One of the biggest assets a small business can have is talented, loyal employees who understand the importance of customer service. As business owners, we place trust in our employees that they will represent our company well in all public interactions. But have you ever thought about what could happen when a customer overhears your employees talking to each other? Do you know what they’re saying? Your customers do.

Customers don’t want to get caught in the fray of employee problems. It makes them uncomfortable and it creates a bad impression for your company. Your employees should understand that conversations about company-related issues, conflicts, and concerns are only to be conducted well out of earshot of your customers.

Last week, I went to my favorite nail salon, and the owner, who usually does my nails, was out of town. When I arrived for my appointment, one of the technicians said she’d start with my pedicure, and that was fine. After she finished, however, she announced that she would do my nails. Well, that didn’t go over well with one of the other service providers who insisted she was supposed to do my nails. An argument ensued and the first technician stormed off. There I sat, waiting for the second nail tech to finish with her current customer. After 10 minutes, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer and I asked for the original technician to go ahead and do my nails. More arguing. Finally, the first woman did my nails, and I left. Unfortunately, what should have been a relaxing, comfortable, Sunday afternoon experience was stressful because of the bickering and fighting among the staff. None of this would have transpired if the owner had been there, I’m sure.

Another example: After arriving late to a hotel because of a cancelled flight, I decided to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant before calling it a night. When I’m by myself, I usually sit at the bar because, typically, bartenders are good conversationalists, and I don’t feel so alone. That night, the manager was short-staffed so he was working the bar. (I know that fact because he complained to me the minute I sat down.) The entire time I was eating my dinner, he yelled at and criticized his staff as they passed by. Let me just say, I didn’t enjoy my dinner, and it will be the last time I stay at that hotel.

Regardless of what type of business you’re in, there are opportunities for employee conversations to be overheard. Imagine a water-cooler conversation between employees complaining about your business that’s picked up by a customer/client sitting in a conference room. Or some of your employees posting messages to each other on Twitter or Facebook. There are countless times when I’ve seen employees huddled in retail stores discussing things I shouldn’t hear while I’m browsing the aisles. And, I might add, they are gabbing while they should be helping customers.

I’m confident you don’t want one of your customers to experience anything like the situations I’ve described above. Make sure your employees understand when they talk, customers are listening.

How do you manage your team in these situations? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.