A human skull sitting on a black desk
A human skull sitting on a black desk

Bad Customer Service, the Slow Death of Your Business

Paul Kiernan

Businesses need to be aware that, despite everything going online, the need for good customer service is just as critical now as it was back in the day.

Customer service was epitomized by the gas jockeys who used to offer full service at the local filling station. In snappy uniforms with hats, they greeted you with a smile, filled your tank, washed the windows, and were in constant motion of helpfulness.

With the gas shortages of the 70s, the full-service gas station attendants became things of the past. And, in some small way, the loss of these peppy, happy boys signaled the slow death of good customer service. With the advent of self-serve, self-checkout, and the avoidance of any kind of human contact in businesses around the country, shopping online, grocery and food deliveries being the norm, the idea of customer service has slipped quite a bit.

Businesses need to be aware that, despite everything going online, the need for good customer service is just as critical now as it was back in the day.

What is Good Customer Service

We all know when we’ve faced lousy customer service. There is a disconnect between you and the person providing this service. When you ask a question, they reply, “I don’t know.” The customer service person is more interested in their phone or their friends who dropped by to visit them at work. We could go on and on with examples of bad customer service, so what is good customer service?

The basics of good customer service are the three Ps, professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. If your people are strong in these three, you’re sure to have a good customer service base to grow on.

Let’s break these three down a bit.


A man in a suit with a briefcase crossing a black and white crosswalk.

This is a difficult quality to define. Some say a professional means you get paid for the work you do. Some say it's how someone dresses, in a suit and tie, but that's not true.

A professional is defined as the competence or skill expected of a professional. Well, that doesn’t help much, does it? And, seriously, who uses the word in the definition?

Professionalism means someone who has trained, studied, and worked in their chosen field for a certain amount of time and knows more than just the basics of the work. They have insight, deep knowledge, and a love for the work that allows them to go above and beyond just the basic answers.

A professional stands out above an amateur by how they do the job and the knowledge they bring to the situation. The knowledge they’ve gained by working in the field and understanding the ins and outs of the operation.

And a professional has a passion for the job that fuels them and pushes them to do better and be better at the job every day.


In 1360, English poet William Langland wrote in his poem “Piers Plowman” that “patience is a virtue.” Virtue is defined as behavior showing high moral standards. That makes perfect sense, as patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

It certainly takes a lot of moral and intestinal fortitude to deal with some things the general public can drop on the average customer service worker. So being patient requires a lot, but losing your patience with a customer or potential customer costs a lot as well.

One of the keys to being patient is listening, listening beyond the raised voices, maybe the foul language, and hearing what is at the core of the complaint, then acting quickly and decisively to rectify the situation. This sounds simple, but when an angry customer is shrieking at you, it takes a great deal of strength not just to say fuck it and yell back.

Patience is evident when it’s lacking and usually not noticed when it’s present. Nevertheless, you want to stress patience with your customer service people.

People-first Attitude

This is a reimagined version of “the customer is always right,” which has been the motto of customer service since the dawn of time.

A people-first attitude means putting aside your needs, your frustrations, and your ego in the service of the customer, making them and their needs the center of your world.

But excellent customer service is driven by a passion for helping people, not just doing it because it’s the job description. Being authentically interested in making the customer's experience the best it can makes for excellent customer service.

Why Customer Service is Important

A man screaming into a telephone.

Good customer service is a building block to a strong relationship with your customers. Good customer service can easily bring a customer back, while poor customer service can cause damage you may not even know about until it’s too late.

There are three reasons why good customer service is vital to your business. Here we go.

Customer Loyalty

When building relationships with your customers, loyalty plays a huge role. Good customer service engenders trust, which leads to customers being loyal for life. Loyal customers will fight for a brand and spread the good word about your business.

Brand Awareness and Reputation

Trust, and a good customer service experience can lead to brand loyalty. Brand loyalty means word-of-mouth positive reviews and the possibility of a growing customer base. Lousy customer service can result in loss of customers and a bad reputation. Once you get a bad reputation, getting you out from under it will take a significant rebrand.

More Revenue

A positive customer service experience means higher revenues. HubSpot did a little research and found that 84% of businesses that implemented a course correction and improved their customer service reported an increase in revenue. This report also showed companies could grow revenues between 4% and 8% when prioritizing better customer service.

A Few Tips for Improving Customer Service

There are a few things you can focus on to start improving your customer service. Simple changes will make a world of difference.

A lighted banner reading service.


When it comes to your customer service reps, the more in-depth their knowledge of the company is, the better they can serve your customers. Nothing frustrates a customer more than hearing “I don’t know” when a question is asked and then getting passed on to someone “who might know.” I don’t know and might know, set the customer up for fear of long waits, wrong answers, and the feeling that no one understands them.

Make sure your customer service reps know the business, know who does what, and can answer all manner of questions, from the banal to the intricate, with grace, kindness, and patience. Knowledgeable customer service reps reduce frustration and go a long way to building solid relationships.

Empower Them

The Walt Disney World Corp has an excellent policy when it comes to customer service. They strive to make the guest experience as memorable and pain-free as possible. To do this, they have empowered every single employee, or cast member, to do what needs to be done to make the guest experience great.

For example, if one of the shop workers or street cleaners sees a little girl drop her ice cream cone, the cast member doesn’t have to call a manager or get permission; they can walk up to the ice cream vendor and say, I need an ice cream for this little girl, she dropped hers, and it’s done.

Often customer service personnel feel powerless, and they can get a 'why bother' attitude because they have to go through so many channels to get something simple done for the customer. They find themselves the brunt of anger and hostility, and their hands are tied. By giving them the power to do all they can to improve the customer experience, they feel more connected and part of the company.

Another little Disney trick, employees are not allowed to say, “I don’t know.” Instead, they say, “I will find out right now.” And they do.

Acknowledge Good Customer Service

Employee of the month has become a joke in movies and TV shows, and maybe in your business. It has risen to the level of parody, and that’s a shame because acknowledging great customer service is vital to keeping it at a high level.

Maybe do away with the predictability of employee of the month and make it a surprise. Randomly acknowledge good work. Remove the predictable nature of the employee of the moth ceremony and recognize someone every week or even every day and then change it up.

The problem with an employee of the month is some employees will see it as unfair, as people will do what needs to be done to get the award rather than doing great work just to do great work. Make it a surprise, something unique, and make sure when you do acknowledge the employee that it is sincere and unique to that person.

The Good Ol’ Days

A red view-master.

It’s easy to zone out when an older person talks about back in the day or in my time. The stories of the good ol’ days are full of nostalgia and often make us laugh. But when it comes to customer service, maybe taking a page out of the good ol’ days' playbook isn’t a bad idea.

The old idea of service for service's sake, doing a good job just because you have pride in your work and your company, and staying true to the customer is always right. Notions that seem to have gone away with the rise of technology and the scarcity of face-to-face communications with customers have made customer service a little lax.

You might need to encourage your customer service people to get a bit old school. Service with a smile, how can I help, backed by authenticity and pride, are old-fashioned ideas that need to come back.

Good customer service is absolutely vital to growing your business and forging stronger relationships and customer loyalty. Keep an eye on it, and use this information to improve your business’s customer service.

ThoughtLab understands customer service, and we are happy to discuss it with you. Contact us now and see what we can do to give your ideas of customer service a bump.