A CEO reached out to me a couple weeks ago.

He was horrified, and practically scared out of his wits. He called me after he experienced what he called, “the scariest day of my professional life!”

He said it all started when he arrived at the office that day. First, he overheard his receptionist speaking to a client – a new client who he was actually looking forward to speaking to. He overheard his receptionist speaking to the client in a manner that what he later described to me as downright rude and belligerent.

He tried to let it go. Until, by chance, a few hours later he overheard one of his sales reps tell someone on the phone that he could get what they wanted cheaper (and likely faster) from their top competitor.

I get why he was frightened, but I’ve seen and witnessed this story with my own eyes more times than I care to count. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were just having a bad day.

More often than not, we can nip these issues in the bud. We can often re-train employees, coach them, and mentor those in client-facing positions. It’s a sound and solid investment. I have clients who’ve invested significantly this year in customer service improvements. But other times, we can’t. Sometimes it’s the wrong person, and other times it’s like unlocking pandora’s box to a whole pile of problems.

There are two things about this story that should terrify you.

First, any belief on your part that this sort of thing is NOT happening in your business (it almost surely is).

Two, that it is happening, and you aren’t aware or doing something about it.

Here’s the key point for us today.

This was an established CEO of an established privately-held company. He never expected either of these things to be happening, but they were. There was no reason to suspect it, though.

After all, business was always good. But he always wondered why business wasn’t better. After witnessing two fright shows on the same day, he started paying more attention and now other recurring issues are starting to make sense.

This is the type of thing that drives customers away, costs you sales, wastes money, and spreads like a virus in your organization.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again today, customer service is marketing and marketing is customer service.

If everyone in your company doesn’t understand what constitutes marketing then I’d be shaking in my pants too. You should be afraid. It gives me the jitters just writing about it.

But ignorance and disbelief that this sort of thing could be happing in your business is, well, even scarier.