The most important person to your business

“I’m nobody.”

Recently, I got to witness a fascinating customer service moment. I was at a specialty grocery store in my neighborhood and as I walked up to the check out line, a man was complaining to the cashier. Doesn’t really matter about what. It was something to do with freshness expiration dates on some of the store items, as far as I could tell. The guy was saying he has complained about this many times before. The poor harried cashier tried to assuage him and suggested he speak to the manager about it. The man backed off a bit, knowing this woman did not have the power to help solve the problem and said he’d tried that several times. He wished her a nice day and left.

As I stepped up to the line, I offered her an easy smile to try to salvage her day. She pleasantly greeted me and started checking me out.

“I understand he’s upset, but I can’t do anything for him. Who am I?” she stated to me, partly as a way to acknowledge the awkward situation that had just happened. And then she said something that broke my heart:

 “I’m nobody. I mean, I really. Am. Nobody.”

How messed up is that?

The people on the front lines, those who answer  your phone or check out customers, or take dinner orders  – these people are the most important people in your business. They are the ones – no matter how awesome your product, stellar the service you offer or brilliant you might be as the owner, manager or CEO  – who make or break your brand . They are the face of your business.

The 932 acts of brilliance, quality, blood, sweat, tears, and craftsmanship leading up to that one customer touchpoint don’t matter worth a damn if that one person is not empowered enough to alleviate customer pain, make decisions or enact change.

Do you empower your front line to resolve any customer payment dispute up to $500 (or some other reasonable number) at their own discretion? You should.

Do you listen to him or her when they bring a customer complaint to your attention and do the job you are supposed to do: take ownership and responsibility to resolve the issue yourself, personally? You should.

Do you train them to do whatever it takes to make a customer happy, even if they have to give away something for free or go outside their assigned role to get it done? You should.

There is no business without your customers. And therefore the people dealing directly with them day in and day out need to be treated like the kings and queens of the castle. If you can’t trust them with that much power and discretion, don’t hire them.  You, as the owner, CEO or manager are their servants – not the other way around.

Photo courtesy of

What is your customer service “hero” story? When did you get such excellent service from the person working the front lines? Please share below in the Comments!

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