Be kind to service people (B2B)

We are in the business of servicing clients. We support them through new system setup and onboarding, training, and configuration. We aid them when things break or there are bugs in the software. We assist them when they have legislative questions or are seeking general product knowledge and clarification on product use cases. We do this in the context of business-to-business relationships. On average, our clients are with us for 8+ years. So, these tend to be long-term, partnership-like relationships.

Despite this, I am shocked how rudely clients will occasionally address our client-facing team members. I know this isn’t a unique phenomenon. There are plenty of stories and videos of people being extremely rude or aggressive towards those in the service industry; however, you tend to see these in a business-to-consumer setting (e.g., restaurants, airlines, telecom companies, etc.). I really didn’t expect it to be as present in a B2B setting. Don’t get me wrong, we occasionally screw things up and deserve a certain degree of frustration. But there is a fine line between clearly expressing frustration and being disrespectful.

Here’s one example. A line from an email one of our former client’s CFOs sent to a team member several years ago: “Obviously, you have failed to do this and as a result of your inability to do your job properly we are subjected to another email like this because of your incompetency!!”

Here’s the thing about communicating like this, particularly in a B2B setting: when you’re rude to the person you are relying upon to solve an outstanding issue for you, whether conscious or unconscious, I can guarantee that person is less motivated and likely to help you with your issue. By acting aggressively, you’re likely making your own life more difficult in regards to getting what you want. Beyond the altruistic and “being a good person” reasons for treating client service people well, there’s an entirely pragmatic reason, which is that being kind to those you need to support you is more likely to get you your desired outcome.