Management Matters: 10 Commandments of Customer Service

Sept. 18, 2012
Effective ways to be of service to internal and external customers

OK, why would the boss leave this article on my desk? I am not customer service, I am operations; I am not customer service, I am maintenance; I am not customer service, I am accounting. Perhaps he or she is trying to tell you the entire organization is customer service.

Whenever we provide anyone associated with the organization, whether internally or externally, some form of communication, we are engaging in customer service.

No one is asking you to be a servant to anyone else; they are simply asking you to be of service to others. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Everyone has the power of greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”

Any time an interaction occurs between two individuals, whether inside our organization or outside, whether it is a vendor, a supplier, or a direct paying customer, we should all think about how we can be of service. In reality, we would desire them to be of service to us. Let’s take a look at what I consider the 10 Commandments of Customer Service.

1. Never stop smiling on the phone, in an email or in person. Whatever your primary method of customer contact is, there should be a smile contained in it. I ask you, is it possible to smile in an email, or on the phone, as you would when you greet your customer face to face? Of course it is! Think about it; everyone wants to do business with pleasant people; most customers will respond positively, thereby opening the door to turn the task into a relationship.   

2. Acknowledge every person who walks through the door, calls, emails, or communicates with you in any way. Not only is this both a display of professionalism and good manners but it communicates to the customer that they are “in and on your radar”. This proves especially beneficial in situations of peak traffic where the customer may need to wait for service. This technique diffuses the impatience of waiting because you have let them know you are aware and that you care.  

3. If at all possible erase the words “no,” “I don’t know,” and “We can’t do that” from your vocabulary. Replace them with “Let me find that out for you,” "Please allow me to check into that for you, I may have a better suggestion,” or, “I am happy to find someone who can answer that for you.” When you cannot offer what the customer needs, present alternatives. At all costs, do not leave them hanging with the question unanswered or the issue unresolved. By sticking with them and following through, you gain their respect and their trust.

4. State your name when answering customer service calls. Identifying yourself sends a clear message that you possess a service attitude, and adds immediate friendliness as well as professionalism to the conversation. It also prevents the other party from thinking you may not have any desire to assist them and that may well be why you have not offered your name.

5. None of us are fortunate enough to have customers that never have a problem! Most issues can be moved forward to a resolution by beginning with a sincere “Please accept my apology.” No one will appreciate you making excuses, and at this point they are irrelevant; what is relevant is diffusing the customer’s dissatisfaction, positioning them to be receptive to your potential solutions. Some people are reluctant to apologize, especially if they were not the one to cause the problem. It is important to remember this is not a personal issue; it is your job to develop skills to turn negative situations into positive ones. In addition to apologizing for the service failure, it is important to acknowledge that the company has let them down by saying “We have obviously not met your expectations.” 

6. The most important word in the English language to most people is the sound of their own name. Get to know your customers, call them by name whenever possible. Most of us have experienced the heartwarming feeling of someone we do not know well calling us by name. It leaves us feeling comfortable and with a desire to return at a future time. This is a key element in establishing long-term customer relationships and loyalty and changes a cold task to a warm sincere transaction.

7. Attitude, attitude, attitude; you have the choice to make it positive or negative. A positive attitude is a driving force toward happiness and success. Customers like to do business with happy successful people. If someone is having a bad day your positive upbeat attitude will be contagious and could end up being just the medicine they need.  

8. The customer is always right, even when they are not! What I mean here is that we can all see the same thing, or view the same event and draw different conclusions based on our perceptions. It therefore becomes important to remember that your customer may perceive something differently than you do, and who is “right” holds far less significance than understanding the difference in perception, which has the potential to ultimately lead to agreement.

9. Give the customer more than they expect. The concept of underpromising and overdelivering is not new, yet how many of us actually take the time or effort to deliver more than the customer expected. Master this skill and you are sure to build loyalty with your customers.

10. If a customer expectation cannot be met offer a choice of alternatives. There certainly are times when as much as we would like to deliver what the customer is asking for it may not be possible. If we can shift the customer’s focus to a couple of alternatives, we have interrupted the negative focus of the need not being met. The key to this is offering the customer the alternative choices, and letting them choose.

In the end, how a customer feels, more than what they think when they leave your facility or complete the transaction, will determine if you will ever see them again. Be cognizant of the fact that it is seven times more difficult to get a new customer than retain the one you have.

Challenge yourself; each week, add one new commandment to what you are already doing. If each employee in your organization did the same, the level of customer service would increase dramatically. Internally, you could expect to see more effective communications between co-workers, more cooperation and cohesiveness among teams, increased customer retention and loyalty, and an overall up-tick in morale and productivity.

About the Author

DeborahAnn Cavalcante

DeborahAnn Cavalcante earned her Masters in Aeronautical Science, with a specialization in Safety Management from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, FL, and her Bachelor of Science from VA Tech in Business and Risk Management. 

DeborahAnn Cavalcante leads Diversified Aviation Consulting (DAC) and along with her associates has firsthand experience in air carrier operations, private charter aircraft, general aviation operations, military/civilian interface, FBO management, maintenance repair station training, safety training, human factors training, and customer service training. For more information on DAC visit