Customers and Friends: What’s the Difference?

Customers and Friends: What’s the Difference?
Categories: ARTICLE

Many times during their interactions with customers on the phone, staff members may be tempted to be casual or possibly unprofessional with callers. There’s a fine line between bonding with your customers and being unprofessional, and your staff needs to be aware of the difference. Think about it this way: while customers may become ‘friends’ of your business, they are not personal friends. Here’s the difference:

Personal friends can be:

  • Spoken to in a casual tone (with slang and even potentially with profanity).
  • Referred to by names other than their actual names (e.g., “bro,” “sis,” “dude,” “amigo.”)
  • Called out on statements you just don’t deem to be true (e.g., “come on man, you know that’s not true.”)
  • Argued with on occasion.
  • Ignored on occasion.


Customers must always be:

  • Spoken to professionally at all times.
  • Referred to by their formal name.
  • Never argued with.
  • Never ignored.

Each member of your team must understand that a professional relationship exists between your customers and your business, and your callers expect to be treated professionally at all times, whether they say so or not. Therefore, your staff must always resist the urge to take the relationship with customers to a casual level as the results can be costly.

The phones are an easy place to lose sight of this rule because most of your staff members are used to being casual with their friends on their own phones. Therefore, they may have trouble ‘turning off’ the casual nature of phone calls once they get to the office. As a result, it’s extremely important that you stay on top of this potential problem and monitor it at all times. If it happens, fix it quickly so that an occasional incident doesn’t become normal behavior.


To fix:

  1. Record inbound phone calls so that you can play them back in training sessions with your team. Often times, staff members aren’t even aware they are speaking in a casual manner. The call recordings will make it obvious and provide a starting point to grow from.
  2. Once you have spoken to your team about the issue,’mystery shop’ your office by having people call in and pretend to be customers. Your mystery shoppers should attempt to take their calls to a casual nature to see if staff members respond in kind. If so, then you know the team needs more training.
  3. Update your Employee Handbook so that it clearly outlines acceptable language to be used on the phones with customers.  Make it clear that ‘casual’ is never acceptable.  Having it in writing makes the issue black and white, with no room for shades of gray… It also removes any grounds for argument when discipline is in order.

Delivering excellent customer service is never easy, but it can be done. Take note of your conversations with companies you deem to deliver excellent customer service and notice how they keep the conversations professional at all times. That’s because their agents have been trained, tested, and re-trained some more until they are unbreakable. Do the same with your team and you will be amazed at the results they can deliver for your business!

About admin

Co-founder of YesTrak.comFounder of MyDoctorCalls.comAuthor of 'Own the Phone'Since 2008, Spencer has helped thousands of clients generate more revenues as a result of improving the way phones are answered. As co-founder of YesTrak (a revolutionary live agent answering service) and MyDoctorCalls (a cloud-based call tracking and recording system), his products and services have changed the way businesses approach their inbound calls. Spencer is also the author of 'Own the Phone'-- a book that helps healthcare practices turn their phones into growth machines.