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A Lesson from Good Customer Service 

For those of you that don’t know me well, I have a background in Organizational Development and Training which means that I have consulted, coached, and trained employees and managers on various topics, including leadership and management, change management, team development, communication, and customer service.  I recently had an unpleasant experience with a business owner with whom I had contracted for some media development work.  I had concerns about some discrepancies between what was promised and what was being delivered.  From a customer service perspective, this gentleman broke all the rules to providing excellent customer service and resolving customer complaints.  He never engaged in a conversation about my concerns, decided that my complaining was more problematic for him as opposed to me, and wanted me and my concerns to simply go away, end of story. And while he chose not to take advantage of an opportunity to learn something valuable (about himself and his business), I thought I’d use the experience as a means to demonstrate how customer service principles apply to all relationships.

There are three basic rules to customer service.  These are:

  1. Understand the customer’s complaint thoroughly without making the customer wrong.

  2. Resolve the customer’s concerns, keep your customer satisfied, and keep your customer period, whenever possible.

  3. Use the customer service incident as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, your business, and how you can improve both.  Customer complaints are a means to better systems, performance, products and services, and finally, profits.

When I train employees on how to provide excellent customer service, we go through a scenario and list all the things that a customer would need and want in order to feel completely satisfied with the customer service experience.  Some of those things have included:

  • Understand the customer’s concerns—be a good listener first

  • Validate their feelings and upset over the situation

  • Explore possible solutions--be willing to think outside the box--demonstrate flexibility

  • Engage the customer in the process when appropriate; set limits when appropriate

  • Have one point of contact—don’t pass the buck or send the customer on a scavenger hunt

  • Say what you will do to resolve the problem and do what you say

  • Provide excellence in all products and services delivered

  • Follow-up and make sure that the plan was accurately executed and the problem was resolved

  • Make sure you have a system in place from which to analyze customer service issues in a way that results in quality management and improvement.

Think about a time when you called a company with a customer service issue and they responded by implementing the process outlined above.  Not only did you leave feeling satisfied, but you probably felt an increased loyalty and appreciation for the company.  In other words, your relationship with that company was enhanced, not diminished.  That is what a good customer relations process is all about.

The same goes for your relationships.  Think about all the different relationships you have in your life—family, friends, co-workers, partners, spouses, and neighbors.  Try applying basic customer service principles to all your encounters.  The next time someone in your life has a complaint or concern about you or their relationship with you, try doing the following:

  • Understand your friend’s or significant other’s concerns—be a good listener first

  • Validate their feelings and upset over the situation

  • Explore possible solutions--be willing to think outside the box--demonstrate flexibility

  • Engage this person in the process when appropriate; set limits when appropriate

  • Take responsibility for your part—don’t pass the buck or shift focus on something or someone else

  • Say what you will do to resolve the problem and do what you say

  • Provide excellence in all that you do—always do your best, even if it’s the best you can do in that moment

  • Follow-up and make sure that the plan worked for both of you  and the issue is resolved

  • Make sure you have an internal and external support system in place from which to analyze relationship issues in a way that results in your own growth and development.

It only goes to prove my theory on relationships.  ALL relationships have a very predictable developmental pathway.  Good relationship skills and understanding that developmental pathway leads to strong and fulfilling relationships with people and companies alike.  Take the time to learn the process.  Take the time to engage in your pathway to great relationships everywhere.

Be well,


Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery

Create Relationships in Your Life That Work — learn more at www.julieorlov.com 

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    Response: Felty Lembright
    julieorlov - Settling In - A Lesson from Good Customer Service

Reader Comments (4)

Excellent - and again relevant for both business and personal! How many times each day does one find oneself in this situation, and these "rules" are totally applicable.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Farmer

What an interesting perspective! Issues in personal relationships are so emotionally fueled. By applying a business context, it helps one to step back from the feelings of being blamed or attacked or being called wrong. The issue can be reframed, allowing it to be worked out in a more effective emotional space. In addition, the focus is put on the needs of the relationship, rather than just those of the individuals (as in what you call Phase 4).

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Ross

Thanks Mike for the comment. I agree. If we all treated each other like valued customers, the world would be such a lovely place!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

Thanks for the comment Denise. Yes, sometimes we need the distance to see the whole picture and take our personal fears and reactions out of it. And yes, just like customer service, the goal goes beyond the needs of the customer, the goal is also about the relationship between customer and business.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradmin

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