Why The World is NOT Full of Guys


Respect. We all want it, need it and deserve it. But when we use words that have “no meaning” we carelessly speak with disrespect to our customers. Why do we continually refer to “everyone” as a guy?

the world is not full of guys

Over the course of my training career I have constantly said “words have meaning”. We must speak with clear intent, understanding that our words bring life to all situations.

With a few sincerely-meant words we can easily take a dissatisfied customer and turn them around, providing we use appropriate actions to match. Just as easily, we can take a content customer and, using a few seemingly innocent words, show disrespect, imply a lower status and diminish their worth.

Here’s an example that I bet most of you have encountered…

A family of 4; father, mother and 2 teenage daughters, enters one of the thousands of themed restaurants that dot America. They are greeted at the door with “Hi guys, welcome to …………..”.

A few more steps inside they reach the host/hostess stand where they again are greeted in a similar manner; “Hi guys, table for 4?”

Next, they are directed to their table and promptly greeted by their server; “Hi guys, can I get you something to drink?”

In total there have been 3 staff interactions with this customer family and within 2 minutes called “guys” 3 times. The only “guy” there is the father. Why have these greetings become so sexist?

Maybe sexist is a harsh term, how about demeaning or at least inappropriate?

Or does it come down to today’s use of slang has permeated society so much that we are unaware of how some may take offense to certain words.

In the customer service industry, and I dare say conversations in general, there is no reason to refer to a customer by his/her age, sex, marital status, religion, height, weight, etc.

We would NEVER say this to a customer upon entering our door; “Hi Fatso, welcome to …………” or “Good afternoon Big Nose, how can I help you today?” (my apologies for offending anyone reading this – just trying to get a point across).

Of course that’s outright mean and demeaning. I agree. But the world is not full of “guys” so why do so many refer to everyone as a “guy”?

Watch most of today’s television shows, what do you hear? An assault on our language. You don’t’ hear the words please, may I, you’re welcome or other pleasantries of years past. We hear slang, and terms not suitable for the industry I love, customer service.

As part of my training I coach others to refrain from using the word “ladies” or “ma’am” to remove the potential stigma(s) attached to it.

Sure, referring to a middle age woman as ma’am may be respectful and somewhat appropriate but do so to a group of 20’somethings. You’ll get an uneasy glare from some and possibly make the others feel older than they wish. There is no need for this.

Our job is to never make our customers feel uncomfortable.

Customers must feel welcome and receive a warm show of appreciation, that’s our goal.

It’s so easy to do.

Just greet them with a sincere “Good afternoon, welcome to …………….., how may I help you?”

Then what about “Hi girls”? When spoken to a group of 8 year olds enjoying a birthday party, that may be fine but to the same table of 20’somethings? Are we to assume each is a “girl”?

Today’s hairstyles, clothing and sexual identification make it a minefield I am unwilling to cross. So why bother? Must we refer to a customer by a label which may not be appropriate? I say no.

Just as it is easier to remember the truth, versus a lie, it is easier to speak to/with a customer when we do not succumb to the cute phases that may be in style today.

As a customer we deserve a fair price, quality merchandise and respect. Anything less than that is unacceptable…even in a room full of “guys”.

Copyright © 2017 Steve DiGioia

► If you agree or disagree and have something to say about this post – I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below…


>>>This article was originally featured on Steve DiGioia’s blog and is republished here with permission.



  1. Hi Steve,

    This is a bit sensitive discussion. I agree with you that using the right words on the customer and matching it with appropriate action is highly necessary.
    I guess every customer service agent must be trained and retrained to use the most appropriate words that would not offend anyone nor gender!
    The use of ‘guy’ to refer to both male and female has come to stay and accepted in an informal social setting.

    However, in a formal business setting, choosing the most appropriate words can affect engagement and conversion.

  2. Hey Steve,

    I guess this post should remind us that despite everything, the peculiarity of individual persons must be considered. It is only when we have met with the needs of particular individual and social groups would we achieve reasonable success. Indeed, we must not address everyone as ‘guys’. It would be more appropriate to consider individual needs.

  3. Hey Steve,

    It is always important to keep watch of what our customers want. If the language we use would offend them then we must stop using those words.
    I think that every marketer and those in the customer service must understand and differentiate the use of some words between the marketplace and the social circles.
    An extension of the words used in the ‘socials’ to the marketplace may not always bring the right results!

  4. Hey Steve,

    Very interesting article. And I agree, it’s a bit demeaning to refer to a group of people as “guys” when there can both guys, or girls in the group. Yeah, there’s way too much slang in today’s language it seems.

    How you choose to speak to a customer is a very important criteria.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Whether people agree with you or not, if they are serious about customer service they should take your suggestions into consideration.

    We need to be very careful with out words and think how they make other people feel.

    I can see how I might be guilty of some of the things you mention. For instance calling the waitress “Ma’am” even if they are past their 20s, it may make them feel older when I think I am just being respectful.

    You’ve given us a lot to think about and hopefully it will help use relate better to our customers.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great day!