Monday, March 29, 2010

False Hustle Is Bad Customer Service

Years ago I interviewed the legendary Red Auerbach, the godfather of the Boston Celtics, about what made his team so remarkable.

One of the key things that stuck with me was the notion of "false hustle": Auerbach said the Celtics players didn't try to fool him by faking like they were hustling. They gave every game, every play their all, knowing that Red could tell the difference between the real thing and false hustle.

Today, thanks in part to the web and techno-marketing, thanks in part to lead generation software, thanks in part to the phony vocabulary of "customer delight", most of us get treated every day to false hustle from company after company. False hustle comes in the mail in the form of oh-so-concerned customer solicitation letters from our bank, our mobile phone carrier, our health insurance company. Thanks to data mining, they can fake it with the best of them; they can even send you a card on your birthday, while jacking up the rate on your credit card.

When I walk into my dry cleaner here in Santa Fe, Barbara calls me by my first name. She jokes with me about my car, and when I can put the top down. And she counts my shirts and promises to have them back by 5 the next day. When I get my morning paper and first cup of joe at the locally owned magazine stand/coffee shop, I get a personal greeting from the guy behind the counter. He gives me his best Jersey accent, and tells me a joke.

That's not false hustle. That's not even a hustle. That's a genuine customer interaction. That's how more and more of us need to pick our stores, our shops, our vendors.

It's not just about the convenience of the web, which all too often masks false hustle.

It's about giving it your best, every play of every game.

Don't reward false hustle, don't give it your business. Red Auerbach never would; why should you.


  1. False hustle... I like it. I've always thought of it more of "communication to not communicate." People say and do things to get you off their backs or they communicate one thing to distract from another, e.g., your birthday card/interest rate hike example.

  2. Another downside of false hustle happens when we start to believe that all (99%) of suppliers' communication is insincere. The common thread of your dry cleaner and your coffee shop/magazine stand is that they know you are going to buy from them because you are a loyal customer. Therefore, there is no hidden agenda and they can be honest with you. It's up to leadership of the false hustle companies to empower a culture which views everything from the customer's perspective in order to get beyond the "selling" mentality that is so inauthentic. They have to trust that being genuine will create customer loyalty. Thanks for the post. -Bill

  3. That's amazing customer service at your dry cleaners! These days, a lot of people could have fallen prey to false hustle, thinking that it's genuine customer service or a good customer interaction. The people I work with here in the call center always make sure that we deliver the best service.

  4. Nice post! I still believe that treating the customer so good and politely makes them so comfortable and satisfied with your services. Thanks for the post!

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