Categorized | Customer Care, Support EDGE

Customer Service Foundations (part 1)

Let’s try an experiment. Think of a situation where you were the customer and you received bad customer service. This could be a restaurant that you visited. It could be a trip you took, a hotel you stayed in, an airline you used. Maybe you recently purchased an appliance or a computer.

Think of one situation where things didn’t go so well. Got it? Now ask yourself: what was it exactly about that experience that made it a bad customer experience for you. See if you can boil it down to a single word.All customers have two basic needs: they have a technical need—and by technical I’m not referring to a computer need but rather to the reason they seek out a service to begin with. But they also have another, more important need that we tend to overlook: Let’s call this their “personal” need. There’s is a difference between the two needs.

For instance, say you visit a restaurant (maybe that was the situation you had in mind for our experiment); if so, your technical need is food. Are you necessarily a satisfied customer just because you received the food?

Well, not necessarily. Maybe the food was cold; or the wait person was rude; or it took too long to get it. If any of those happens, most likely you won’t return to that restaurant any time soon! Your technical need was met; but your personal need wasn’t.

Now think back to the bad customer-service experience that you thought of a moment ago. Chances are, the thing that made that experience a bad one had to do with the way you received the service, and not the product itself (they were rude, they weren’t responsive, they were uncaring, they gave you the run-around, etc.).

Returning to our restaurant analogy, if the food came out cold, but the wait staff bent over backwards to make it right—maybe they apologized profusely, or made the meal free, or they gave you a free dessert. If they practiced service recovery, you’ll likely go back to that restaurant even though your technical need was not met.

Why? Because we tend to judge the value of service based on our personal need rather than our technical need. In fact, at least in the short term, meeting the personal need is even more important than meeting the technical need. Customer service consists of providing exceptional service, regardless of whether you are able to meet the technical need or not. That requires setting your customer’s expectation, and then exceeding that expectation.

Well that wraps up part 1 of our three-part series on customer-service foundations. Join us next time when we’ll look at the full range of consequences that stem from a single bad customer-service experience. Until then, be sure all your support activities are customer-focused, performance-driven, and outcomes-based.


Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is principal and lead consultant of SCInc., a learning and development consulting company. Eric has over 20 years experience in creating and executing results-oriented, outcomes-based learning and development initiatives aligned to corporate goals. He specializes in leadership development and coaching, and leading organizational culture-change initiatives around customer support and safety leadership. Eric was personally involved in the development of certification standards, performance standards, exam validation, competency models and training for the customer-support and technical-support industry, and was instrumental in the creation of the only performance-based certification in that industry.

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