Canadian Rental Service

At your service: Learning to read

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence 2020 april at your service canada customers dantu reading rental

Customers tell you what you need to know with their faces.

We are already two months in and time is flying by quickly. I hope you are off to a great start and looking forward to a strong 2020 for your respective businesses and personal lives.

I often share this tip on dealing with customers, whether upset, quiet or happy. We need to be able to read our customers when we either know something is wrong and they aren’t saying anything, when they approach us to discuss their issue or even when they are happy.

Are they aggressive, looking for empathy, very direct, or shy and not very forthcoming with their words? Do they seem agitated, frustrated, or at their wits’ end? Do they look like they just don’t care anymore and feel like speaking to you is futile? Are they smiling and thankful for a great experience?

If you’re in business, there will be times when everything goes well and customers are happy and times where we have to deal with upset customers. It may be our fault where we have done something wrong or it may be that we didn’t educate them properly as to the rules or conditions of the sale or our policies or procedures. There is a ton of different material we could cover on this subject, but I will keep it to reading our customers as we engage with them.


When reading our customers, we need to understand that we all share six emotions. They are: surprise, happiness, sadness, fear, anger and disgust. In my live training sessions, I use photos of faces showing these emotions. The strange thing is that people can easily identify each emotion when looking at the photos, but frequently miss these cues in an actual encounter with a live person.

If someone looks surprised at our answer, we can quickly acknowledge that they look surprised or change our next sentence to deal with that expression. Surprised can be good or bad depending on what has just transpired. Maybe they are shocked at the low price of an item they are buying. Or maybe they are shocked at the response you just gave them to a complaint they made.

If they look happy, you can say something like, “You know, we love happy customers. Thanks for making my day! Would you be able to give us a Google review?”

If they look sad, you definitely need to show some empathy. Jump to the other side of the counter and put their shoes on to truly understand what they are experiencing. Too often, we go through the motions because we deal with it day in and day out. Instead, we need to make every encounter seem like it’s the first time dealing with it in the way we listen to them. Of course, we should share our expertise in handling the situation once we have related to how the customer is feeling.

If fear seems to be the emotion, be assertive and let them know everything is going to be all right and that you are there to help them.

If someone looks angry, we can quickly say, “I can see that you are upset with what is happening and I am sorry that you are feeling that way. Let me see what I can do to fix it.”

If someone looks disgusted, you will need to keep asking probing questions and assure them that you take their complaint very seriously. Do your best to keep them talking, listen intently, write notes, repeat what they are saying and work quickly to a resolution. If needed, have someone above you also join in on the discussion.

Learning to read our customers is an effective tool in how we set up our reply. Train your staff to do this, especially if they are just entering the workforce. You will be setting them up for success as they look after your customers.

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer servicce for over 15 years. For more information, visit or email

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