Just four little words can turn a happy customer into an unhappy customer. These words, when uttered, send a signal that you don’t care about your customers and that your business is screwed up.

These four little words wound customers and tell them you won’t do whatever it takes for them. They also say you hate your job, hate your company, and are very self-centered.

What are they?

“It’s not my job.”

I was mortified when I was in a grocery store recently; I asked a question, and the man I approached said, “It’s not my job. I don’t actually work for the store, I work for one of the vendors.” Yet he had a store apron on.

The right response might have been, “I’d be happy to help you. Even though I don’t work for the store and I work for a vendor, let me take you to someone who can answer that question.”

You may, in your company or business, have employees who have very distinct roles. In fact, if they encounter a customer who asks them to do something, it may not be their job.

The problem is that if the employee says that, it makes the customer feel unimportant, unheard, and as though employees are unwilling to help. And that sends a devastating message about company management.

The correct response is always, “Yes, how can I help you?” or, “I’d be happy to help you.”

Everyone on the team needs to know that every customer pays their paycheck and that when customers have a negative experience with your company, they’re likely to tell 10 people, who may each tell 10 more people. Suddenly you’ve lost customers, and you may not even know why.

“It’s not my job” leads to “I’m outta work.”

Smart companies need to coach their team to always do what it takes, never pass the buck, to help whenever possible or find someone who can help. Management should also make it known that if they hear of someone using those words, that person will probably be working elsewhere soon.

Treat people the way you want to be treated.