The Key to Customer Service.

The Key to Customer Service.

Customer ServiceI just left a message for a highly successful buddy of mine. Or at least I tried reaching him. His receptionist was so busy, so stressed, and so rude that her best customer service was to tell me to “call back later.” Now as it happens, I will call back. And it won’t be a problem because I have his home number and his cell number. But what if I were a potential client trying to decide whether or not to send a big piece of business his way?

You say you can’t afford customer service? You can’t afford to hire someone with highly developed interpersonal skills to answer your phone? I say you can’t afford not to. Because you must start branding your business with good customer service long before your customer actually talks to your highly-exalted and oh-so-busy self.

I know, I know. You get a hundred phone calls a day. So do I. The “Nuke a Whale for the Middle East” charity wants my time and money and so does every other sales rep this side of Sarajevo. But we’re talking about a brick of gold in the haystack here, not a needle. Can you afford to throw away the million-dollar inquiry amongst the dross because you can’t afford customer service?

Nowhere is the “almost every phone call is a complete and utter waste of time” paradigm more true than for personal injury attorneys.

“Thirty years ago, my ex-husband’s cousin almost slipped in an abandoned building and might have hurt himself and the voices in my head told me to call you so you can represent us.”

Now you don’t need a law degree to know that the value of this case is zero. The statute of limitations has run out; the caller has no legal standing regarding her ex; her ex didn’t sustain an actual injury; the owner of the abandoned building can’t be found and has no money; the caller may have mental health issues. Who even knows if the building is still standing?

But should the customer service rep say, “Ms. Hot-Shot is in a meeting”? Should they communicate, “we only work with clients for whom there is a potential payout”? Should they announce, “Go take a long walk off a short pier”? No, no, a thousand times no.

Because this caller may have a million-dollar case subsequently or she may have a neighbor who does. And if she gets blown off by your imperious assistant, that good case is going to wind up somewhere else. Somewhere where they understand customer service.

This woman needs customer service. She needs to be invited in and given a cup of tea. She needs a brochure and maybe a refrigerator magnet. She needs to feel welcome and wanted. Because five years from now when she is wrongfully injured by a wealthy drunk driving a brand new Porsche convertible, you want her to remember where your office is and how gracious your staff was.

Benjamin Franklin, by all accounts more successful than you or I, got it right:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost. For the want of a shoe the horse was lost. For the want of a horse the rider was lost.
For the want of a rider the battle was lost. For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

We are taught to focus on “big picture” items to make our businesses successful. But big is not always better. Wouldn’t today be a good time to make sure that the door to your business is truly open. And that the welcome sign is brightly lit?

Wouldn’t today be a good time to focus on your customer service?

By | 2015-03-03T12:11:05+00:00 March 3rd, 2015|13 Comments


  1. John Calia March 3, 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I’m glad I am not the friend you were trying to reach.

    It is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to disregard this valuable perspective. Brand integrity must be maintained throughout an organization. It’s not enough for the sales team to be the only group that knows what and how to deliver on the promise.

  2. Keith Wasserstrom March 4, 2015 at 10:13 am - Reply

    Can’t tell you how many clients I earned just because I returned their call when other lawyers didn’t even do that.

  3. A. Freeman March 4, 2015 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Great stuff Bruce. I truly love the insight and appreciate the advice, in which you always seem to elequently present through life stories…keep rockin! & Thank you.

  4. Eric Malter March 4, 2015 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Bruce, not only does potential business retention or new business building begin with the person who takes the incoming call, but so does branding. We insist that our phones be answered with “Hello, this is MDC Advertising” in order to immediately register or reinforce our pride in the brand name we have worked hard to establish. Eric

  5. Michael Donovan March 4, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Bruce, customer service has been dead for about 15 or 20 years. American Airlines killed it, I believe. Or, was it United?

  6. Jeff Schweiger March 4, 2015 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Service is the cornerstone of business. Our customers have options, so when we get an inquire – typically through email (the customers contacting us? Really? We don’t have to try to get through their gatekeepers?) I reply to them almost instantly – this includes nighttime or weekends. A simple reply letting them know we received their inquire and myself or someone will contact them right away goes a long way in securing a client. I have a sign up front that says “Director of First Impressions” – the person answering the phones is the first impression a potential clients has of your company – this is an easy opportunity – take advantage of it.

  7. Matt Becker March 4, 2015 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Just yesterday, I heard someone say I never answer my phone if I don’t know who it is and it made me shudder. How are you going to meet/serve new people if you have that policy? I get excited when I see a number I don’t know as it might just be my next big account. Often it is a waste of time, but I have found those bricks of gold in answering those calls over the years.

  8. Michael Festinger March 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    After waiting 10 minutes on the phone for assistance, my already poor attitude heightened, the customer service representative for the company that will remain named ATT actually heard me out, talked me off the ledge, gave me the help I needed and saved the day as I was about to cancel my service.
    Seeing it in writing in your blog makes it clear that my front desk can use some training.
    Thanks Bruce.

  9. Damien Wolf March 7, 2015 at 8:44 am - Reply

    The best and most simple rules to service excellence I’ve ever learned were handed down by Rick Walsh, previous senior VP of corporate affairs at Darden Restaurants.

    They are
    1. Anticipate my needs.
    2. Don’t make me feel stupid.
    3. Make me feel like I’ve got an insider on my side.

  10. Mike Gray March 7, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Always great brand advice. Never disappoints. I opened this in a car wash line … While getting yelled at by manager to move up.

    • Bruce Turkel March 8, 2015 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Mike. Impressive that you were willing to pay that price to read my post!

  11. Andrea Nhuch March 7, 2015 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    So true. I wish doctors were taught customer service 101 in med school too…

  12. Jim Fried March 9, 2015 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    How about – we ran into each other last month at the conference and I know you wanted me to follow up. I just could not get to it till now…..

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