Just Be Nice: A Customer Service Tip

By George Aveling, CEO of TMI Malaysia, a customer-experience consultancy.

I first heard the phrase “Just Be Nice” when I read a book by Robin Sharma. These three simple words, shortened to three letters – JBN – have stuck with me ever since; and that was some years ago!

I have just experienced a customer service person who embodied the JBN principle, day in, day out, one customer at a time. The impact was simple – this person puts a smile on customers’ faces.

Let me introduce you to Jelena… it was breakfast time at a hotel in Belgrade, Serbia; guests go through the normal morning routine. We head to the restaurant and are met by Jelena at the front of the restaurant. Jelena checks our name off, and then we enter.

One of the reasons that I looked forward to going to breakfast was my 15 seconds of friendly interaction with Jelena. On the second day, she remembered my name. By the third day, she had remembered my room number – as she did with many other guests. The daily warm morning greeting from Jelena made me feel happy.

The Principle in Action

George Aveling

So, how did Jelena apply the JBN principle? First, Jelena instinctively knew that she could make a difference to someone’s day – in 15 seconds or less.

In conventional customer experience language, Jelena aimed to make every Moment of Truth with a guest a positive one. These moments of truth most often take just seconds, and they make a lasting impact. For proof of this, just read reviews on sites like TripAdvisor. The reviews most often speak of customer experiences during very brief slices of time.

Second, it seemed as if every customer was Jelena’s first. The last guest to arrive for breakfast experienced that same warm welcome as the first.

Third, Jelena used all the tools that she had available to her. She greeted guests with a smile and with her eyes. Whoa! This is not rocket science, but it is rocket fuel when it comes to firing up customer satisfaction!

Fourth, Jelena understood that different customers need to be treated in different ways. Chatty customers like me would experience JBN in the form of a few seconds of friendly small talk on the way into and out of the restaurant. I got my full 15 seconds worth of moments of truth!

Jelena knew that other guests just wanted to go in for breakfast. Her version of JBN was to give them a warm greeting and to check their names off. They got their 5 seconds of moments of truth and always with a warm greeting.

And, for those who acknowledged Jelena on the way out, she was always ready with a friendly, warm farewell that just took seconds.

JBN lessons from Jelena

Jobs like Jelena’s are not complex. They are repetitive, but they are not necessarily easy. If you don’t believe me, imagine yourself standing in one place for four hours each day to greet guests, five days a week.

These jobs are extremely important, as they deal with most guests each day. The key lesson here is to put the right people in those positions.

Find your Jelena; find people who have a positive attitude and who like people. Once you do, they will naturally apply the JBN principle to keep people happy. And when you do, you may find people, like me, raving about your service and telling the world about them.

If you put people who do not like dealing with people in customer-facing roles, their jobs will get them down. After a while, they won’t look happy. They will end up giving guests a cold welcome, rather than a warm one.

Their feelings will be transmitted to customers.  The impact will be felt in customer feedback scores, or on even more damaging social media ratings, like on TripAdvisor. By the way, the name of the hotel in Belgrade is the Crowne Plaza. I found the service to be great all round.


This story first appeared in the Business Today magazine (August 2017 issue)


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