Why Customer Service Can’t Always Be Taught

customer service headset

How do you teach customer service?

Some things just can’t be taught. 

I found my first job after college at The Danbury Mint – a high-end collectibles company selling porcelain dolls, figurines, sports memorabilia and the like – by seeing a newspaper advertisement before anyone else. As I was putting the finishing touches on an issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, I noticed an ad that promised to “teach you everything you need to know about direct marketing.” Knowing very little about marketing, I had a lot to learn.

The company delivered on its promise. At age 22, I managed several multimillion-dollar product lines, developing and executing marketing plans to grow sales. My love for marketing was officially kindled.

But what they didn’t teach me – what I sort of already knew but had to experience on my own – was how to deal with an angry customer.

One year during the week of Christmas, a call came through to my desk. I was in the Marketing department, not Customer Service, but the call somehow got to me and I answered it. An elderly lady was on the phone and she was livid. We were ruining her Christmas because the gift that she had bought her grandson had not arrived. It was December 23rd

As I listened to her talk, it was just instinct that kicked in. Christmas was not going to be ruined on my account!

I didn’t have access to the Customer Service system, so I wrote down her name and address and figured out what product she needed from a catalog on my desk. I walked over to our warehouse, which was luckily in the same building, and checked the product off the shelf. Then I packed it up in a box with plenty of shipping peanuts. Finally, I personally walked it over to the mailroom and made sure that the package got out the door via Overnight Express – to be delivered on the 24th. 

That wasn’t in any training manual. I may have even broken a company policy. But that was what my instinct said to do because I wanted to take care of that customer. And you know what? She became a customer for life.

These days, customer service – both good and bad – is played out in the open on social media. While there are countless examples of unfortunate gaffes and public relations nightmares on social, I prefer to focus on the positive. That’s why you’ll always see or hear me mentioning brands that are doing things right, but keeping the screw-ups anonymous.

Why? Because people are more willing to share positive customer experiences than negative ones; it’s just that as consumers we don’t have very many positive experiences. That’s why so much in social media focuses on the negative.

People are more willing to share positive customer experiences than negative ones. Click To Tweet

Some of the brands that are consistently getting it right include:

Which brands have stood out to you for a great customer experience? Share it on social media and tag me!

Excerpts taken from Winning at Social Customer Care by Dan Gingiss. Dan’s newest book, The Experience Maker, will be published in September and is available for pre-order now. [Affiliate links earn this site a small commission but do not affect your price.]