Customer Service Documentation

5 Reasons Customer Documentation Is at the Heart of Great Service

Do you want to know one of the essential signs that a company has a Hero-ClassTM Customer Service culture? Customer documentation.

Yes, I said documentation.

Okay, I can hear you now: Booooorrrring. And you’re right: it is. But it is also crucial.

Documentation is one of the secret ingredients of a customer-centric organization, and it is one that few people talk about.

If I speak with an owner or manager and want to know how serious they are about creating a customer-centric culture, one area I will ask about is their system of customer documentation.

Good documentation makes Hero-Class Customer Service™ possible!

Documentation versus Information

Customer Service DocumentationDocumentation is a part of customer information, the non-sexy party. Customer intelligence is finding out things like birthdays, competitive experiences, and personal preferences — things you can use to customize and personalize the customer experience as much as possible.

I view documentation as recording information for the sake of future experiences, even when the documentation is not really necessary for the current experience.

The lines are obviously not defined, but hopefully you get the point. Customer documentation is recording what should be recorded not just what has to be recorded.

Documentation is recording the conversation that you had in the hallway about room service, the fact that the customer’s room was not ready upon arrival, and the emails the customer sent before his stay outlining that they needed a quiet floor and quiet neighbors.

Why Is Customer Documentation So Crucial?

In American business, when we think of documentation, it often has a negative connotation. So much documentation is the result of  bureaucracy or liability protection that it makes most organizations and people averse to it.

It also makes people feel like documentation is only important when there is a problem. Many people’s attitudes toward documentation is about CYA, not TCC (taking care of the customer).

It can require a shift in mindset to help team members understand how important documentation is to the customer experience.

Here are five reasons customer documentation is essential to a customer-centric culture:

  1. Information shared is information made useful. You never know what will be relevant. This does not mean you should document everything (see below), but the information can only be useful if it is well done and accessible.
  2. A client’s past experience is often essential to their future experience. How would you treat your client differently if you knew that on their last visit they showed up for an appointment that was not on the books or that they have been through three replacement products already.
  3. Knowing a client’s history is great service in and of itself. It is one of the greatest annoyances in all of customer service, when customers have to repeat their story and details repeatedly to different people in the organization. Recording that history so the next team member can use it automatically improves the customer experience .
  4. It helps to know the facts. In our post Win the Argument, Lose the Customer, we discussed how important it is to know the facts of a case. While it does not always mean you will use that information with the customer, it can still be important to know whether you are right or wrong. If a client claims that they never received a phone call from your organization and you have documentation showing 4 different calls, it might affect how you approach resolving the issue.
  5. Documenting resolved issues shows who on your team gets it. If given the proper training and tools, creating a culture that believes in proactive documentation will quickly show you who your most customer-centric team members are. These are the team members who care about setting up the next team member for success, who have a proactive mindset and the ability to anticipate what information might be relevant in future interactions with the customer. This skill is one that separates a good customer facing professional from a great one.

Avoiding Documentation Overload

In the spirit of documenting many things, we must be careful not to document everything. Too much documentation can be as detrimental as too little.

The reality is that everyone in business today is confronted with information overload, and the most typical response to this problem is to ignore any information that does not represent a flaming emergency.

For customer information, documenting everything is documenting nothing.

In next Thursday’s post, 7 Keys to Documenting a Customer Interaction, we will discuss how to approach this process. However, this is a highly context-sensitive concept. You have to focus on what will work in your business.

Good documentation is the base upon which Hero-Class Customer Service™ is built. It enables reactive situations to set the stage for proactive WOW’s, and it bolsters a team culture by making sure team members have the tools necessary to address customer concerns as effectively as possible.

Customer documentation is not sexy or inspirational, but your team’s attitude towards it is at the heart of a service culture.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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