Written by Ian Landsman in

What Does Great Customer Service Mean To You?

When it comes to customer service, it’s possible to overthink it.

There are hundreds of studies and stats. There are psychology lessons and technology options that help us assess our customers’ feelings and feedback. There are tips and rules and trends and not enough time to absorb it all.

But… why is it so hard? We’re all humans, right?

  • We’d rather our food come out warm than cold.
  • We’d rather our bills be correct than incorrect.
  • We’d rather the too-expensive impulse buy we had to return gets refunded now rather than 6 weeks from now.
  • We’d rather be happy than sad, excited than aggravated. 

We’ve all had a bad experience at a store, or an aggravating call with a company we bought something from. We know what awful customer service is like. We know what we want it to be.

 So, why overthink the best practices? It seems like the secret to offering delightful customer service is to start by knowing how great customer service experiences make you feel.

You (The Customer) Feel Happy After It’s Over

Think back on a time when you called a customer support number, wrote an email or used the online chat feature. You’ve likely done one of these more than once. More than 10 times, even. Think of the best time, when someone on the other end legitimately saved your day. The time when you got everything you needed (even if it wasn’t everything you originally wanted).

Did you feel good after that interaction? That’s the whole point.

Sure, it’s a photo they’ve used a couple times. But it’ll make you smile.  

A company like Panera Bread gets plenty of complaints. Most legitimate, some… well, not so much. And it can be easy to make a customer, especially one who made a mistake or is in the wrong, feel like less of a person. When right is on your side, the challenge is not just to communicate that, but to do so without diminishing the other person in the situation.

It’s easy to meet hostility with apathy or equal animosity, but that’s not the answer. When your call is over, when that online chat signs off? The customer is not going to feel ashamed of their own behavior. They’re only going to remember that you sunk to their level. That your interaction was ugly.

 So avoid that pitfall. Focus on making the person feel good, like you felt that time someone really helped you.

You (The Customer) Feel Like Your Business is Valued

Your basic utilities. They’re not just nice to have, you need to have them.

There are many times we have to interact with businesses that offer products or services that fill needs, not wants. And quite often, there’s not a whole lot of competition to choose from. We’d like to feel like giving these companies our business is a choice, but it’s often more a function of proximity or necessity. 

Wouldn’t it be delightful if that need was reciprocal? It’s nice when a business representative treats you as though you chose their service for something besides a lack of other options. Unfortunately, we’ve all been on the receiving end of a conversation with an unsympathetic someone who knows you don’t have other options.

They don’t have to work very hard to keep you, so they don’t, and you stay.

Providing great customer service means treating everyone as though they are an important relationship you could lose… and making it clear that losing them would matter.

You (The Customer) Feel Like Your Unique Circumstances Mattered

One issue with an overly refined customer service process is that it feels that way: processed. The reality however, is that every customer is an individual and customers’ needs vary.

Remember, there are all kinds of reasons that customers:

  • Can’t pay their bills
  • Want to change their meal
  • Need to cancel a reservation
  • Have a question prior to purchase
  • Want clarification on a policy change
  • Could use a little bit more help from you…

 … Would just love to connect with a real human. Customer to customer rep. Person to person.

 Empathy matters. You’ve probably heard the saying: "A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine." That expression may apply between co-workers or between a 6th grader with a homemade volcano due tomorrow and an extremely tired mom.

But in customer service, their emergency is your emergency. Someone who recently lost a job and now has to downgrade a beloved service or return a previously-purchased product could use more than a scripted process and standard protocol. They could use a friend.

Why Great Customer Service Matters to You (The Company)

This is all very sweet in a fluffy, touchy feely kind of way. Save the day. Turn dependence into mutual respect. Be a friend. But what’s the benefit?

As people, all we really want, from our personal relationships to our careers to our interactions at the checkout counter, is to feel valued, heard and acknowledged. The best customer service person knows that and makes their customers feel like they matter. Like they are more than their money, like they are more than just another spoke in the wheel of economic supply and demand.

When a company delivers that feeling, they increase the likelihood a customer will be loyal to the business. "Meh" impressions aren’t memorable impressions. Awesome interactions breed engagement. Repeat business. Word of mouth referrals. 

After all, when you make a customer feel great, you feel great too, right? Why else would you be doing this?

Think about the times that were miserable, and think about the times that were rewarding. Remember that you have a choice of how you interact with others. Provide a better experience than you had, not only because it’s mandatory in the handbook or because it’s good for the business, but simply because that’s what you’d want if you were the customer.


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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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