasses and ice. The message is clear: I was not invited to help myself. I should have waited and asked for ice and glasses.

I ask her and she agrees she was “thrown.”

Better response from the owner: “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t leave glass out or invite you to help yourself if I wasn’t around. I’m glad you did. Enjoy the drink.”

Elsewhere, I note check-out time is eleven AM. There’s time for a swim after breakfast. But I’m not sure.

Me: “Do we have time for a quick swim?

Innkeeper: “ As long as you’re out by 11, that’s fine.”


Better response: “Of course. Check out time is 11 but it’s a perfect beach day. Could you be back by 11:30?”

Another day another place.
Not sure if we want the room that’s offered to us.

Me: “Could we see another room, please.”

Innkeeper: “This is the only room we have that’s vacant.”

I wanted to hear: “Of course. Happy to show you our rooms, but this is the only room that’s free for tonight. Still, you might want to come back some time, so let me show you what we have.”

Moving on. Local coffee shop. Cute village.

Me: “Can I use your bathroom, please.”

“Sorry, we don’t have a public bathroom.”

Me: “Oh, what does the staff do?”

“Our bathroom is not for public use.”

I would feel better hearing: “Usually only the staff use our bathroom because we can’t maintain a public bathroom. But if it’s an emergency , please use it.”

Telling me that if I’m allowed to use it, everyone will want to, is like being in elementary school when I raised my hand to pee. Teacher said,. “If you go everyone will want to.”

Well, teach, you deal with that when it happens. This is me asking in this moment.

And again. A restaurant.

Me: “We’d like to split the grilled tuna plate, please.”

Waitress: “Sorry. but we charge five dollars to split an entree.”

Me: “I don’t get it. It’s my meal. My money. I should be able to split it, throw it away or do what I want with it. “

Waitress calls the owner, who says, “I’m sorry, but those are the rules. We charge to split meals.”

Everyone loses. I leave unhappy and hungry. The restaurant loses a customer. The energy is bad and corrupted.

Lastly, because the point here is obvious:

I would  really like a midday coffee and don’t feel like driving to a coffee shop or restaurant.

There is no coffee or tea or snacks anywhere in the place. A bad sign too begin with.

Me to owner: “Do you usually have coffee or cold drinks or nuts or cookies around?”

Response: “No we don’t, except by prior arrangement.”

The better, customer-building response here is obvious.

And so it goes.

When  a word choice or the energy behind the words creates or destroys customer loyalty (and the desire to recommend the place), why say them.

Innkeepers and especially B&B owners and staff could use some help in finding  better bon mots.

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  • I agree, Kaleel....but you did such a good job writing about it that it turned into humor!

  • Thanks, Michelle! It's funny now, in retrospect. But I clearly remember being very PO during the exchanges. Really, how difficult can it be to be a bit imaginative in responding to a customer! Cheers and thanks again

  • Excellent article. I couldn't stop laughing!

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