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3 brilliant customer service lessons

Wow customers with outstanding service

Good customer service is talked about time and time again.

After a negative customer service experience, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for it, according to Help Scout. And bad experiences are twice as likely to be shared than good ones.

Brilliant customer service is particularly important for small businesses, as their service can be the very thing that sets them apart from our increasing competition. As renowned business strategist, Tiffani Bova, says:

Customer experience is the last source of sustainable differentiation and the new competitive battleground.

But we can learn from every situation, bad and good.

So, in the interests of nosiness, here are the three tales of surprising service, from the customers themselves – and the lessons we can learn from them…

A friend told a tale of their experience in a (remaining nameless) high street clothing store. On a moderately busy Saturday, a huge queue formed and began snaking around the rails, while a lone stressed shop assistant manned one of the three available tills. After five minutes, no one had moved.

Looking around at the other assistants absently tidying shelves and railings, she asked the manager if they wouldn’t mind opening another till. Instead of obliging, the manager suggest she ‘try her luck’ with the till upstairs.

When met with a bemused expression, the manager elaborated with ‘it’s only 30 seconds away’. Blinking with disbelief, my friend handed her goods to the manager and left the shop. Several other shoppers also followed suit.


Lesson: Accommodate your customers’ needs.

If they don’t spend with you, they are not your customer. So make it really easy for them to give you their custom.

Another story sounds like a tale from Fawlty Towers. A colleague treated their wife to a birthday surprise of a weekend at a spa hotel. That was where the nice surprised ended. It was instead a disaster from the moment they arrived.

Miscommunication between masseurs meant getting walked in on mid-undress; treatment room next to kitchen (cue ‘YES CHEF!’, numerous expletives and the unsoothing sounds of ‘cling, clang, bash, scrape’; no hot water (discovered mid-shower lather); missed their dinner reservation because of hot water issue (hotel manager didn’t hold the booking as promised); completely ignored at breakfast due to a wedding party, so had to self-serve (which it wasn’t designed for).

The upshot was that they were offered no compensation other than free birthday balloons and a drink while they waited for dinner. And no apology was ever given.


Lesson: Apologise when things go wrong.

A minor issue can feel like a big problem when something else hasn’t gone to plan. But an apology can go a long way to keeping good relations.

A cyclist friend bought a bike from a website, which is designed to cut out the middle-man and sell high-specification bikes at lower prices. The bike they ordered turned out to have a 12 week delivery time.

That was too long a wait, so they cancelled the order and went for a more expensive model with four weeks ‘shipping. Still, it took them 14 weeks to deliver the bike. Emails would go days without a response and they could never get through on the phones.

A few weeks after ordering, they were sent a parcel with cycling sunglasses and bike tools –a gift to make up for the delivery delay. But with no note explaining this or if they would be charged, it was assumed it was a wrong order and sent back.

When the bike eventually arrived, a part (which is only supplied by website) subsequently broke. It took a further five months for a replacement to be sent. The friend said that almost all of the company’s online reviews were bad, solely down to their poor customer service. Which is a shame as they sell great products.


Lesson: Never underestimate the power of proper customer service.

Done inadequately, it could be the reason for poor business. Done brilliantly, it can be the catalyst to your business growth.

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