When customer service is a perfect paitning

Was your Customer Service once beautiful?

“There is one great difficulty with a good hypothesis. When it is completed and rounded, the corners smooth and the content cohesive and coherent, it is likely to become a thing in itself, a work of art. It is then like a finished sonnet or a painting completed. One hates to disturb it. Even if subsequent information should shoot a hole in it, one hates to tear it down because it was once beautiful and whole.”- John Steinbeck, Sea of Cortez.)

The one hypothesis we all hold dear as the ‘perfectly complete painting’ is the quality of our customer service. How many people, staff members, companies and executives firmly believe that their customer service is perfect? Do you?

Even when information or customer feedback or staff feedback shoots a hole in it, still they hate to tear it down, they hate to revisit what they think and ultimately believe what good customer service is.

Why do we behave this way?

  • Is it too difficult?
  • Are we afraid of the truth?
  • Is the sunk cost too high?
  • Do we have too much of our self (our own identity) wrapped up in the service we think we deliver?
  • Do we want to avoid the consequences of discovering the real truth?

Stew Leonard was awarded 1992 Guinness Book of World Records for largest sales per square foot for a single grocery store: $115 million in sales, $3,470 per square foot.  Stew Leonard’s philosophy can be summarised as follows: “You will never ever need a consultant, all that you have to do is be on the floor and talk to your customers. Every day I am on the floor asking my customer what they want. If they say we like the flowers in this type of bouquet, then I say to Stew Junior when you go to the market tomorrow please see if you can get this type of flower…”

Now this sounds easy! But it is not. The reason being, you need to really listen to your customers and know them. You need to treat them as family. They are not a ‘demographic we need to satisfy. Customers are human beings and a lot smarter than we might credit them with. David Ogilvy famously quipped that the ‘consumer is not a moron, she is your wife’.

In the Disney movie Big Hero 6 the film Robotics prodigy Hiro lives in the city of San Fransokyo. Hiro's closest companion is Baymax, a robot whose sole purpose is to take care of people. Often our protagonist, Hiro, had to come up with plans to overcome evil and adversity, and his favourite tactic was hang upside down and look at the problem differently.

We also need to hang upside down when looking at customer service.

How can you ‘hang upside down’ and look at it differently? It is the oldest cliché in the business but great customer service I simply about this: find out what the customer wants and give it to them.



·         Pause the research and just ASK and LISTEN. Get on the floor and ask them what they like, or not like. It is your shop you are allowed to talk to them and I know that they want to talk to you.

·         Do you know the ‘persona’ of your customers? Are they the “smart adventurer” Not that they are 25-35 year old urban males earning…blah, blah….. And once you understand that, what does it mean in practice?

·         Shop your own store from the outside in: Let your staff walk in customer shoes on and buy from your store. Think, see and experience the touch points from a customer’s point of view. If your internal processes are not working for the customer at the touch points and moments of truth fix it, change it or throw it in the bin!



·         Make sure it is NOT about selling along. Develop a bigger purpose for your staff, not just selling to customers but inviting them into your place of fun, solutions and engagement. You might the only person that day that makes the customers’ day – and they will repay you handsomely for it, if not today, tomorrow.

·         When staff are not confident in themselves and their products, they struggle to focus on the customer. You need to be an authority in your field. You not only must know your products and services but you need to know your customers and most importantly why they buy from you. (Consumers use the internet to educate themselves about products, so it takes serious training and dedication to actually stay ahead of the curve.)

·         Customers buy from you because like you, like what you stand for, like you because you are similar and not only because they can get the product from you. 

·         You are not your customers. Don’t buy what you like, don’t sell the way you like. Do it for them, do it their way, not your way. If you want to make money, you can’t listen to Frank Sinatra because doing it my way is the wrong way.


Have Fun


GANADOR: Turning challenges into opportunities with smart people solutions

(PS: Thanks to Moonyeen for writing most of the post this week when time was at a premium)

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On being biased

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