Insider Exclusive: How to Win Friends and Influence Customers

Insider Exclusive: How to Win Friends and Influence Customers

By Lee Silber

The customer is always right, right? That statement has always bothered me because quite often the customer is wrong. However—and this is a big however—in the motorcoach travel and tourism industry, we have to let them believe they are right, even when they are wrong.

While we can’t change people or control their minds (although someday there may be an app for that!), there are a few ways we can deal with difficult customers—before they become difficult. Try these ideas on for size to see if we can control their behaviors—if not their minds—at least a little bit.

1. What we put out, we get back.
We set the tone with customers. Sure, some people are just grumpy or have issues that have nothing to do with us and are insurmountable. That said, the bulk of our customers come to us in a fairly good mood and are excited to be going to an event or on a tour. So, how do we prevent them from turning on us at the slightest opportunity?

I know this will sound hokey, but when we smile, the world indeed smiles back at us. I’m serious: How we greet people (with a smile, using their name when we can, and a quick compliment about something they are wearing) gets us off on the right foot. It’s a personal touch that takes time, but in the end it saves time when that’s one less person we have to deal with later because we’ve already won them over.

Taking the time to smile, learn their name, and compliment them shows respect. That’s all most people want: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect for their business, their time, and their status/position.

2. Give them a reputation to live up to.

Let’s try an experiment. I want you to try to not picture a big white polar bear. Hah, you can’t not picture a polar bear, right? (A few of you may have been able to steel off your mind, but the rest of us see a polar bear when asked not to.) The flip side of this is when we tell people they are understanding, cooperative, fun, easygoing, and a joy to be around, they can’t help themselves from being just that. They become the person we labeled them to be. In other words, they live up to our expectations.

I know what you’re thinking, when things go wrong, customers will just revert to their old selves again. Not always. Isn’t it silly when we attend a concert and the rock star acknowledges our hometown and we all cheer. “Hellooooo Detroit!” That’s a set up, but it works every time. Let’s plant the seed early with our customers that they are the kind of people who are spontaneous (they are flexible enough to go with the flow when plans change), resourceful (they’re willing to make things work even when they’re not), and team players (we’re all in this together, so let’s stick together no matter what).

Lee Silber is the bestselling author of 22 books and is married to a Nordstrom executive who knows what great customer service is. Silber will be presenting “It’s Not You, It’s Me” at the 2018 ABA Annual Meeting & Marketplace on Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. For more information about Silber, visit

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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