What Is Great Customer Service | Man Stands Out

What Is Great Customer Service?

We wanted to try something a little different with this installment of the “What-Is” series and create a blog post completely written by our community. If you read blogs with any regularity, you know that often the real action happens in the comments, not in the post itself.

In this post, there is no doubt: it is all about the comments.

What is Great Customer Service?

What Is Great Customer Service | Man Stands OutThat is the question that we ask you to answer in the comment section below. Eventually, we will collect some of the thoughts below and distill the best ideas from the comments into something a little more bite-sized. Of course, you can write about stupendous customer service, amazing customer service, or whatever superlative you feel most comfortable with. We had to pick just one, and great customer service seemed the most appropriate.

So, if you’ve never written a blog post before, please feel free to share your thoughts below. You’ll have helped to write at least one!

Thank you all for your participation, and we look forward to reading the comments!

PS. The first 2 comments were copied from a previous post to this one due to the Launch Sweepstakes we are running in March 2012.

Launch of Customers That Stick | Rocket Graphic

The Launch: Customers That Stick

Welcome to the soft launch of our new site, Customers That Stick. Our official launch is tomorrow, March 7th, but today I wanted to take a moment to introduce the new site and to thank those who helped make it possible.

Launch of Customers That Stick | Rocket GraphicIf you are new here, you will see content that pre-dates this post. These posts come from our original Customer Service Experience blog which resided on our company’s web site. The original blog has gone through quite a transformation over the past year. Customers That Stick is the evolution of those changes.

To understand more about the goals of Customers That Stick, please read our About page.

Thanks Are In Order

To begin, there is a huge list of people that have assisted me along the way and were instrumental in making the blog at least a moderate success in its first year.

People like Bill Dorman, Shakirah Dawud, and Michelle Quillin, to name just a few, have been great supporters of the original incarnation of this blog. I owe them all a public thanks, but to keep this post from spiraling into a monstrous list of links to bloggers, I am going to focus on those people who assisted specifically with the transition to the new site.

A thank you to Erica Allison and Jayme Soulati for being forthright in the early days and telling me that my IntenseFence brand was a #hotmess. Not sure why they like to talk in hashtags so much, but their early candor was helpful in getting me to look at the IntenseFence brand messaging. 🙂

A thank you to my previous marketing assistant, Bailey, for some extremely helpful research and for early feedback on name choices.

Read more

Win a Free Kindle Fire

The Final Post and Win A Kindle Fire

As many of you know, we will be launching our new blog at the beginning of March customersthatstick.com. Like all good things, this Customer Service Experience blog must come to an end. Today’s post is the final one that will be published on IntenseFence.com.

It’s been fun here at IntenseFence, but this move has been a lot like moving to a new house — I’m already picking out my favorite room in the new place while the current place is a mess of boxes and trash bags.

Most of all (straining the analogy further), I hope that we will all still be friends when I move to a new neighborhood. And just like moving, I think I’ll bribe everyone with beer and pizzas to come watch the game at my new house. So, in that vein…

We are going to hold an awesome contest to celebrate the launch and to help publicize the move from the current domain.

First, the good stuff. We have three excellent prizes:


1st Prize: Amazon Kindle Fire (7″ Screen with WiFi)

Win a Free Kindle FireMovies, apps, games, music, reading and more, plus Amazon’s revolutionary, cloud-accelerated web browser

  • 19 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books
  • Thousands of popular apps and games, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and more
  • Ultra-fast web browsing – Amazon Silk
  • Free cloud storage for all your Amazon content
  • Vibrant color touchscreen with extra-wide viewing angle – same as an iPad
  • Fast, powerful dual-core processor
  • Favorite children’s books, graphic novels, and magazines in rich color
  • Amazon Prime Members enjoy unlimited, instant streaming on thousands of popular movies and TV shows.
  • Amazon Prime Members choose from thousands of books to borrow for free.


Read more

Customers That Stick

Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and Customers That Stick

Volume 4: January 2012 Mashup

Welcome to the Monthly Mash, a mashup of tools, tales and tips on customer service and the customer experience from around the blogosphere.

Customer Experience Resource: Customers That Stick, a Q&A

What is Customers That Stick? CTS is our new website dedicated to customer service and the customer experience.

Why is it this month’s resource? Because the goal for Customers That Stick is to create one of the best customer service and customer experience resources on the Internet, and also, because I’ve been so focused on the relaunch that I didn’t have time to talk about something else.

Do you have a new logo for this web site? So funny you ask, I happen to have one right here.


Customers That Stick



How can I get in on the ground floor of this incredible opportunity? We’ll just need your credit card and bank account information to hold your place. My partners in Nigeria will contact you shortly with details.

No, really, what’s next? The new site will launch on (or near) March 1st. In the meantime, please connect with us on our new social media pages. Obviously, they are under development; however, we will be holding a raffle and giving away a prize at launch, and liking us will help enter you in the raffle.

But wait, I already like you — am I registered? We appreciate that, and we like you too — really, we do — but you have to actually click the little buttons and tell other people you like us. Social media is funny that way.

Okay, now that we’ve had our fun, here are the links for our new pages on Facebook and Google+.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Read More

Awful Customer Service | Jigsaw from Saw

Why Your Awful Customer Service Sucks For Me

Dear Fellow Business Owner / Manager,

Let’s face it — your service sucks. Bad.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit my service sucks on occasion too. But in my defense, my sins are unintentional. I am trying to do the right thing, and I either dropped the ball or hired the wrong ball carrier. You, by contrast, just don’t give a flip.

Awful Customer Service | Jigsaw from SawOn the one hand, it’s impressive. You’ve taken indifference to an entirely new level. Your service isn’t just bad; it’s awful, insensitive, and downright dehumanizing. Just the simple act of engaging in the customer experience with your business is a soul-crushing odyssey through the circles of customer service hell.

Actually, mythological and literary references don’t even cut it. Doing business with you is nothing short of being a victim in one of the Saw movies.

And that doesn’t look like fun.

Of course, the natural inclination would be for me to thank you. Next to you, my worst customer service looks like a good day at the Ritz Carlton.

I should thank you for setting the bar so low that I barely have to raise my foot to step over it. Most of the social psychology literature says that human opinions are shaped heavily by comparison. You’ve made looking good all too easy.

So, maybe I should thank you. Then again, maybe not.

You see, while you would think that we would be able to shine by virtue of comparison to your JigSaw-esque customer experience, looking for better is not the dominant mindset that your customers walk away with. When your customers come to me, they are usually not thinking anything is better than that last place, when they come to me they are thinking how is this place going to try to screw me.

That’s right, being the next business to get your customer is a lot like…

  • Being the next financial advisor to service the person who was just embezzled from
  • Being the next person to date the person who was just cheated on
  • Being the next surgeon to work on the person who just had a scalpel left in his chest

It’s a pleasure, I tell you, wasting away in Paranoiaville with the shell-shocked victims of your customer experience.

So, should I thank you? You’ve sent me a customer who is jaded, tired, defensive and ready to find conspiracies and malicious intent at the first sign of something going wrong.

Actually, you haven’t sent me a customer; you’ve sent me a victim of Post-Traumatic Shopping Disorder. It will take me months, maybe years, to gain this person’s trust and to turn them into a profitable customer that does not need hand holding and reassurance at every step of the customer experience.

So, again, the question at hand is should I thank you?

Grudgingly, yes — I should. Regardless of their mental state, I have a new customer now and an opportunity to make that person happy and to make the world a little better by restoring that person’s faith in business. And for that, I do thank you.

Just know that I will be sending you the psychiatrist bills — theirs and mine.

With somewhat grudging regards,

Adam Toporek

Bank Convenience, Piggy Bank with Handcuffs

Bank Convenience: Are You Being Held Hostage To Bad Service?

Chances are you have an account with a big bank. No, really. There is almost a 1 in 2 chance that you have an account with a Top 10 bank and a 1 in 3 chance that you have an account with one of the Top 3 largest banks.

So, there’s a pretty good chance you have an account with a major bank, and guess what?


There’s a pretty good chance you hate it.


Net Promoter Scores for the major banks are extremely low, with local banks and credit unions faring much better. And most likely if you do like your big bank, it’s because you happen to have a local branch that you like, not because you like the bank itself.

Bank Convenience, Top 15 Banks

15 Banks Control Half The Market

So, if people are so dissatisfied with their big banks, why do they stay? Usually when consumers are stuck with a large company they do not like, it is because of a lack of competitors in the space. However, the financial services industry in general and the banking industry in specific are highly competitive.

And still, most people act like they are handcuffed to their bank.

Not even a public outcry on the front page moves the needle that much. When a few months ago there was a public revolt against increased debit card fees, the big banks quickly backed down, causing the drama to disappear from the front page and a lot of the threatened attrition to evaporate.

Indications are that people will not be moving their accounts in any significant numbers in 2012.

The only real question is why?


Bank Convenience for the Win

In my humble opinion, the reason most people stay in their unhappy banking relationships is what economists call switching costs or barriers to switching. Now barriers to switching can be substantial — such as a contract or geographic distance — but in the case of banking, it is rarely anything so clearly delineated. In the case of most banks, barriers to switching are what most of us call the hassle factor.

It costs almost nothing monetarily to switch banks. In fact, you will often save money by finding better deals and competitor incentives.

But a new toaster can’t buy you your life back.

Let’s look at some of the bank conveniences that make switching from any institution, but particularly a “big bank,” an incredible hassle.

  • Your large bank has ATM’s everywhere and you travel
  • Your large bank has a branch where your child or other dependent lives
  • Your mortgage is with your big bank and your bank accounts and credit lines are tied to it
  • Your credit card is with your big bank and acts as an overdraft protection device
  • You have multiple accounts all tied together online
  • You have numerous bills setup on auto-draft on your current account
  • You have numerous memberships setup on auto-draft on your current account
  • You have your employer’s direct deposit setup on your account
  • You have retirement auto-drafts setup on your account

You get the point by now, don’t you?

By the way, if you are a small business or franchise owner, double the hassle factor above for each business you own.

What is truly interesting about the above list is how much of a win it is for the banks. With the exception of more bank branches, every one of the conveniences above saves the banks money! Whether by design or by happy accident, the banks have given us greater convenience and at the same time increased their profit margins and trapped us in a prison of I-have-better-things-to-do than deal with switching banks right now.


How Can You Escape Those Bank Convenience-Cuffs?

Bank Convenience, Piggy Bank with HandcuffsSo, if you are stuck with bad customer service and a tight pair of convenience-cuffs, what can you do? As far as your existing accounts, nothing much without some major hassles. The quicker you want out, the more hassle it will be. However, there are three things you can do to set yourself up for the future.

  1. Don’t Double Down on Convenience Now that you see what a trap these conveniences are, don’t let yourself fall in further just for the convenience of having your accounts “all together.” Getting a new mortgage? Opening a new account? Find a bank you like and want to be with.
  2. Slowly Start to Move — If feasible (it won’t be for everyone), setup a second account at the bank where you want to be. Then slowly start moving some of the easy things, gym memberships, online accounts, etc. You can usually split your direct deposit. It takes some planning but can make transitioning easier.
  3. Find a Better Local Branch in Your Area — If the convenience-cuffs are on pretty tight, then shop within your bank’s network. While they will all be subject to the same mind-numbing bureaucracy, all bank branches are not created equal. Shop around; it might not be so bad on the other corner.


So, do you love your bank? Hate your bank? Have you stayed with a bank simply because of the hassle factor?

Customer (Dis)Service CNBC Documentary

Customer (Dis)Service: Inside the CNBC Documentary

On Thursday, January 5th, CNBC aired a documentary entitled Customer (Dis)Service. I had hoped to blog about the documentary as it ran, but alas, the hotel I was staying in did not carry CNBC. Fortunately, inbound marketing consultant Ken Mueller gave me a real-time play by play of the show. He also did a brief write up of the documentary.

After reading Ken’s thoughts, I was ready to return to the warm embrace of my DVR to watch the documentary for myself.


Before we delve inside, let’s look at CNBC’s overview of the documentary from its press release:

Customer (Dis)Service CNBC DocumentaryCustomer (Dis)Service takes viewers right to the heart of the new global battlefield, where the customer and the corporation are at war. Mass consumption is at an all-time high and customers have more options than ever before, raising consumer expectations to new heights. At the same time, rapidly expanding corporations are looking to cut labor costs, outsourcing their customer service departments to the other side of the world. Face-to-face time between business and consumer is practically non-existent, and customer satisfaction has declined dramatically.

Are the corporations at fault for putting their bottom line ahead of customer satisfaction, or are consumers demanding too much from the corporations?

Whatever happened to good customer service? 


That’s some fiery stuff: battlefield, war, declined dramatically… Fortunately, the actual documentary was a little more balanced than CNBC’s marketing copy.

The bigger issue with Customer (Dis)Service was not that it was a fire-breathing polemic but that it suffered from a lack of defined scope. If it was attempting to cover the “state of customer service” in under an hour, it did not accomplish that task very well. The end product was a quick look at some hot button topics in modern customer service, not a comprehensive overview.

Yet, the show still managed to strike on some golden nuggets. Here are three of the best…


Customer (Dis)Service: The Takeaways

Offshore Call Centers Are Not Going Away

Much of the show’s focus was on outsourced, offshore call centers. While the behind-the-scenes look at how an overseas call center operates was interesting — Westernizing names, removing “Indianisms” from speech, sticking to scripted responses only — the larger point was fairly obvious to anyone who has ever owned an electronic device — overseas call centers generally suck for consumers.

The Power of The Social Media Consumer (It’s Less Than You Think)

The documentary makes the point that social media has empowered consumers, giving them the ability to fight back against “abusive” companies like never before. While true, this idea is greatly overstated throughout the documentary and, quite frankly, throughout the blogosphere and business press.

To prove the point, the director points to some famous examples of viral videos — such as United Breaks Guitars — that created huge public relations issues for companies.

However, this is the Hasty Generalization fallacy in action. Viral videos (in almost any context) are the exception, not the rule. Go to YouTube and search “I hate <large company>” or “<large company> sucks.” In most cases, you’ll find a handful of videos with hundreds maybe low thousands of views. Not even a blip on the radar of a national brand. Stay tuned for more on this topic — it deserves its own blog post.

The Customer Has Changed A Lot Too

Not only am I a customer, but if you’ve read this blog, then you know I also put a lot of time and thought into how to make customers happy. Yet, the truth that those of us in the retail trenches understand is that customers have changed a great deal in the past few decades.

As Shelle Rose-Charvet, one of the consistently wisest interviewees in the film, said: “I think the problem is the customer has changed. Customers are fed up and want off the merry go round. They have no time anymore. They are under a lot of pressure.”

This observation, which the filmmakers fleshed out fairly well, was one of the high points of the film because it balanced out a tendency to shape a storyline of embattled consumers and heartless corporations. As the narrator said, “We may be nostalgic for a certain customer service, but we want it fast and cheap.”


The Big Miss: Customer Service In The Context of Market Economics

Besides an occasional bout of polemicism (the one-sided and heartrending interview with the Indian call center operator who was fired because “one customer” complained), the biggest miss in Customer (Dis)Service was the question of why?

  • Why do call centers still manage to thrive if consumers hate them and the companies that use them?
  • If social media consumers are so powerful, why haven’t they changed so many large companies?
  • If customer satisfaction does not improve a company’s bottom line, why should it care? (Yes, I did just ask that.)

The reality is that many large companies, particularly public companies, view customer service as a short term cost, not a long term investment. Add market conditions such as high regulation and oligopolistic competition, and you’ll see customer service a distant priority in many cases. Name three industries where almost everyone you know routinely complains about their service regardless of what company they are with, and you will generally find these characteristics. (Did you name banking, airlines, and wireless providers?)

This assertion, of course, is a blanket one. Bad service can be found across industries, as can excellent service. But when looking at the broader trends in customer service on a societal level, market economics and economic factors such as availability of substitutes and barriers to switching cannot be ignored.


A CNBC Documentary Worth Watching

Customer (Dis)Service is well worth the hour investment. The interviewees included in the film added strong perspectives and often illuminating commentary. Blogger B.L. Ochman, Steve Dublanica of WaiterRant.net, and the others brought insights that were well worth the time on their own.

While I’m still unclear on the filmmaker’s overarching purpose with Customer (Dis)Service, the show does accomplish the most important objective of any documentary: making the viewer think about the topic. And for that, I recommend it wholeheartedly.


Have you seen Customer (Dis)Service? Are you planning to? 

5 Examples of Customer Service Skills You Can't Ignore | Handing shopping bag

5 Examples of Customer Service Skills You Can’t Ignore

5 Examples of Customer Service Skills You Can't Ignore | Handing shopping bag

Any list of examples of customer service skills is bound to be incomplete. Customer service and customer experience management incorporate operational, technological, and interpersonal skills that are as diverse as they are numerous. However, identifying and developing core customer service skills — in hiring, in promotion, in restructuring — can be an incredible source of strategic advantage for a company.

Below are 5 essential examples of customer service skills that should apply to almost any organization. Read more

Through The Past Darkly Album Cover

Monthly Mash: Customer Experience Tools and Epic CustServ Fail

Volume 3: December 2011 Mashup

Welcome to the Monthly Mash, a mashup of tools, tales and tips on customer service and the customer experience from around the blogosphere.


The Month in Customer Service Blogging

A collection of the best posts about customer service and the customer experience I read this past month.


Two New Blogs in the CustServ Sphere


For anyone who missed it, one of the worst examples of customer service on digital record blew up during the last week of December. I considered writing about it myself, as I really did not find anyone with a customer service focus opining, but at this point, the thing has been done to death.

The story really shows how outrageously bad customer service can turn into a PR nightmare. Below are a few of the better pieces I read on the subject.



My Key Takeaways from this Epic CustServ Fail:

  1. When dealing with customer service, check your pride at the door.
  2. The single best way to understand the dark side of the Internet is to reread William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Not joking.


Someone Was Listening

Sometimes the most popular post from the previous month; sometimes just the one I am most proud of.


Thoughts on the Customer

In 1969, the Rolling Stones released the album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), a compilation record released after the death of original Stones member Brian Jones. The album had a very cool octagonal album cover (which I used to have), and on the inside flap was an epitaph to Brian Jones that has always stayed with me.

“When this you see, remember me,
and bear me in your mind.
Let all the world say what they may,
speak of me as you find.”

Through The Past Darkly Album CoverThe sentiment is appealing — for who does not want to be judged individually and not through the colored perceptions of others? But in business, the sentiment is also a pipe dream.

In today’s information-soaked marketplace, your customers come to you preconditioned and prepared for the experience they expect.

Whether their perceptions were formed through social media, your own marketing, or their best friend, almost no one enters your business as a blank canvas on which you can write the story you wish to tell.

Your customer might arrive with a positive view, in which case there are unknown expectations you have to meet (and hopefully exceed). Or the customer might arrive with a negative view and for whatever reason (convenience, morbid curiosity, etc.)  have decided to give you a chance anyway, meaning you now have to overcome being judged through a lens that tints everything with a negative light.

Customers will judge us through their own experiences, but those experiences are already being shaped long before the customer gets to us. There is little we can do to change that fact, but we can recognize it as a truth of the customer experience and adapt to its reality.


 I hope you enjoyed the Monthly Mash. Please join others in sharing it using the social share buttons below.

Happy New Year

How This Blog Will Change in 2012

Instead of a roundup looking back at the past year, I thought I would take a look forward in this final day of 2011. This blog will be changing a good bit in the coming year, and I wanted to talk briefly about the new direction.

[UPDATE: As the redesign has already occurred and this post was moved to the new domain, some information on this page will be dated.]


Name Change and Redesign

The name of blog and the domain name will be changing. The focus on customer service and customer experience is not aided by a confused branding message.

Do you sell fences? Are you a fence company? Do you have a clue — no, really… do you?

While IntenseFence Management Solutions will still be the business entity that owns this blog, the blog will have a new name and a new look. The new domain is already secured, and no, I’m not telling what it is. My wife’s latest copy of Vogue says I’m supposed to be mysterious.

(Gini knows, but she would never betray me. Unless you have Bears tickets on the 50.)

We are currently working on securing a designer. Also, we have to find an SEO expert to move everything without losing our Google juice, which I hear mixes well with vodka.


Content, Content, Content

As most of you know, I have posted religiously on a schedule over the past year.

<Insert pause as regular readers fall over laughing.>

Okay, so regular content production has not been a hallmark of this blog thus far, but that is going to change.

I just counted, and I have over 30 blog titles in my tickler file just waiting to be written. So, it has never been about ideas, just priorities. While I am still working on balancing (sorry Kaarina) this blog with multiple offline businesses, I am committing to step up content in a big way. I probably won’t adopt an actual blogging schedule until after the relaunch, but content production is going to increase measurably in 2012.


More Depth of Information

Look for entire sections of the site to develop focused on content areas. This will be an ongoing process, but I’ve already mapped out some key sections that I intend to develop in Q1 and Q2. Also, I will be producing more “pillar” type posts like this one on customer lifetime value.


Active Email Newsletter

It’s time… Enough said. Look for this to appear in Q1.



Long overdue (right Marcus?). Not sure how many me-looking-at-camera, Blair Witch style videos I will be posting, but you can look forward to interviews and other video content to appear in the first half of the year.


More Guest Posts

I will be soliciting more guest posts, particularly for the Customer Service Stories series. Drop me a line if you have a story of exceptional service, either positive or negative, that you think might be a good fit. I also hope to increase my guest posting at other blogs, but that will not be a focus in the early part of the year.


In Sum…

I hope this look to the future gives a sense of what to expect as we roll into 2012. I’m very excited about the new refinements and making this blog one of the top customer service destinations on the Internet!

Happy New Year

Moving Forward Into 2012!

Not all of the changes above will happen at once. The goal for the relaunch is Feb 14 because I’m a romantic at heart…  because that is the one year anniversary of this blog. Other than that, most of the items above are ongoing processes more than achievable milestones.


And Finally…

Last but not least, thank you.

Whether you read this today or on the other side of midnight, whether this is your first time here or your fortieth (Bill), I appreciate your taking the time to visit my little corner of the blogosphere. I look forward to seeing you in 2012 and making your time here more rewarding than ever.


A happy, healthy and safe New Year to all!


What would you like to see out of this blog in 2012?