08 December 2011

Bread and butter customer service

bread and butter customer service
Is it the end of bread and butter service? The increasing sophistication of marketing tools and techniques mean that many businesses have upped their game to improve the shopping experience they offer to their customers.
These activities can lead to the creation of extra layers of costs and inefficiencies which are not always fully valued by the customers. As a result they develop a bargain hunting instinct whereby they wait for heavy promotional periods and sales during which they are prepared to buy at what they believe is a fair price. In turn, such behaviour leads retailers to invest in yet more marketing tools to game the system and increase prices so that they can be better discounted later. Complicated and confusing. So wouldn't it be better to adopt a simpler approach, cut out the fuss and make sure that the service delivery to clients is of quality but simple enough so that it does not take too much value away from the product.

Picture courtesy of Peter's Yard with our thanks 

28 November 2011

Preparation for customer service

customer service preparation

Customer service preparation

Preparation for customer service: for many companies, the next client is only a number, a customer record who happened to place an order for product xyz at a given time during the day.
But it is not at all the same thing when you look at it from the clients' point of view. In many instances, the purchasing decision is an important act in the eyes of the customer who has spend hours if not days and weeks to compare products, to chose the colour, to check if he or she could afford the spend. After such a build up, when the big moment arrives, the client wants everything to be perfect and certainly expects the customer service to run like clockwork throughout the buying process from order till delivery and installation. So please make sure that your customer service teams are ready, it is a big day for your customers

Picture courtesy of Academy Marquees  with our thanks 

19 November 2011

Vultures are circling

Customer service circle

Customer service circle

Achieving the best customer service levels and maintaining them is not a simple task. There are numerous metrics available, one of them being to measure customer satisfaction.
However, sometimes one finds that only customers who are very satisfied or customers who are very unhappy are prepared to give any form of feedback. But what is happening to the bulk of your customer base? A tell-tale sign might be when your competition starts talking about your company's poor performance. Indeed if your customer service delivery starts to deteriorate they might pick it up early by listening to stories told by new customers or employees who have decided to jump ship. At that stage your competitors' behaviour might become more competitive and, feeling that there is an opportunity, they might start circling around.

02 November 2011

Reach out to customers

reach out to customers
7 miles bridge - Florida Keys
Do you do enough to reach out to your customers? Even when you have that horrible feeling that you are too far apart to resolve a customer service issue, you have to make an effort and build those bridges to reach out to your customers. The rewards can be long lasting even if the initial investment may seem unreasonable

10 October 2011

Offer good customer service to suppliers

customer service supplier

Customer service supplier

In order to find a supplier, retain it and obtain a good performance, wouldn't it be appropriate to offer them your best customer service?
In most instances the underlying principle is that the customer is always right but this can cost your company dear. If your supplier fails to deliver the right products or services, your supply chain is broken and your own customers will pay the consequences, thereby affecting your reputation. In those situations, are you sure that you did not have a part to play in it? Was your order complete? Did your read the small print? Were your specs accurate? Did you change your mind? Did you pay in time? All these elements can easily disrupt the service you and your customers ultimately receive. There are many benefits in having loyal suppliers and sharing your success with them so next time you pass an order, make sure you offer them a good service too.

Picture courtesy of PeterStephens Photography and with approval from  http://devoniain.blogspot.com/ with our thanks

08 October 2011

Chief Service Officer

chief service officer
Should your c-suite include a Chief Service Officer?
The ongoing financial crisis has put additional pressure on companies which have to work hard to attract new customers. But are you doing enough to retain your existing ones? Isn't it time for your customer service officer to have a sit at the top table  and claim a fair share of the company resources?

To complement this post, we thought it would be useful to include the top 10 items which should feature in the job description of a Chief Service Officer. We will build and refine the list over time but please do not hesitate to leave suggestions in the comment box below. Here are a few items to get us started:

1. Be responsible for the delivery of good customer service to all customers throughout the organisation
2. Define the customer service strategy  
3.Define customer service standards in adequation with the overall direction of the business
4. Establish a set of metrics allowing the company to measure its performance against customer expectations
5. Implement a philosophy of continuous improvement by collecting customer feedback and implementing changes required to improve their experience
6. Raise the role and importance of customer service in the organisation to exploit its potential to become a major revenue generator.
7. Coordinate all customer access channels such as telephone, website, social media, post, email, branches etc
8. Establish a clear value proposition for customers to understand what matters to them and what service can be scaled down

Will this encourage you to recruit a chief service officer?

As a further sign that the emergence of Chief Service Officers may materialise, we have even located a blog dedicated to it - chief service officer blog

06 October 2011

Customer engagement strategy

customer service engagement

Customer service engagement

What customer engagement strategy ? - The rapid development of computer software technology has meant that a huge number of customer management tools have been launched in the market place.

The use of Social Media in particular has increased exponentially giving the opportunity for many employees to build more human and personal relationships with customers. This investment is often done during working hours, at vast expenses for companies. Unfortunately, the work force has become increasingly mobile and when an employee walks away it can leave a big void. From the company point of view this can mark a time when customer engagement stops abruptly. The clients expect better though and a refined customer engagement strategy will ensure that they do not end up disappointed.

Picture courtesy of Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design with our thanks

20 September 2011

Does your customer service run like clockwork?

customer service run like clockwork
Does your customer service run like clockwork? It needs to be reliable, accurate, adapt to various conditions, from cold showers to intense heat, and above all give the answer that the customer is looking for. But here comes the challenge: it has to be delivered in a personal manner, it can not be mechanical but can look good. In the way a watch can become a piece of jewellery, if you manage to bring all the pieces together, not only will you have delivered a service fit for purpose but also a superior customer experience

Picture courtesy of http://www.bremont.com/ with our thanks

13 September 2011

Are your customer relations as sweet as vinegar?

customer service relations
Customer service relations

The world of fine food has evolved dramatically over the past few years and preconceived ideas have been challenged by the introduction of new products such as sweet vinegars for example. In many companies customer service has long been a synonym of complaints and sour client relations. As a result it has attracted a lot of bad press. With the concerted effort of all concerned in enterprises the customer service department could instead become the sweet spot, the place where clients loyalty is built and reinforced at any opportunity. In order to improve their standing, do make sure that your customer service executives introduce that little drop of sweetness in all their dealings with clients.

Photo credits: “Copyright RFB Photography" with our thanks to Womersley Fruit and Herb Vinegars

08 September 2011

Customer service tips

Customer service tips

customer service tips
Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated;
Integrate your customer service with your marketing effort, making it a value-added activity;
Pull your weight as good customer service requires dedication and,
Stand out to make sure your efforts are noticed

Picture courtesy of Hargreaves Plants with our thanks

to be continued...

More customer service tips

 Having put together our top five customer service tips a little while ago, we though it would be worthwhile adding to the original list. At the moment, the only certainty is that there are plenty of them. Whilst we build a list, please do leave us a comment below to suggest some tips to be added to the list. Thank you

There are many resources on the internet providing lists of steps to go through if you (and your employees) want to provide a great service to your customers:
We will suggest some further reading to do if you are interested in the topic. To quick start the list here are a few suggestions:
-  Tips for empowering customer service employees

06 September 2011

Customer service employees: have they come out of their shell?

customer service employees

Customer service employees

As your customer service employees return from their summer holidays, do make sure that the benefits of a relaxing time on the beach is being felt by your clients. Is the outlook of your customer service employees changing? Have they come out of their shell? They should be given more of a free rein to resolve customers issues and problems before they fall back into their well-worn customer service old habits. Whilst procedures and discipline should not be overlooked, an empowered customer service workforce is very likely to be more enthusiastic and able to deploy its skills more effectively.

01 September 2011

Customer service email

customer service email

How to handle customer service email?

With regards to customer service email there is just one simple piece of advice: do answer the emails from your clients and don't let them sit in your computer's inbox for too long. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than waiting for an answer which never comes - and by the way, make sure you  reply to your [potential] suppliers too, making it one your top customer service qualities

05 August 2011

Customer service success

customer service success
Customer service success should be celebrated. Why not send away your customer service team to one of the 5 star best hotel getaways so that they can celebrate their success in style, maybe with a bottle of Champagne? Customer service success only comes after a lot of innovation, passion and hard work. If your organisation is successfully delivering its customer service strategy it is critical that the teams responsible are properly thanked and rewarded in the same way as sales and marketing teams are. The benefits of a successful customer relationship management strategy are well known but often under-stated. Isn't it time to adopt a new approach?

22 July 2011

Customer service: learn to bend the rules

customer service rules
Learn to bend the rules

Customer service: learn to bend the rules

Customer service is often about excelling in the the delivery of rigid processes following a well defined set of rules and procedures. Developed over many years through the accumulated work of thousands of senior executives, this approach certainly appears rock solid and unbreakable. However, leaning on the experience and wisdom of the older generations, we are convinced that a little flexibility has some good. This is especially true given that the development of social media channels has dramatically raised the expectations of customers in terms of customer service. Indeed, many customers now expect a response within the hour, if not within 30 minutes. In order to ensure customer satisfaction and deliver against the very demanding expectations of your customers, should you not try to widen your employees' customer service skills by teaching them how to bend the rules?

30 June 2011

Does customer service improve with age?

improve customer service

Customer service improvement

Can the passage of time improve customer service? Some wines have the ability to get better with age but let us not forget that they need to be kept in perfect condition, monitored to assess their balance and sometimes remedial action needs to be taken. Customer service presents a similar degree of complexity to the extent that the environment can change rapidly and everyone's taste can be substantially different. Time can help to bed down procedures, to perfect the training of employees and better understand customer needs. But, as for wine, there will come a time when quality starts to deteriorate. Rather than wait, it is preferable to design new service standards and celebrate their implementation with a deserved glass of the said wine rather than see it being wasted.

Picture courtesy of Riedel, the Wine Glass Company, with our thanks

24 June 2011

Customer service: Stand out from the crowd

stand out customer service

Stand out customer service

Developing a customer service proposition which stands out from the crowd is the aim of many. Hands raised, waving the flag, surely our service is differentiated... Unfortunately we rarely get to see the perspective of the customer and often unable to assess objectively whether our company genuinely stands out. Gathering customer feedback through social media channels as well as through the more traditional tools becomes a critical activity. This is especially true if we suddenly discover that we stand out for the wrong reason in which case the company reputation is under threat and remedial action must be taken as a matter of urgency

Picture courtesy of Peter Stevens with our thanks - 

16 June 2011

Shadow customer service

shadow customer service
So much effort is being deployed on customer service design that it becomes nearly impossible for individuals to be themselves. The rule books, the scripts, the do's and don'ts mean that at best the modern customer service company executive is a shadow of himself. Unsurprisingly this plethora of procedures can often be counter-productive as clients feel that their interlocutor is not acting in a natural or genuine way.  It can also provide plenty of ammunitions for the customer service officer to be obstructive rather than helpful - "computer says no!" or "this is against our policy" become frequently used sentences. More worrisomely this often leads to poor levels of job satisfaction which rapidly result in poor customer service. So, make sure your employees do not turn into customer service shadows.

07 June 2011

Customer service poem

customer service poem
Customer Service Poem

Be Versed in Good Service

For really top service beyond all compare,
You have to let customers know that you care,
Right from first contact, the seeds will be sown,
So take time to smile when you pick up the phone,

 Be professional, courteous, clear and concise,
When talking of colour, delivery and price,
Don't rush through your work, or do jobs on the cheap,
And don't make a promise you know you can't keep,

If a customer phones, and is feeling uptight,
Do all that you can to make every thing right,
Sympathise, listen, and let them explain,
You can turn things around, so they'll come back again,

Customer service is just like a poem,
If it's good you will smile, if it's bad you'll just groan.

©Jan Jacks Perfect Verse 2011 

In this new world, where AI is making its presence felt more and more, we asked Bard to have a go at writing a customer service poem. Here is one of the attempts made in June 2023. Please leave a comment stating which version you prefer, human or AI generated.

A Customer Service Poem

When I call for help, I want to hear a poem, Not just a list of things I'm not allowed to do. I want to feel like I'm talking to a poet, Not a robot that's programmed to say "no".

So please, when you answer my call, Be creative and be bold. Use your words to paint a picture, And make me feel like I'm not alone.

Tell me a story about your day, Or about the time you wrote a poem. Make me laugh, or make me cry, But whatever you do, don't make me feel like I'm just a number.

I'm a person, and I deserve to be treated with respect. So please, give me a customer service poem, And make my day.

I know that you're busy, And that you have a lot of calls to make. But please, take a moment to be poetic, And to give me a poem.

It doesn't have to be long, Or even very good. Just something that shows that you care, And that you're not just a machine.

So please, next time I call, Give me a customer service poem. It will make my day, And it might even make yours.

31 May 2011

Customer farming

customer service farm

customer service farm

The farming community knows a thing or two about delivering real results despite unpredictable and changing market conditions. The parallels which exist between agriculture and customer service and marketing are not used enough and yet they could assist in the design and delivery of a clear customer-focused strategy. Chose the best food to grow, select the crops, prepare the soil, plant the seeds, use (or not) fertilizers, provide water when needed, harvest, select, calibrate, taste, store... Wouldn't it be great if our local farmers could engage in workshops to develop these simple concepts and help us adapt them to the way we handle customers. Unfortunately they are far too busy producing tangible results.....the first lesson maybe?

Picture courtesy of http://www.berryscrumptious.co.uk with our thanks

24 May 2011

Customer service skills: what kind of animal are YOU?

customer service skills

Customer service skills

Irrespective of our actual customer service skills, many of us have an opinion about how customer service should be and what to do in order to deliver good customer service. However intuitive this may be, one should take a step back and see what we can learn from our recent experience. One of the best learning point is to reflect on how we individually behaved when someone complained about our own level of service. What were our customer service attributes? Did we become defensive? Scared? Opinionated? Aggressive? Rude? Cheeky? Suddenly the customer was not right any more, was he? Wouldn't it be worth writing down our own customer service skills set and reading it again before complaining about others?

Update - March 2013

We have put together a list of what we believe are the essential customer service skills. As always, we are very happy to take your suggestions on new skills which you believe should be added to your page. http://blog.verygoodservice.com/customer-service-skills/

09 May 2011

Spinning the customer service wheel of fortune?

Spinning the customer service wheel

Wheel of Fortune Customer Service

Delivering good customer service should not be like spinning the Wheel of Fortune. Companies have to find a way to make sure that customers win at all times. It might require educating clients and make them appreciate the value of all prizes. Above all, they should not leave disappointed and certainly not feel as if they were victims of the luck of the draw. The customer service lottery is definitely one  to avoid...

02 May 2011

The future of customer service

customer service future

The Future of Customer Service

The world is moving so rapidly under the influence of technology that it is very hard to predict the future and in particular have any ideas about what customer service will look like in 100 years time. Two questions arise: what view do we have of customer service practices from 100 years ago? Did the expression "customer service" even exist? And more interestingly how will today's customer service skills withstand the test of time?

29 March 2011

customer service and social media: mix the old and the new

Social media customer service

Social media customer service

With the exponential growth of social networks, social media and customer service are now closely associated. The challenges are numerous and require significant investment in platforms, people and procedures. Whilst the first interaction with customers is now very public it is little different in practice from the handling of a belligerent customer on the shop floor. "Would you kindly come to my office Sir/Madam?"  aka " Let us deal with this off-line". Nothing new. Companies which are able to mix the well established customer service skills with the new technology-based tools will excel and dominate the new world of social media customer service.

Update November 2013
For those of you who are interested to learn more about social media and customer service, we found an interesting infographic with plenty of statistics. The ground is moving rapidly in social media so if we find additional useful applications for customer service we will post them here. The information is contained in an infographic posted by EConsultancy covering the future of social media and customer service: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/8937-the-future-of-customer-service-and-social-media-infographic
An interesting piece of research was also published by social bakers on the best social media customer service by UK brands. The research can be found here: http://www.socialbakers.com/blog/1308-the-best-and-worst-uk-brands-in-social-customer-service?

We are also always on the look-out for examples of best use of social media for customer service so do not hesitate to share them with us.

09 March 2011

Customer service: storm coming in

customer service storm
A complete customer service skill set must include a good sense of anticipation. Many industries have learnt to identify the early signs of a storm coming in. Typically two measures are adopted: one option is close all openings with a lot of  boarding and face the storm head on, inevitably this results in long lasting damages. The other option is to take evasive action, go with the wind and the waves, not against them and steer yourself out of trouble. It requires patience and a humble attitude but the outcome is almost always favourable. Next time a client storm is brewing, chose the right course 

Picture courtesy of http://lilackitty.deviantart.com/ with our thanks

03 March 2011

Customer service experience: the odd one out

Customer service experience

Customer service experience

Does your customer experience need to be personalised? Actually, customers do not often want to be treated in an individual way. Many customers share a sense of fairness and are happy to be handled like everyone else. But make no mistake, if a client feels that he or she is the odd one out and is receiving below par service, it won't be long before the complaints start flying in.

Picture courtesy of http://lilackitty.deviantart.com/ with our thanks

27 February 2011

Online customer service : make sure it is not frosty

online customer service

Online customer service

The development of online customer service delivery has made it more difficult to establish warm relationships with customers. A new challenge facing customer service training is to ensure that despite the lack of direct human contact, customer service representatives are able to engage with customers, develop a personal contact and above all that the relationships do not become frosty, especially on social media channels where it is witnessed by millions.

Picture courtesy of http://lilackitty.deviantart.com/ with our thanks

21 February 2011

Top customer service

top customer service

top customer service

There is simply no alternative. In terms of customer service, companies should always aim for the top. But, very importantly, always chose the easiest route and make sure that you do not take risks that could endanger the whole enterprise. Ultimately, a puff of smoke might even signal total customer satisfaction...

10 February 2011

Customer service should not be an uphill struggle

customer service struggle

customer service struggle

Delivering customer service should not be an uphill struggle. With the right customer service attributes, a pinch of training, a good dose of determination and above all a sense of achievement when reaching the ultimate goal, customer service becomes a pleasant experience. The result will be a much better panorama from the summit: high level of customer satisfaction and many happy employees.

Picture courtesy of http://lilackitty.deviantart.com/ with our thanks

05 February 2011

Customer service: avoid cheesy lines

customer service cheesy lines
In customer service, even when  you work in a restaurant, hospitality or the food industry, cheesy lines are best avoided. Irrespective of your own customer service definition, this simple notion should be included in all customer service training programmes

Picture courtesy of Imaging Essence with our thanks

27 January 2011

Customer service intimacy

customer service intimacy

Customer service intimacy

Customer service is entirely about meeting clients expectations and needs. Companies invest very significant amounts of money to finance the gathering of data based on questionnaires and purchasing habits. The most sophisticated are now moving to lifestyle analysis in order to develop more holistic offers.
But what about the mood? A "know your client intimately" initiative should allow companies to find out what clients want now and adjust their services accordingly.

Picture courtesy of Ashford Daly Photography with our thanks -

20 January 2011

Customer service definition

How to define customer service? 

Agreeing an universal customer service definition is not an easy task. Numerous procedures, books and manuals illustrate the excellent contributions made to come up with the best customer service definition. The formula is then applied to the business environment in an attempt to define a rigid framework for customer service. However, whilst some rules are important to safeguard the customers and the companies interest, more emphasis should be placed on creating the right environment for employees, thereby vastly improving their job satisfaction. With a touch of training to shape their customer service skills, staff with the right attitude will do wonders.

customer service definition
Customer service definition?
Update November 2013:
In order to assist people looking for a comprehensive definition of customer service we have collated a few below:
  • definition #1 (source: wikipedia): "Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase."
  • definition #2 (source: business dictionary.com): "All interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter." 
  • definition #3 (source: yourdictionary.com): "The definition of customer service is the assistance that customers receive from a company or its sales staff."
  • definition #4 (source: WordIQ.com): "Customer service is the set of behaviors that a business undertakes during its interaction with its customers."
  • definition #5 (source: Turban 2002): "Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation."
  • definition #6 (source: Oxford British Dictionary): "The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services."
Looking at the above, the interesting common thread coming out is that customer service is all about interactions, during and after the sales process in order to satisfy customers.

So bringing it together, our customer service definition is:

 "Interactions with customers during and after the sale of a product or service in order to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction"

Update February 2016:

Checking on this post, it appears that one source have changed their definition:
- dictionary.com is now using: "assistance and other resources that a company provided to the people who buy or use its products or services" 

We also have a new definition: -
- from investopedia.com: "The process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service"

These last two changes have not lead us to change our definition which remains:

 "Interactions with customers during and after the sale of a product or service in order to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction"

Update May 2023:

For completeness and given the emergence of AI which will play a key role in customer service before too long, here is an AI generated customer service definition:

"Customer service is the assistance and advice provided by a company to its customers. It can be provided before, during, or after a customer makes a purchase. The goal of customer service is to provide customers with a positive experience and to resolve any problems they may have."

Interestingly the AI generated definition is actually very close in sentiment to our aggregated definition. AI refers to company which we omit as the service can be provided by organisations which are not companies. It refers to assistance and advice but sometimes none as such is provided, it could simply be an interaction like welcoming a customer in a shop. It refers to pre, during and post purchase which is valid, we are therefore extending our definition to include pre-purchase service. New definition is now:

 "Interactions with customers before, during and after the sale of a product or service in order to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction"