Take this little test:

Think about a restaurant you really love, but where you also had at least one bad experience.

In your mind, re-tell the story about the bad experience. For me, it was sitting at the counter waiting for an order when I noticed a cockroach spinning around on its back on the counter near the ice machine.

I told the waitress, who took a napkin, collected the cockroach and threw it outside while other customers watched in open-mouthed amazement. Then she told the cook/owner. Then I canceled my order and left. I’ve never been back.

Oddly, although I used to go there twice a week, I can now no longer remember my waitresses’s name or even whether the coffee machine was in the front of the restaurant or the back.

But burned into my memory is the sight of the cockroach on the counter. Spinning around like a top.

Back to your test …

Now, in your mind, I want you to try to recall the third time you were ever at your favorite restaurant.

Why can you easily recall a bad experience, but you can’t recall the third time you were ever there?

One reason is that we tend to notice less once we fall into a routine. That’s why it’s so easy for a guest to notice something out of place in your home that you overlooked day after day.

Another reason is that when we are shocked, surprised or otherwise upset about something, it is processed differently by the brain. In fact, at the chemical level, your biochemistry is different when you are angry than when you aren’t. You feel that in different ways, like your face flushing, your heartbeat increasing, and other physiological changes.

As you know from your own experiences, you tend to remember the times when you were extremely upset much more easily and clearly than when you weren’t.

Your own customers are no different than you are. When you’re dealing with a customer service issue, do two things:

1. Monitor your own mood. If you feel yourself getting angry, take a few deep breaths, calm yourself down and then deal with the customer complaint. If you get angry, you’ll convey that to the customer. Anger is infectious, and they’ll get angry, too. Stay calm, cool and collected.

2. Monitor their mood. If you sense they are upset or if they start out upset, apologize right away and talk in as calm a voice as possible. If they’re in front of you, maintain “neutral” body positioning (don’t cross your arms) and use your tone of voice to get them calmer so you can solve the situation.

An interesting corollary to the ideas above is that people also remember outstanding customer service interactions — ones so out of the norm that they stand out in the person’s mind.

Minimize the angry interactions, maximize the outstanding ones, and you’ll create customers for life.