Good customer service

Posted: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 by Travis Cody in

Who is responsible for good customer service?

That's a pretty easy question. The answer is the service provider, right?

Well, hang on a minute.

Personally, I think that the service provider has about 85% of the responsibility for good customer service. That means customers...that's us...bear the weight of the other 15%.

My first job was as a delivery driver for Domino's Pizza. For all the people who called in with a clear understanding of what they wanted and how to order it, you'd get about 5% who had no clue. So we either had to spend extra time answering a bunch of questions, or we had to ask a bunch of questions.

We were trained to do that, by the way. It's not that difficult to be polite and help a customer through the process. Of course, we had to do it as quickly as possible and with background noise at the level of your basic subway station.

Still, it wasn't the customer's fault if we couldn't hear them. So we had to be polite and not react if they got frustrated when we inevitably asked them to repeat something. And it was critical that we repeated the full order back to the customer before we said, "Thanks so much for calling. We'll be there in 30 minutes or less."

Just a bit of trivia here. We were taught to answer the phone with "Thanks for calling Domino's Pizza. This is Travis. What can we make for you this evening?"

Nice, eh?

We'd even have people call repeatedly from outside of our delivery area and demand that we deliver to them. We could make that exception depending on how far out of the area. If it was just a couple of blocks, we'd deliver but not honor the 30 minute guarantee. Then when our driver would get to the house, he'd sometimes be berated by the customer demanding the free pizza because it was delivered outside the time limit.

So I think that customers do have responsibility to be civil and to understand store policies. We don't have the right as customers to take our lousy day out on some employee.

I think that the other way customers have responsibility for good customer service is to provide feedback, and not just when you've had poor service. I think it is equally important to commend good customer service. We can do that on the spot by smiling and saying a genuine "thank you". Our continued patronage is another way we tell a company they are getting it right.

We seem to have very little trouble complaining and making ourselves heard when we feel service has been poor. But we should balance that by telling a company when they've done something right by us.

So I've got a challenge for you. Think of three stores you go to often. Then consider the last few times you've been there. Was the service good? If you can't remember, then I'd say it was. If you do remember, then service was likely exceptional...either in a good way or a bad way.

Now, here's the big step. Contact the company and provide feedback. If service was poor, clearly explain what bothered you in a polite manner. Suppress your natural tendency to tell them how to do better. That's not really the purpose of the contact. You just want to point out a bad experience. It's up to the company to do what they need to do about it.

Of course, if the service was good, tell the company that.

If you do this already, then great! I applaud you for being an excellent customer. If you've never done it, perhaps you could consider this as a last step in your shopping process.

I started doing this last year when I received three pair of Wranglers after I had only ordered two pair from Shelplers online. I called them to get them to bill me for the third pair, and they told me to keep it at no charge.

Last month I complained about a real mess I had with my local Pizza Hut. The manager of that store called me a couple of days later to apologize and explain. We talked for a bit. I didn't yell. I outlined what I found most distressing and she thanked me for my honesty. She took full responsibility for not setting her crew up to succeed that night.

A couple of months ago, I complained about the Taco Bell just down the street. It was the third time I've contacted TB about that store. I don't patronize that location any more and I told them I wouldn't. They have never contacted me.

Today, I praised the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant just down the street for general outstanding service.

Reporting bad service makes me stop and consider, and reflect specifically on what bothered me about the service. Reporting good service makes me feel good that I've taken the time to offer praise to someone who is praiseworthy.


  1. I suppose it's good to see this from the other side of the counter. Yes, GOOD service should be praised. I agree.

  1. On some levels, I believe that the anonymity of the internet has spawned a new generation of sarcastic complainers. I rarely voice my displeasure in a restaurant. If I return two more times to find the food or service unacceptable, I simply quit going there.
    I do try to let someone know when their service has been very good. I know that most service staff hear far too many complaints and not enough kudos. Well written sir.

  1. I'd hate to be in customer service. I have enough trouble with students who think their teachers are in the customer service of giving them good grades just because they paid tuition.

  1. Oh the customer is most certainly responsible. The old adage that the customer is always right is fine and dandy but often times the customer is an A hole.

    Trust me I know I worked for Kaiser. In a call center. As a lead. Handling customer complaints. It's the reason I hardly ever answer my own phone!

  1. Linda says:

    You want a customer service headache try being on the other end of a 911 call when all the person wants to do is yell at you to stop asking stupid %&^&*ing questions and send the stupid $&*%ing ambulance. Sometimes it's all I can do to not hang up on them.

    I've never understood how it is that people seem to think that being rude will get them better service but things sure seem to be going that way.

    I have written many a letter thanking people for their exceptional service and letting their superiors know that they've got good employees as it seems we only tend to point out the bad and not the good way too many times. I figure if someone takes the time to acknowledge good customer service then the person providing it is more apt to continue as they know it's been noticed and appreciated.

  1. barb says:

    Oh, I agree with you, Trav. And I do many of the things you suggested - As the buyer and the seller.

    The tag line on my business web site says, "Call us today. We promise someone nice will answer the phone!".

    I can not tell you how many people end our initial conversation by mentioning that line and saying how refreshing it was to find that it was true!

    I never forget that I sell the same parts that many of my competitors sell. It's my Customer Service that sets me apart and keeps my customers coming back to me.

  1. Akelamalu says:

    I have no problem complaining about bad service because if I get good service I always praise. I think it is apalling the way some people speak to those in the service industry - there is no excuse for rudeness.

  1. Bond says:

    I do that often. If the customer service lacks and the person is rude, I will contact a supervisor.

    I ahve also contacted supervisors when someone has gone out of the way to assist me.

    Once I asked the Customer Service person who had done an excellent job if there was a survey I could respond to. They must have thought I was going to complain because they hesitated, and I said "To make sure you get credit for a great job"...they switched me over to the survey immediately!

  1. Today when I dropped my machine off at the Singer corporate office, I told the lady how wonderful the 800 customer service people are.

    I usually go out of my way to brag on good service. I know how much it is appreciated. What most people don't realize it may be the line of keeping or relieving an employee. Some companies even reward their employees for positive customer comments.

  1. Cherie says:

    Heck, I thought that was just a part of being a decent human being. :)

  1. JohnH985 says:

    A very good post sir. I've been thinking about writing a post about the customer in customer service. As someone who works in a customer service related job I agree with you 100%. I hate bad customer service, but I also think that there is no excuse for the customer to be rude either. And I agree that it's nice when I get called to the front of the store to talk to a customer (and of course I'm figuring it's a problem) and when I get there they want to tell me how great their service was and what a help the associate was. That's really nice.

  1. Kanani says:

    Today, I had some great customer service and I let the company know it. The fridge I ordered didn't fit. Long story won't go into it.
    I told the guys they'd have to take it back and get my old one back. It was a hot nasty day, and they did it without any complaints.

    Anyway, I called their company and gave them a good word.

  1. Cheesy says:

    Extra cheese and olives please

  1. jennifer says:

    I've lost my cool with a drive thru employee ONE time and I regretted it horribly (I uttered the phrase "DO NOT talk to me like I am an idiot!!!"). My children were shocked at the tone that their usually friendly mother took with a stranger.

    I wound up calling them back and apologizing for my behavior - in front of the kids. The employee really was bad but my kids faces made me feel like I was worse.

    I have called and complimented service many times. It has to be refreshing NOT to hear a gripe on the other end of the line because the managers always sound so reserved.

  1. TopChamp says:

    Nah - not gonna play.

    I had bad service in my eyes this morning when the supermarket cashier practically threw my food at me down the counter as she was hurrying because she was the only till operator on at 8am.... but she was the only person on and I got revenge by taking my money out and unrolling each note slowly and carefully. And if I had been in a hurry I'd probably have considered that good service - so it's a bit subjective.

    I'll reserve this for when I'm really impressed or really angry. I'll try to remember to praise.`

  1. Julie says:

    The sad thing is many people will whine about a minor infraction yet it take extreme good deeds to receive praise in customer service.

  1. I think people always go over and beyond with praise. I try to remember none of us are perfect and we all have bad days.

  1. Jeni says:

    What a great post, Travis! I agree that the consumer has a bit part to play in the customer service -whether it be good or bad. I say that after having worked in customer service for many, many years too.

  1. another great post travis.

    having kids who have at some point have worked in the service I tend to feel somewhat maternal...

  1. Mags says:

    You're right in that good service rarely gets it's praise on a consistent basis. I was with a friend this weekend who has started thanking employees by their name when they've really impressed him.

    Not a huge deal, but each time he did it I saw the people stop and pause and then smile a little bigger. Telling their manager would have been a better step.

  1. I used to report both bad & good customer service. Both got me all kinds of free goodies. I don't have the time these days, unfortunately. I was forced to write a letter to my mortgage company recently, however. They're SOOOO getting on my nerves! Looking forward to their response.

  1. Sorry I'm late - just catching up.

    When I was in grad school, I took a services management class, and one of the projects we had to do was write eight letters, four complaint ones and four COMPLIMENTARY ones to businesses. It wasn't that difficult to write complimentary things, but it made us all think that the only way service would get any better would be to acknowledge the good as well as the bad. Set the precedent, you know?