Impact Learning Systems


Customer Service: Get the Basics Right First John Freshney

delight sml Customer Service: Get the Basics Right FirstAs a cus­tomer ser­vice con­sul­tant I think that I am some­times as guilty as any­one of over-analyzing cus­tomer ser­vice, look­ing for some­thing really com­plex that dri­ves the ideal cus­tomer expe­ri­ence.  The other week I had an enlight­en­ing expe­ri­ence that reminded me that cus­tomer ser­vice is really quite sim­ple, and that just get­ting the basics right is often enough to cre­ate the per­fect cus­tomer experience.

The expe­ri­ence

Here is the story of my expe­ri­ence and the con­clu­sions I drew from it.

Our faith­ful old wash­ing machine took ill and unfor­tu­nately died sud­denly. I took it upon myself to find the replace­ment. I guess you could say that I was in “cri­sis pur­chase mode”, anx­ious to get it sorted, so the last thing I wanted was more stress than was already being cre­ated by the absence of a work­ing wash­ing machine.

The inter­net has made shop­ping won­der­fully easy and I soon found a num­ber of sup­pli­ers. I nar­rowed this down to two that I rec­og­nized and who had the widest ranges, at com­pa­ra­ble prices. I started to com­pare machines on one supplier’s web­site, pages were slow to load and it was dif­fi­cult to find spec­i­fi­ca­tions of dif­fer­ent machines to com­pare them. Frus­trated, I gave up on that sup­plier, even though it appeared to be slightly cheaper, it was too much like hard work!  I con­cen­trated on the other sup­plier, who I had used on rare occa­sions in the past with­out any mem­o­rable problems.

The sec­ond supplier’s web­site loaded quickly and I was eas­ily able to com­pare machine spec­i­fi­ca­tions; great, a much bet­ter expe­ri­ence.  I nar­rowed the options down and selected the machine I thought best. There was one prob­lem, I wanted a spe­cific func­tion that wasn’t shown in the spec­i­fi­ca­tions.  Hav­ing checked a cou­ple of times I couldn’t decide, so with some reluc­tance I decided to tele­phone the cus­tomer ser­vice help-line, as sug­gested on the site.

I dialed the num­ber and pre­pared to put my feet up, expect­ing to queue and wait for a response. The phone was answered within sec­onds; and by the friendly voice of a human being too!  I explained my prob­lem, the machine I was con­sid­er­ing, and the spe­cific func­tion I needed. The agent didn’t know the answer but said she’d phone me back within the hour. Just 20 min­utes later (she’d obvi­ously been trained in under-promise, over-deliver) the agent called me back with the answer; the machine did have the func­tion I needed. I was impressed with the quick response, but more impressed because, even though she couldn’t answer my ques­tion, she imme­di­ately took respon­si­bil­ity for find­ing the answer on my behalf. She could so eas­ily have passed the buck (as so often hap­pens) by giv­ing me a num­ber to call for tech­ni­cal advice. All great so far.

I placed the order online and paid pain­lessly (apart from the pain of part­ing with my hard earned cash). I was able to pick a deliv­ery date to suit my avail­abil­ity, I also had the option of select­ing fast deliv­ery but I chose the fol­low­ing Fri­day.  Finally, the sys­tem promised me a phone call, one hour before deliv­ery; so that I could make sure that I was avail­able (I didn’t have to tie the whole day up wait­ing just in case the deliv­ery arrived with­out warn­ing). Perfect!

Unex­pect­edly, the day before the deliv­ery was due I received an email con­firm­ing that the deliv­ery would be on Fri­day as promised, and that it would be in the after­noon. Nice to be kept up to date and, even bet­ter, I didn’t have to wait in dur­ing the morn­ing of deliv­ery, just the after­noon. Excellent!

Fri­day arrived and at 1.00pm I had a tele­phone call (as promised) to say the deliv­ery would be around 2.00pm.  The machine was deliv­ered a few min­utes before 2.00pm. The two deliv­ery men were polite, fast & effi­cient, but still had time for a bit of friendly ban­ter. They had been well trained too and clearly knew their stuff because they also gave me a few fit­ting tips and advice before they left.  I started the task of installing the new machine around 1 hour later we had a fully work­ing wash­ing machine again. Brilliant!

My take-away points

The com­pany got it right in the fol­low­ing ways:

Rep­u­ta­tion and cus­tomer pre-conceptions

  • I had heard noth­ing bad about the com­pany to deter me from using them in the first place
  • My pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences, whilst not par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable, were not tar­nished in any way
  • Nobody, friends, col­leagues or rel­a­tives, had sug­gested that I don’t use them

Prod­ucts and services

  • They had the range of products/services that I was look­ing for
  • They made their prod­ucts and ser­vices eas­ily acces­si­ble to me
  • They didn’t make me (the cus­tomer) work hard to find and com­pare products.

Sys­tems and processes

  • I didn’t even notice their sys­tems and processes; they made them invis­i­ble to me as the customer.
  • They had trained their staff to oper­ate the sys­tems and apply the processes effi­ciently and with sub­con­scious ease
  • They didn’t ask unnec­es­sary or unwar­ranted questions


  • Their com­mu­ni­ca­tion was accu­rate and timely through­out the process
  • They always deliv­ered or exceeded what they had promised
  • They stayed linked with me through­out the process
  • They pleas­antly sur­prised (and reas­sured me) by over-communicating

The peo­ple touch points

  • Either they were very lucky or they had care­fully selected the right staff
  • The staff had been trained well in both knowl­edge and behavior
  • They had embod­ied the right atti­tude; one of own­er­ship and tak­ing respon­si­bil­ity in all of the staff that I dealt with

My con­clu­sions

In the exam­ple I’ve described above, I can hon­estly say that I was delighted by the com­pany and my expe­ri­ence as a cus­tomer. They did not how­ever, do any­thing more than I expected or they had promised. They got all the basics right!

Delight; the icing on the cake

I would be the first to pro­mote the con­cept of offer­ing the cus­tomer more than just a good expe­ri­ence, aim­ing to delight them. Delight is the icing on the cake of the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. By all means aim to delight your cus­tomers, but make sure you’ve got the basics right first. Plac­ing empha­sis on try­ing to delight your cus­tomers is a waste of effort if the basics are not right in the first place.

John Fresh­ney is Lead Con­sul­tant for UK based Wise­crow Cus­tomer Ser­vice Con­sul­tancy. He is a pas­sion­ate advo­cate of excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice and spends much of his time work­ing with UK com­pa­nies, help­ing them to max­imise their cus­tomer expe­ri­ence poten­tial. He firmly believes that the route to cus­tomer loy­alty is through deliv­er­ing excel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice and the cre­ation of an unfor­get­table cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. John has a back­ground in retail and train­ing man­age­ment and has worked for a num­ber of national orga­ni­za­tions through­out the UK. He is an accom­plished con­sul­tant, trainer and busi­ness coach, and has lec­tured in lead­er­ship and man­age­ment for a num­ber of HE and FE col­leges in the UK.
 Customer Service: Get the Basics Right First
John Freshney
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  • Anony­mous

    "By all means aim to delight your cus­tomers, but make sure you’ve got the basics right first."

    What's the point of icing if you don't have the cake? We are always look­ing for ways to be big­ger and bet­ter, but you have to make sure the basics are in order 100% of the time before you look for a new way to please your customers.

  • Bill Quiseng

    As a for­mer lux­ury hotel GM, I would say "Mints on the pil­low don't mean a lot if the bed is not made."
    I'd tell the team to "Be Mag­nif­i­cently Bor­ing."  When deliv­er­ing error free ser­vice so rep­e­ti­tiously day in and day out, it can seem to the provider as bor­ing. Yet in offer­ing such an expe­ri­ence, it is felt by the cus­tomer as mag­nif­i­cent because it is sim­ply bet­ter than expected. John, I agree with you that the best com­pa­nies make cus­tomer ser­vice com­mon prac­tice by get­ting the basics right first.

  • John Fresh­ney

    Thanks for your com­ments Bill and I love the exam­ple you give too. I remem­ber being in a restau­rant and hear­ing a waiter mut­ter­ing as he left the table of a com­plain­ing cus­tomer, “and they had extra mints with their cof­fee. What do you have to do to make some peo­ple happy?” My wife was quicker than me to respond, “Make sure the coffee’s hot per­haps”. It’s true, delight fac­tors can enhance the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence but it is get­ting the basics right that forms the foun­da­tion for it.

  • cus­tomer ser­vice video

    Dear John,

    This is a great post — what's unique is that you point out the role that tech­nol­ogy plays in cus­tomer service.…

    We often just think of the human ele­ment, but ensur­ing that a web­sites, emails, etc. work smoothly, those are fac­tors too…

  • John Fresh­ney

    Thanks for your com­ments and glad you like the post.

    The key thing that the sit­u­a­tion rein­forced for me is that every­thing a busi­ness does impacts on the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence in some way. Get­ting all of those basic things right forms the foun­da­tion for the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, and then you can raise this still fur­ther by cre­at­ing the delight fac­tors.

    Thanks again for tak­ing the time to read my post.

  • Jason Noble

    Nice post.  Good to see cus­tomer ser­vices being done so well, from the begin­ning of your inter­ac­tion with these guys, right through to com­ple­tion.  And as you rightly say, it's about delight.

  • John Fresh­ney

    Thanks Jason. Wouldn't it be great if more com­pa­nies raised the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence by doing some of these sim­ple things for their customers.

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