By Shep Hyken

My very funny friend, Tim Gard, who also happens to be a wonderful keynote speaker, had a great question: “Doesn’t anyone know how to take a compliment?”   

My response was, “Don’t most people say, ‘Thank you’?” 

Apparently not. Tim said he observed some friendly behavior from the TSA agents in the security line at his local airport in Portland, Oregon. He decided to compliment the supervisor, who appeared to be confused by the praise. The supervisor asked, “Do you want me to file a complaint?”  

Tim emphasized this was a compliment, not a complaint, and walked away, shaking his head and thinking, “They must not get very many compliments.”   

So that made me think, should we take a few minutes during our customer service training and teach how to accept a compliment properly? What may seem like common sense may not be so common. Just consider the response from the supervisor at the TSA station. 

With that in mind, here are five steps to acknowledging a compliment. 

  1. Say Thank You: This may sound basic, but so many people don’t use the words “thank you.” You can say anything nice you want but be sure to include those two words. 
  2. Include Context: Include a comment beyond the thank you. If someone compliments you for your hard work, say something like, “Thank you. At the XYZ company, we pride ourselves on working hard for our customers.” This statement adds genuineness to the thank you 
  3. Share Credit When Appropriate: If others are involved, give them the credit they deserve. This not only shines a light on your fellow employees, but it also shows humility. 
  4. Share the Compliment with the Team: Be sure to let others on your team know about the compliments and accolades your customers (and that includes your internal customers) share with you. Don’t keep them to yourself! 
  5. Debrief the Compliment: Why did you get the compliment? Do you get complimented every time you do what prompted the customer to say something nice to you? If not, why not? If so, is it part of a formal process? Wouldn’t it be nice if you received a compliment every time you did this? In other words, operationalize what drives compliments!

Most people and companies stop at step four. All that does is make everyone feel good. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to take it to the next level and create a process or system that gets a steady stream of similar compliments. It’s a consistent and predictable customer experience – one that drives compliments – that will get your customers to say, “I’ll be back!”