Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

A Competitive Advantage: Be Nice

A Common Sense Customer Service Tactic

The other night I did a speech that was more about motivation than it was about business and customer service.  The audience included college students in their teens and 20’s, people in the prime of their business careers and retired people.  The client asked me to deliver a simple message about going from being average to being amazing.

If you’ve been reading my customer service articles or watching my weekly videos on YouTube, then you know my definition of being amazing is about consistently being better than average.  And above average means exactly that.  You don’t have to be over-the-top amazing.  No, you just have to be a little better than average.  The key is to be better than average, all of the time.  That’s what amazement is about.  It is consistency that makes being above average, even just a little above average, amazing.

So, I shared five amazement tactics, and it was the fifth and final tactic that created a surprising response, and the subject of this article.  And, it was simple:

 Be nice.

The reaction from the audience was surprising.  They unexpectedly applauded.   I wondered why they would applaud at something so simple – something that seemed like just common sense.  More on that in just a moment.

I went on to explain what it took to be nice.  I’ve written about this type of thing before, but here is the spin.  Nice people do a number of things:

  • They are respectful of others.
  • They do what they say they are going to do.  You can count on them.
  • They show up on time, respecting the time of others.
  • They are polite.  They say, please and thank you.
  • And, speaking of thank you, they write thank you notes.

That last point, writing thank you notes, was a call-back to the beginning of the speech when I talked about how my parents taught me to do the right thing.  That started when my mom made me write thank you notes to anyone that gave me a gift.  That was a great lesson, taught at a very young age, about doing the right thing; being nice and showing appreciation to people who are nice to you.

After the speech I asked my wife, who was in the audience, why she thought the audience applauded.  She said that so many people aren’t nice.  It’s not that they are rude or mean, although sometimes they are.  No, they just don’t smile and say thank you.  And, when you encounter someone who is nice, you feel so much better about doing business with them.

In business, being nice is part of delivering customer service.  It’s the positive attitude, the respect you show to the customer, and the way you make them feel appreciated.  It’s an essential part of any customer service strategy.  The best system isn’t complete without the positive feelings the customer experiences from doing business with you.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times     bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright ©MMXIII, Shep Hyken)

    • Agree with you Terry. Sometimes they are not nice because they are upset. What’s hard is getting them to focus on the future, not the past. Sometimes a simple statement and question does the trick: “I understand how you must feel and can tell you are upset. The reason you are contacting us is because you want us to help solve this problem, right?”

  1. Great insights you are sharing Shep! The power of being nice done consistently, creates and adds value for every customer. I wish more business owners would train their teams on the power of being nice as you articulated it well in your presentation and your blog. Simple but important message that somehow got lost over the last few years but some people remember it and understand the value it makes for their customers interactions. Enjoyed your thoughts as well.

  2. There is the old proverb that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. I think that this idea of being nice is something lacking in so many parts of society. Imagine the world where customers are nice to the people that serve them, where the people that serve are nice to their customers, where the boss is nice to her employees and the employees are nice to the boss. What about families? How much nicer would our children be if they see their parents being nice to their kids and each other? How wonderful would it be where politicians from opposite ends of the spectrum debated policies while being nice? How much would crime rates decrease if people truly embraced these points you mention? I don’t think that all problems will be solved if everyone is nicer, but I do think that we will be better able to find those solutions if more of us embrace those ideas that you presented. I too applaud you.

    • Great points, Bryan! Reminds me of the book titled, “Everything I learned I learned in Kindergarten.” Our parents taught us to be nice, respect others, be appreciative. That’s where it all starts, and hopefully doesn’t end.

  3. I really like your definition of amazing as consistently above average. My tendency is to be gung ho and burn out. We CAN strive for consistently above average and gain steam by continuously improving. Thank you!

  4. You nailed it. I find being consistent is the most important and of course if you commit to doing something, then follow through. I say treat the Executives in the office the same as the person at the front desk. Look people in the eye and listen, it goes a long way. At the same time, when someone is clearly not “nice” I think it’s ok to politely call them out. People who are like this need to hear it, because if they don’t they will never change.

    • Sometimes when I encounter someone who is just not nice I try to lighten it up with a smile and asking, “Having a bad day?” They sometimes give me a funny look and then apologize or smile back and their attitude changes. Yes, there are times you feel like you need to politely call them out. Just do it with tact and respect and usually that turns things around.

  5. “so many people aren’t nice”

    You wife is a wise woman! Most people aren’t straight up mean or cruel, but most people are in a hurry/can’t be bothered/don’t care/etc…When someone is genuinely nice to you we remember (now what does that say about us a culture) because it’s become a rarer and rarer thing, especially from those that take our money and provide a good/service in return. At the end of the day, it’s all about being nice no matter what.

  6. Hey Sheph,

    Have been very impressed with your “cab story” and now this simple message of “be nice”.
    Am a passionate driver of customer service, and do use quite a few tips shared by you, with my audience.
    Keep sharing, love the cartoons!

    Can you also share how you did the “card trick”.



    • Thank you Bhanu, for your kind words. Glad you enjoy the customer service tips, the videos and the cartoons. Can’t tell you how the card trick work! (HA!) Thanks again!

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