Taylor Misiak: How Not To Be “The Worst” Customer-TEDxWabashCollege #ServerNotServant

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 06/30/2019

“Difficult customers get in their own way of receiving the best service” is the pervasive theme of Taylor Misiak’s recent TEDx Talk.

I witnessed an extreme example of this a few weeks ago at a local hardware store. After finding what I needed with the help of an employee, I went to the front of the store and there were no cashiers at the checkout area. I waited patiently, scrolling through my phone, when another customer approached the cash register. Within a few moments, he tried to ‘build the coalition’ against the staff by kvetching within earshot of me, “No one working here?!?” and other unintelligible grumblings. I didn’t budge or make eye contact. After a short period, Grouchy Guy walked halfway through the store to the end of an aisle where the employee who helped me was working and yelled, “Hey, can we get some help here?!?”

“Excuse me?” the employee replied.

Grouchy Guy: “There’s nobody at the fucking cash register!”

Worker: “I’m sorry, but that’s no reason to be disrespectful. I’ll be right there.”

Grouchy: “Forget it,” and throws the item he was going to buy down the aisle at the worker.

The employee quickly followed the customer to the door and yelled, “Get out of the store, now!! I won’t tolerate disrespect.” After a tense exchange outside (during which I had to throw my 2 cents in siding with the worker), the customer actually had the nerve to say, “Just let me buy what I came here for.” No dice, the employee banned Grouchy Guy for good. Talk about getting in your own way of receiving service…

Taylor’s TEDx talk deals primarily with less hostile customers and examines the question, “How often are customers unintentionally being ‘The Worst?'”

As a restaurant server, Misiak notes that, “In my job, when I deal with these terrible customers, I’m working around the challenges they create more than I am giving them the good service they deserve.” Such a great point–Bad customers often sabotage their own service experiences.

Some of my favorite quotes from Taylor’s thoughtful talk:

  • “…what is so flawed in ‘The customer is always right’ mentality is it doesn’t acknowledge the possibility that the customer may in fact be naïve or misinformed or unaware of something.”
  • “When we operate with this mentality, we conduct ourselves with a sense of entitlement and a ‘gimme this!’ attitude.”
  • “Sometimes customers aren’t just annoying, but by not staying in their own lane, are making the problem worse for themselves.”
  • “When we’re customers we could stand to operate with a little less entitlement and a little more empathy.”
  • “And on the other side, when we’re the ones working, we could stand to do the same. We can operate with more patience and communication rather than writing someone off and calling them ‘The Worst.'”

I reached out to Taylor and asked if she’d like to add any additional comments for this blog post:

“It means so much to hear a fellow server enjoyed my talk because I totally know that these few topics I address are just the tip of the iceberg! While I could talk for days about terrible customer habits or typical miscommunications, I thought it was important to avoid alienating anyone in the audience. I tried to analyze the more common mistakes that I truly believe are unintentional.

I can also honestly say that working on this talk really pushed me to take a better look at myself when I’m a customer! Not only in restaurants, but other service industries. I’ve tried practicing a little more patience and empathy. And while not always easy, it usually leads to a much more positive experience.”

Amen. Please join the conversation in the comments below, and share this post on all of your social media platforms. Hopefully more humans will heed Taylor’s advice, “We could behave like polite guests rather than kings of the castle.”

Please watch Taylor’s TEDx Talk and share.

Follow Taylor Misiak on Twitter & IG @taylormisiak.

To encourage more blog posts and expedite completion of my book, please click on ‘Support Server Not Servant’ in the blue box on the upper right hand side of this post.

Thank you-Patrick

One Response to “Taylor Misiak: How Not To Be “The Worst” Customer-TEDxWabashCollege #ServerNotServant”

  1. Jeff Toister says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Patrick, and for reaching out to Taylor for more insight. She really approached the topic with a healthy dose of empathy for these “difficult” customers, which is impressive.

    One thing that resonated with me was her advice to ask open, honest questions when you’re a customer. Those types of questions often lead to much better service, and a more human-to-human interaction.

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