Dealing with customer service representatives can be a horrendous experience, plagued by rudeness. How many hours have you spent on the phone or over email explaining the same situation to different people until you manage to find the person who can finally help with your issue? Maybe you’ve even been in a situation where that person never surfaces. If we pooled all those hours of collectively lost time we might have already developed a tool to replace terrible customer service.

Positive, and useful customer service requires a variety of skills. You would need a manual the size of Tolstoy’s opus to fit in all of the subtle and soft skills amazing customer service representatives possess. My fondest customer service experiences are those in which it is clear I am being genuinely cared for, respected, assisted, and heard. The result is that I feel understood and satisfied. As Seth Godin wrote recently, the first promises kept are hints that you will keep future promises. Despite the nuance required for these positions, customer service does not need to be complicated.

Organizations will not succeed if they do not empower their staff to solve problems independently, respond to situations contextually, and ensure each customer feels like a priority. Customer service is a culture, a process, a system which is as important for leadership as it is for frontline sales staff—customer service comes from the top-down. Staff who respond to customer issues with disdain  will only hurt your business whether it is staff retention, or customer retention. There are no shortage of customer service horror stories out there, and for good reason. The Internet knows people love to share poor customer service stories, engaging their collective outrage towards the next restaurant, boutique or corporation who makes a customer feel small, powerless, or out of place.

Customer Service is No Service