Customer Service Hang Ups

hanging phoneIf you are tempted to think that how you handle in-coming calls as a business isn’t top priority…think again.

I had an experience recently to prove my point.

I called into a big box company to try and order a waterfall for my backyard.  I don’t want to mention names but I’ll give you a hint…it wasn’t Home Depot.

The department I wanted to reach wasn’t listed in the company’s phone directory, so I hit zero for the Operator. After not one, not two, but count them…five attempts to get through without being cut off, misdirected or simply left holding a ringing phone, I finally found someone to help me.

As I was wading through my five attempts to complete what should have been a very simple and straight-forward request, I made the decision to cross this company off my list of potential vendors to hire for remodeling a rental property I was preparing for market.

WOW! That’s the power that lies in the balance between a well-handled call and a bungled one.  All told, as a rough estimate, I could have easily thrown over $10,000 their way in remodeling business, but I won’t be doing any contract business with them at all. That sale (and future sales) was lost while I was on interminable hold. I figured, “Hey, if trying to buy a waterfall is this hard, what hell would I be in for, if I decided to remodel a bathroom with these people?”

This is EXACTLY what YOUR customers are thinking when they are on eternal hold…they start to question you as a company and then they start to question whether you are worthy of their business, since you seem so willing to waste their valuable time. It’s in this moment that they may decide that it’s time to find another vendor/contractor/supplier/retailer, etc. altogether.

How my call is handled speaks VOLUMES about the quality of the infrastructure within your organization and its overall dedication to providing great customer care from points A to Z.

So the next time the phone rings, answer it as if your paycheck depends on it. It does.

P.S. I decided not to buy the waterfall.

Karyn Ruth White is an Organizational Humorist, Funny Keynote Speaker, Comedian, Author and Speech Coach. When you call her office you will be handled with care, either by Karyn Ruth personally, or by her trusty assistant, Ms. Voicemail. (Quick responses promised.) Visit her at, email her at or if you’re feeling brave, give her a call at 303-369-8277.

How Low Can You Go?

bad-157437_1280This month the standard for customer service was lowered beyond my imagination by United Airlines. 

As a Humorist and Keynote Speaker, I present HILARIOUS talks to companies on the Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service around the country. This month I have added a very big DON’T to my story list!

Whenever I travel, I have a mental checklist I go through; Will the plane be on time? Will it take off and land safely? Will my trip go smoothly?  But, I have never had the following pre-travel question pop into my mind until this month:

“I wonder if I will be bodily dragged off the plane if it is overbooked?”

What in the Hell is going on?  In what scenario did the crew/management at United think that this was okay?  Where in the operations manual does it suggest; “bodily dragging a non-violent, paying customer off the plane,” as an acceptable policy. I am appalled! 

In my several decades of travel as a Speaker, I have been a frequent United customer and I have spent A LOT of money with them over the years. Based on their recent bad behavior and incredibly poor judgement, I will now go OUT OF MY WAY to see if there is any way to get to my destination without flying on United. (Even if it costs a bit more.)

Kudos United, you’ve done it…you’ve sunk so low that you’ve made Frontier’s Customer Service look good by comparison.

UA in my lexicon no longer stands for United Airlines, it now stands for Ugly Act.

Two thumbs down United.  You blew it big time!

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Comedian. She helps companies remember the importance of treating their customers in a civilized manner.  Visit,

Round Up the Round Uppers

lasso2When did it become OK to ask me for extra money at time of checkout?

I don’t recall getting a memo announcing that this was to become accepted practice?  Did any of you see a memo?

I am already supporting your business by choosing to spend money with you. Isn’t that charity enough?

Apparently not. Apparently now, the actual sale isn’t good enough. Now you’re not happy unless I cough up a little something extra every time.

I could live the rest of my life very happily without ever again hearing those six annoying little words:


I am so over dealing with the same irritating ritual every time I buy something;

“Would you like to round up today to support…Children without IPHONES?

Would you like to round up today to help…Women Who Are Mayonnaise Intolerant? 

Would you like to round up today to help find a cure for…Clowns with Turrets?”


I want to say to the checkout person;                                                         

“Um, No.  Today I would prefer to “round down and donate the difference to my favorite charity…The Karyn Ruth White Kaaching Kaaching Fund. So… how much would you like to contribute today?”

And it’s not just happening at the physical check out, it’s also common practice online. Retailers like Go Daddy, Amazon and others ask this question at point of payment, “Would you like to round up for charity?” I “donate” plenty of money to Go Daddy and Amazon every year. I am not inclined to send them any “extra” coin.

Do I think that this practice has garnered some good results? I’m sure it has. But if you wanted my full participation, you should have consulted me first, before foisting this social shaming on me in a public place.

When I am asked the ubiquitous: “Would you like to round up today?”… my usual response is… “Not today, thanks.” In an effort to be polite, I hear myself actually thanking them for annoying me.

If I’m cranky and not in the mood for this bizarre ritual, I usually say NO before they can get to the word UP. So it sounds something like….

“Would you like to round.” “NO.”

 Sometimes just to keep life interesting, I surprise myself and them by saying,

“Oh sure, what the heck? Let’s Round’er Up.”

I think what bugs me most about this practice, is the subtle implication that if I choose not to round up, that I am somehow a bad person.  After I say “No,” I imagine all the people in line behind me shaking their heads in judgement.  I am pretty sure I have even heard an occasional “Tisk Tisk” from a fellow shopper.

What’s next? Automatic sirens and a voice coming over the loud speaker saying: “Security, you’re needed in Lane 3.  We have a customer who refuses to round up!” And you hear the whole store gasp in unison, and then let out a collective “Tisk Tisk.” And you are mortified. Few people ever fully recover from their first public Tisking. It’s powerful stuff.

I am perfectly capable of choosing and contributing to the charities of my choice.  In fact, I sent a donation check to a charity this very week…on my own…without any public prompting. Turns out, I don’t need the checker at Whole Foods to pick my charities for me after all.

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author, Comedian and Presentation Coach. She is the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise dedicated to helping people live and work from their greatness. She has pretty much always been able to “round up” the courage to say what’s on her mind. Visit or email

FINE is a Four Letter Word

cash register 2I was recently eating at a local deli. I was having a light snack and catching up on my reading.  I was reading UnMarketing by Scott Stratten, an excellent book on engaging with your customers and treating people well in business.  I was reading about a coffee shop that seemed to be using their social media platform as a way to alienate customers, rather than using it as a tool to engage.

As I am reading this, a patron of the deli walked to the front to pay her check at the register.  I was within earshot of the cashier desk.

The cashier asked…“How was everything?” The patron grumbled that her salad didn’t seem fresh, and that normally when she eats here the lettuce is greener.  The cashier never even looked up from her register, never even gave the customer the courtesy of eye contact as she sing-songed a syrupy sweet, “Sorry about that,” took the money and let the dazed and dismissed customer walk out the door. My guess, for the last time.

Un-friggin-believable!!! I was SO unimpressed with this response that I vowed not to give this deli any future business myself.


Every “less than enthusiastic” response from a customer should be immediately followed up by this question: “How can we make it right for you today?”

Why bother asking the customer, “How was everything?”, if you aren’t going to actually listen and use that information to engage and grow your business?

When you ask your customer, “How was everything?” and the answer comes back, “Fine,” remember FINE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD. People say “FINE” when they are so apathetic about your service or product that they can’t even muster the energy to complain. “FINE” is your cue to jump into action and become a detective.  Your mission is to find out what is “Behind the FINE” and create a delighted, loyal customer.

Back to the Deli…here is how the conversation should have gone:

“How was everything today?”

 “The lettuce was a little wilted, it’s usually so fresh and green.” 

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?  Let me extend my personal apologies. How can we make it right for you today?” (Said while looking the customer in the eye.)

Let the customer respond. Oftentimes, your customers will tell you exactly what will make them happy.

Be ready to extend the offer of a gift certificate for their next visit, or a free dessert of their choice to take with them. It only takes a little extra love to make the customer happy. As your customer, I can forgive your occasional shortcomings if I know you actually care about me.

It is much easier (and cheaper) to keep the current customer satisfied than it is to find (and keep) and new one.

I need to go, I’m off to find a new deli.

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Comedian. She is the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping people serve one another with love, laughter and respect. Visit,

The Stress Gotta Go Somewhere

pencil-1203980_1280Working with the public is its own special brand of hell, even if you actually like people in general.  I have worked many, many customer service jobs and I was darn good at all of them most of the time. However, every once in a while I would SNAP-someone would push a button and break that last straw of patience and I would SNAP…’cause the stress gotta go somewhere.

I was reminded of the stress of service the other day in my grocery store.  A pleasant young girl was ringing up my groceries. I told her I wanted one item rung up separately because it was a business expense. When she rang it up, it was more expensive than I expected so I said, “Never mind”…then she said… “It will be cheaper once we run your customer loyalty card,” she gave me the new total and I still said “Never mind.” Then she voided the sale.  Then I changed my mind and said “Oh, alright, I’ll take it.”  She rolled her eyes and let out a big sigh and I quickly said with a smile… “You didn’t hide that very well.” Visibly taken aback at being called out, she smiled weakly and said “I know, I’m sorry.”  “No worries,” I said, “I get it” and went on my way.

I was laughing to myself after I left, thinking of all the times as a customer service person when I wanted to do more than roll my eyes at a customer. There were times I wanted to crawl over the counter and choke them.  I would have too, if I thought I could have gotten away with it.

Humor has always been a go-to tool for me when people are on my last nerve.  I remember a long-term temp job I had working in the Customer Service Department of a large corporation.  My job was to try to explain to very angry people why they had not yet received their asbestos lawsuit reimbursement checks.  I dealt with these people all day, and my heart went out to them.  I knew the company was jerking them around but I couldn’t say anything.  One Friday afternoon, after being yelled at all day, I was on my last call of the day with an extremely irate man and I’d had it! I SNAPPED and said: “Sir…I can understand your frustration but we are doing “as best as” we can.” The caller didn’t get the joke and went on screaming but it made me smile and it felt good.  My boss leaped over the counter and glared at me.  “Why did you say that to him?”  and I said…."’cause the stress gotta go somewhere.”

I am a firm believer in nurturing, protecting and championing your good customer service people.  Give them a healthy forum in which to vent their frustrations before they SNAP! Bring in a funny stress-reduction speaker (hint, hint) and help them to understand that frustration is par for the course in service… it’s how you manage the frustration that makes the difference between burnout and a better outcome.


Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist and Comedian. She presents hilarious programs for Customer Service Pros teaching them tools to help them laugh in the face of stress. She hasn’t choked a customer in years, so whatever she’s doing must be working.,