Customer Service: The Good, The Bad & The Lessons

Customer ServiceWe find ourselves in an interesting time.  Consumer behaviour has never been more fickle, retail has never been tougher, communication has never been easier while at the same time harder to manage and competition has never been tougher, as we now all operate on a world stage.

So while it may be easier to find new customers, it is harder to keep them – the game has changed!

Customer Service has never been more relevant and vital.  Without Exceptional Customer Service, any business cannot thrive, grow or survive long term.

For the most part, retailers are learning to play a new game in a new location.  The Internet and Social Media have meant that customers can share their experiences, good & bad, immediately.

Retailers need to look at every great customer service story as an experience to replicate and a bad customer service story as one not be repeated.


Let’s analyse good and bad Customer Service Experiences and create a list of tips:


I recently visited a new store. It was clean, shiny & had smiley staff. They greeted me nicely, they gave me some space.  Great start but it was downhill from there.

I observed the following;  A customer asked for batteries which went with the product, they didn’t have any and didn’t know where they could go to get some.  They only had one last item which was marked and the customer asked If they could order another for her. She was met with blank stares and shrugs.  One remembered the owner (who was not there) mentioning a book and the other said it was only her 2nd day.  Ultimately this was not the customer’s problem.  She asked them to find out while she waited.  The 2nd-dayer then told her there was nothing she could do and that she could come back when the owner was in,in 2 days – she thought!!!  They then became rude and ignored her and the other people in the store!! Won’t be back there & will be warning my friends – and hey I am active in social media so quite a few people heard about it!!

If the owner / manager had been in the store at the time they would be advised to take that as a massive lesson in setting up communication processes and procedures; stocking associated product, setting a procedure for customer orders, informing staff of deliveries, being in constant communication with new staff etc


I love coffee and go out of my way to get great coffee.  For years, I have been buying coffee from the same store, they roast the beans and freshly grind them for me in the store.  They know what my blend is without me asking, they offer me a coffee if there is a bit of a wait (busy, popular store), they suggest new blends and combinations and they are engaging and friendly with everyone which makes the wait time fly.  They also stock great blends of tea, gorgeous cups and saucers, coffee machines (basic to Ferrari version!), wide variety of yummy chocolate (perfect companion to coffee).  They have just recently started selling online.  This is a great store, a wonderful retail business and one that makes everyone who shops there feel better than when they entered.

It is not just what they have in store but how they do everything that contributes to the store’s success.  Did I mention that 90% of their staff have remained unchanged for the past 5 years at least and that 3 of them have been working there over 10 years? Impressive!


Every week between 20-30 people meet in a café in a nice north shore suburb, which is also surrounded by other cafes.  We are part of a social media ‘tweet-up’ group (social media members who meet up), between us they would easily have over 500,000 connections online.  You would think the owner would be happy to have the group weekly and promoting his establishment online and off?  Not so.  His staff treated us, the customers, rudely, begrudgingly taking orders, insisting we sit outside even on rainy days, drink from paper cups when outside and promptly be kicked out for the lunch crew.

Members of the group spoke to the owner constantly and he just insisted we sit outside, drink from paper cups and not stand up (council rules).  Exasperated, certain members (yes I was one) insisted an alternative be found.  My ethos is, “why reward bad behaviour with my money”??

When he was told we were leaving, he said it was for the best as we had been a real problem for him and his regular customers????!!!  WE were his regular customers too!  What he should have done was to find an alternative venue for us – the café owners all know each other, and could have been part of the solution.  We are now very happy 2 doors up and once again use Social Media to spread the word!!



  1. KNOW that Customer Service is giving your customer what they want, when they want it, not just the greeting as they come into your business.  Think of the total shopping experience and be prepared.
  2. TRAIN your staff – a comprehensive requirement and induction program is vital to ongoing success.
  3. Remember that customer Service is just GOOD MANNERS applied to your business, your customer and to every interaction you have.  Be Respectful especially in cases where there has been a less than positive experience, this will ensure emotions do not get in the way of resolving the issue positively.
  4. BE GENUINE. Smile when speaking to customers (especially on the phone), most people respond immediately when others smile at them.  It will also mean that they associate you with a positive experience.  People are always happy to do things that make them feel good repeatedly which is good for your business.
  5. USE Customer comments, feedback and complaints as tools to help shape future behaviour.  if something had a great response, do it again, apply it to other areas of your business & promote it.  Use complaints to put in systems and procedures to ensure this does not happen again.
  6. Lastly, HELP your customer in any way you can.  If you don’t have the product or service they want, point them in the right direction.  They will remember this and you will ultimately benefit.


Have Fun being the best retailer you can be!!

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