Offering great customer serviceYears ago, I led a customer service team for a well-known telecommunications company in the UK.

Despite its size, one thing that was always drummed into us was that no matter what the problem, have empathy with the customer and acknowledge that any verbal attacks are aimed at the company, not us.

It did the trick.

We knew that our company wasn’t perfect – which one is? We also knew that some of our company’s practices wouldn’t go over well with our customers, and that would lead to unhappy customers calling in to complain.

Though they sometimes got vociferous in their argument, we would always listen, offer empathy and look for a way that we could both work together to resolve the issue.

Again, it worked.

At the end of the call, the customer would apologize and say they were really sorry that they came over as argumentative – they were just frustrated and felt as if they had no-one to talk to about it. All they wanted was for someone to listen and show that their problems were being heard.

Even if nothing could be done about them, just knowing someone cared made a huge difference.

So when did we stop listening?

I come across businesses every day that seem to have forgotten what customer service is. Public transport that’s always late with no apology or explanation; banks raising charges on credit cards with little warning and no alternatives; restaurants changing menus without any kind of customer survey (and often losing the best food in the process).

Even social media isn’t immune to this malaise – look at the thousands of unhappy Facebook users when the company changes its front-end without asking users what they thought first? Even worse, when users complain, Facebook pretty much sticks its head in the sand and says, “Take it or leave it.”

What amazes me more about this apathy toward customers is that businesses can’t afford to have this attitude. All around us, businesses are folding, communities are suffering and families struggling to keep their heads above water.

New business will be almost impossible to come across with any great success, which is why it’s more important than ever to look after your existing customers.

Business is tough enough as it is. We all want to attract new clients and build our brand, but we can’t afford to do so at the expense of our existing customers. Along with employees, they’re the soul of any company and the ones that can offer you the best kind of new client attraction – word-of-mouth advertising.

Something for businesses to keep in mind the next time they review their customer service policy.

image: gumption

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  1. ososoba says

    Hello Danny,
    I really wish all company managements would dread this and digest it. I decided to start up a business recently, and I’m glad I came across Zappos and their excellent customer service. Its kept my focus clean and clear. And reading this just reminded me of its importance, Its something I hope to build on when I finally launch. And hopefully have the opportunity to boast of the happiest customers in town.
    Thanks for the insight. Love it.

    • says

      ososoba Zappos is the perfect example of the culture starting from the top and filtering all the way through the company. If businesses really want ti be seen as customer-centric, they need to believe and adopt the same model. Otherwise they’re just paying lip service, and we all know how genuine that is…
      Cheers!

  2. says

    It’s so true that people just want to be heard. And it’s also true that we can’t solve everyone’s problems or complaints. Put those two things together and you have about as good a solution as you can get on a large scale. 
    The one thing to really remember, however, is that if we can solve the problem, jump right on it! The heart has to be in the right place. You have to want to help the customer and not just pay lip service. and the people we have in those customer service positions should either have good training or be real people persons and empathetic … again, both! 
    Given how hard it is to get business these days, it really does shock me (it shouldn’t, i know) that companies pay so little attention to their customer service departments. Poor training and apathetic employees.

    • says

      Carmelo The simplest thing as well is to just acknowledge people, mate – even if you can’t solve right away, show you’re aware, you care, and you’re going to make sure the right person handles the issue.
      It’s not rocket science but it can mean a world of difference.

      • says

        Danny Brown exactly. perhaps it would be easier if we were still doing business one to one and shaking hands and making eye contact. But, that’s not our world and we just need to remember to be human and use the new methods to be genuine and make connections.

  3. says

    Hi Danny,
    You’ve described how Facebook operates. They won’t even ask their customers. I just woke up one day with my timeline rolling and saying, it has changed. If Facebook keeps doing this sooner or later their customers would dwindle down. Who would like to stay with a company that does not care about its customers’ preferences?
    I admire how you handled customers in your company. All companies should follow your example. Thanks for an interesting post.

  4. says

    Hi Danny,
    It’s really refreshing to read about a business fundamental – listening to customers and keeping them happy. I have built a business on this premise and it works. I wish more consumer brands would take this approach, they would gain more customer loyalty, create brand ambassadors and recruitment would be easier.

    • says

      ShaunWestgate Hi Shaun,
      Thanks, mate – it never ceases to amaze me how much companies put into acquisition, yet fail to take into account the most important metric of all: retention. Hey ho…

  5. says

    This post serves as a timely reminder in these tech savvy times that you can’t beat good old fashioned customer service. Like Danny I come across businesses every day who seem to have forgotten to listen to their customers. I’d add the utility companies with their endless pricehikes to the list above. 
    Social media should set an example in listening to and engaging with customers. Brands like facebook should be leading the way.

    • says

      OpEdMarketing Ha, didn’t know about these sites, mate, but will check them out – cheers!
      My only concern with offering the platforms to have a voice is that often people abuse that “privilege” – I guess brands are damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

  6. Leon says

    G’Day Danny, 
    Did you see the post on my blog yesterday? It was called  “Customer Service: Why Flower Girls and Mindsets beat Training.” I wont repeat all that I say there. But there is one crucial matter.
    Customer service is every employee’s responsibility. The moment that organizations set up Customer Service departments with specialist customer service staff, their customer service goes to hell.
    The department and the specialists effectively absolve every other employee of responsibility for satisfying customers.
    Customer service starts with the state of mind of the CEO or at least one member of the top management team who’s willing to “ride herd” on the whole issue.
    In case anyone else is interested among your readers, you’ll find the article at http://staffperformancesecrets.com/
    Keep having fun. 
    Best Wishes
    Leon

    • says

      Leon Hi mate,
      Thanks for the link, have it bookmarked to check in on tomorrow (PS, did you change subscription services as I haven’t been getting updates, just resubscribed!).
      I loved this part of your comment here:
      Customer service is every employee’s responsibility. The moment that organizations set up Customer Service departments with specialist customer service staff, their customer service goes to hell.
      Never a truer word said, mate. Get everyone invested in the customer/user experience and that comes across in everyday dealings and attracts new customers to the fold. Win-win all round.
      Cheers, mate, always appreciate your insights!

    • douglaserice says

      @bxjasmine Yep! @DannyBrown is a customer-service genius! I think we all mourn for lost customer service…

      • DannyBrown says

        @douglaserice @bxjasmine Thank you guys – CS is one of my biggest passions and doing it right seems a lost art for many…

        • bxjasmine says

          @DannyBrown @douglaserice So true. Great CS is just human & makes people feel valid, worthy, & heard. Glad you’re so passionate about it!

  7. DavidPylyp says

    Sometimes we forget we are in the people’s needs filling business.   We need first to listen to what that need is before jumping to provide a solution.   One size does not always fit all.
    David Pylyp
    An Etobicoke Real Estate Agent listen and Learning Marketing

  8. dawnghost007 says

    i think sometimes customer goes more harsh then needed in particular sitation, but sure it dpnds on customer service compnay that how they handle their customer…. above given article will help the companies alot to handle their customers….

  9. says

    It’s really remarkable that companies are increasingly acting this way because I don’t think they can get away with it the way they could before. You mentioned companies going under, but what about the way social outcries can change company decisions (Netflix, BoA, etc.)? I would think companies would be shaking in their boots because of the power of social media/unhappy customers.

    • says

      The crowdthink mentality has definitely caught brands unawares, Rachel, on both sides of the coin. The good thing is, the positive examples are also being highlighted now, whereas before a lot of the time it was just negative feedback that was mostly coming to the fore.

      Hopefully, as more brands accept this new space and work to be fully immersed in it, we’ll continue to see even more positive examples. Cheers!

  10. says

    It’s really remarkable that companies are increasingly acting this way because I don’t think they can get away with it the way they could before. You mentioned companies going under, but what about the way social outcries can change company decisions (Netflix, BoA, etc.)? I would think companies would be shaking in their boots because of the power of social media/unhappy customers.

    • says

      The crowdthink mentality has definitely caught brands unawares, Rachel, on both sides of the coin. The good thing is, the positive examples are also being highlighted now, whereas before a lot of the time it was just negative feedback that was mostly coming to the fore.

      Hopefully, as more brands accept this new space and work to be fully immersed in it, we’ll continue to see even more positive examples. Cheers!

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