IT Policies

What can we learn from Rita's Water Ice?

My older daughter, Elise, just started working at a Rita's Water Ice store near our home. I've been to the store (when she isn't working, of course, so as not to embarrass her), was impressed by it, and let the owner know (most if not all of their stores are franchises).

You may wonder what Rita's Water Ice has to do with a help desk. Actually, it may have more to do than many people think, particularly if your help desk organization has, in addition to phone support, a walk-in center.

Here are some things to consider, based on experiences and observations I've had:

- the "ten foot rule"

If you're near a customer, say within ten feet, say or do something to acknowledge the person. You can smile, nod, say "hello" or whatever. But do something, because a customer who feels welcome is more likely to return. Acknowledging the customer is particularly important if you can't serve him or her right away. Say, for example, a customer comes in while you're filing some papers or finishing up something on your computer. It's important that you finish what you're doing. In this case, simply say hello to the customer, but then say, "I'm sorry, I'm finishing something right now, and I'll be with you right afterwards." If there are several people in line, consider saying to all of them, in general, "Hi, sorry about the wait." Once you show customers you are aware of their inconvenience, they're much more likely to "cut you slack."

- eye contact and avoidance of multitasking

Even if you're able to understand what people say without looking at them, do so anyway. A lack of eye contact often is interpreted as rudeness. At the same time, try to avoid multitasking. I know it's hard to avoid, but when you multitask, you increase the chances of misunderstanding what the customer says.

- "third person in" rule

I haven't followed ice hockey for awhile, but I do remember something called the "third man in" rule. Back then (and maybe still today), the NHL had (or has) a rule that if two players were fighting (presumably one from each team), and a teammate of one of the players joined in, that third man would be penalized as well.

This principle of "third person in" applies to a walk-in center, though I hope not with respect to a fight. If you're a supervisor or manager there, and your subordinate asks you for help while the customer is there (the classic case is the supermarket supervisor who has to unlock the cash register), take a second to greet the customer. Don't just help the subordinate and leave.

- thank them as they leave

Try to say good-bye to customers, and thank them as they leave.

These steps are simple, but can go a long way towards keeping customers satisfied.

Questions or comments? Contact me at


Calvin Sun is an attorney who writes about technology and legal issues for TechRepublic.


Okay good points but what is Rita's Water Ice? Isn't all ice made from water?


From Rita's Water Ice I learned that with free water turned into ice and shaved, a little food coloring,some taste additive, hard work and persistence; I could be a millionaire. She did it with only the above ingredients, and her imagination.


Despite the failure of Rita's Methane Ice, Rita's Carbon Dioxide Ice, and the devastating lawsuit following Rita's Ethylene Glycol Ice, she persevered and came up big with Rita's Water Ice. She's going to expand her stores into full-blown diners. They'll be called Rita's Food Restaurants. After that, she going to open a car lot. It's going to be called Rita's Automobile Cars. The company recently received a blow when their publicist decided to leave and go into business on his own. He's started a company called Stupid Names, Inc. He recently hired the guy who came up with Aglient, Verizon, and Avaya. If you're looking for a completely terrible name for your multibillion-dollar enterprise, he's the one to go to.


My wife lived in Italy for a time so we're always up for a gelato. Water Ice just doesn't have the same flair.


In the Northeast,the South and parts of the Midwest the name is Rita's Italian Ice.

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