5 Keys to Good Customer Service

It was a Saturday morning full of promise. Seductive even. I woke up with creative projects I was geeked to get into, and my muse was more active than usual. On my today’s “to-do” list, were a few new freelance writing leads, an online blogging class, and my general weekend recreational reading.

I turned on my computer first to catch up on my email. Nothing pressing on that end, so I clicked on to a site to do some exploring.  Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere it happened.

I got this big red neon sign that popped on my screen alerting me to a virus attack.

So much stuff was flashing, I couldn’t turn my computer off fast enough. I panicked! Besides just signing on some new clients with files not backed up, my laptop had just been purchased about a month ago. Not to mention, my system was supposed to have been protected by an anti-virus program that I signed up with through my Internet provider. Clueless, I quickly called them. I soon wished that I hadn’t.

It was like being caught in the Twilight Zone. I was lost, transferred, directed, redirected, and lost all concepts of space and time after waiting endlessly for a tech person to troubleshoot the problem and ease my troubles. Frustrated, I did what I often do when things look bleak: I prayed.

Next, I tried a little trick that had worked for me some time ago that I read on the internet that involves restoring the system.

And voila, I was back in business!

Altogether, it was two hours of my life that I’ll never get back. But, I did learn some valuable lessons in the process that I’d like to share with you today.

Here are five keys to good customer service, designed to increase your effectiveness and decrease customers’ grief when dealing with the public.

  1. Be prepared. There’s nothing more frustrating than connecting with a customer service representative that has to “grab a pen”, or pull up the system, or sign-in before they help you. Weren’t you expecting to “work” when you came into work?
  2. Value people’s time. If you’re going to keep someone on hold for more than a few minutes, let them know about how long and why. Give them the option of whether or not they want to be detained or called back. Put yourself in other people’s shoes and think of how you’d like to be treated.
  3. Don’t take it out on customers if you don’t like your job. Hello…we’re the reason you have a job! Not to mention, your personality, preparedness and poise is a reflection on your company.
  4. Never promise more than you can deliver. When I first signed up for computer virus protection, I wasn’t informed that it was a “gamble”. I’ve now been told that no virus protection software is 100% and even if you buy the best, you can still be vulnerable to attacks. Don’t make promises if you don’t intend to deliver on them.
  5. Be pleasant. Being pleasant, friendly, and courteous always makes a bad situation better. And it increases the likelihood of customer satisfaction and repeat business. Which makes for a win-win situation for all!

Why good customer service should be on your daily “things to do” list.

Good or bad, customer service leaves an indelible impression on potential and existing customers, even in today’s fast paced, technological environment.  And truth be told, most folks will endure more, pay more, and show fierce loyalty for courteous treatment, small perks, and the feeling of being valued.  Whether it’s a liberal  “return policy” at a store, businesses that acknowledge and reward your “relationship anniversary” with them, or service with a smile.

For example, in the area in which I live, there are numerous big-shot banks that have offices across the country and spend millions on marketing campaigns. I can walk to many of their branches. But instead, I travel for about 45 minutes to a smaller bank that is big on customer service, and where the tellers and bankers know me by name. It’s not unusual for them to go out of their way to assist me with a problem, or to call me up on the phone when I’ve made an error in my accounting.

Even when being wooed by other banks through promotional materials in the mail, I’ve decided to stay rooted where I am.  And as a way of showing my thanks, I often refer colleagues, family members and friends to their doors.

Good customer service translates into repeat business, an increased bottom line, and your economic survival.

And that just makes good business sense even on bad days!


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Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, popular relationship columnist and Managing Editor at Coffeehouseforwriters.com. Formerly an "awesome" public relations professional, she now enjoys the spoils of the entrepreneurial life. Additionally, she is a columnist for Technorati.


  1. Wasim on the 2nd December

    Keeping your customers happy should always be a priority, and good customer services plays an important role in that, at the end of the days our business is there due to our customers.

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd December


      How true! Where would any business be without customers? Thanks for your feedback.

  2. Gabriele Maidecchi on the 2nd December

    Customer service is often what makes or destroys a business.

    My company manages an ecommerce system (using real-time 3D web navigation alongside a traditional website) and, while I am not responsible for customer care, a few days ago I took a customer service matter in my own hands due to the gravity of the situation. I managed to make the customer so satisfied he decided to keep the item even though he initially wanted to return it.

    In another occasion, my customer service was able to make the customer happy with the service despite an incident in the processing of his order (which was then reimbursed).
    The worse customer experience can be righted by a simple act of kindness by a customer service representative.

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd December


      Sound like you were spot on in the way you responded. A satisfied customer is often a loyal one. I appreciate you sharing this.

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd December

      Oops! That should have read “sounds like” not sound like. 🙂

  3. TrafficColeman on the 2nd December

    Jennifer its always good to know your customers when it comes to their needs..if you take care of them then they will continue to buy from you…

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd December

      Traffic Coleman,

      You’re right. Knowing a customer’s needs would be the equivalent of a writer knowing his audience. It’s a must for success.

  4. Ken on the 2nd December

    I do customer service for a living. Concerning point #1 about being prepared – that’s not really fair. There are alot of “systems” to which we can’t stay connected / logged in for various reasons. Alot of what we do is done on-demand. You call, you need assistance with X? Ok, give me a few seconds to connect to the system that will allow me to help you with X. Next caller – need help with Y? Sure thing, no problem, let me login to Y’s backend to get you set up. Next caller – certainly, I can help you with Z… etc.

    The rest of these are great points though 🙂

  5. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 2nd December


    I was previously unaware of this; thanks for shedding some light. 🙂 “My bad.”

  6. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 3rd December


    I stand corrected. 🙂 Thanks for shedding some light.

  7. Craig on the 6th December

    Good article, Jennifer, thanks.

    Not only do technical support representatives have to work with multiple systems, not all of which they can be logged into all the time (thanks, Ken), but there are also numerous call-handling statistics of which they must be conscious.

    For example, in a lot of cases, putting the customer on hold for an (unfortunately) long time is often preferable to a long “outbound” call. In my experience, an “inbound” call centre is penalized more for outbound calls than for “hold time”.

    As well, there is a fine line between long hold times resulting in conclusive answers and short hold times with multiple updates that don’t help resolve the problem and take away from focused problem-solving time.

    Your 5 keys are excellent and are certainly an ideal towards which to strive, but they’re not always so easy in real life.

  8. Craig on the 7th December

    Good article, Jen, but I have to add to Ken’s comments. While most support centres support multiple systems, they also have a number of performance measurements to consider. For example, inbound call centres will often penalize support personnel for outbound calls, so calling you back is likely not an option.

    As well, they have call time statistics (a seven-minute call is better than a 12-minute call). In my experience, in an eight-minute call, I can put you on hold for six minutes, try three scenarios to test your problem and a solution, confer with a supervisor, then get back to you with a complete solution. Or I can put you on hold three times for two minutes each time while I try one scenario, come back to you, spend two more minutes explaining what I tried and why it failed, then put you on hold another two minutes while I confer with a supervisor, then return to offer the complete solution. At which point the eight-minute call has become more than 20 minutes long.

    Your five key points are great and an ideal for which to strive, but they’re not that easy to maintain in real situations.

  9. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 7th December


    Both you and Ken have contributed greatly to this audience’s understanding of the customer service role. And that’s great “customer service” too! Additionally, now that I know better, my expectations will be a little more realistically based in the future. 🙂

    Thanks for your time and input.

  10. Olumide on the 1st November

    The die is the more you do that which I right to your customers, they’ll love not just the company, they’ll also luv you u, and be loyal to your product…

  11. Bassey on the 12th February

    Hi Jennifer just one question,how do u handle. An hirate customer who start reign abuses on u, cos she ran out of patient while u were trying to find a solution

  12. Sara on the 3rd June

    “Don’t take it out on customers if you don’t like your job. Hello…we’re the reason you have a job!”

    Actually, no, you’re not. I got my job because I earned it: because I’m excellent at what I do and because the company believes in me. Yes, customers are the reason businesses remain businesses, but definitely not due to condescending ‘customers’ like you.

  13. Jaleen on the 24th October

    So True! I have had so many issues with companies customer service. This really can make or break a relationship with a business. If the customer service is not good I will find another company. There is a lot of competition out there and it is easy to find another company that will provide the same “product.” Customer Service is what stands out! I’ve had some bad experiences but good onces as well, for instance DVTEL. Great Customer services.

  14. Very good service on the 28th February

    Great list, especially item 4 which is close to our hearts. We would also add the need to be flexible and recognise individual circumstances as a key feature of customer service is to be responsive.

  15. Tiffany on the 31st October

    Hello. I ran across this article when I searched How to offer good customer service. It was definitely an interesting read and as a customer service rep I was very interested to see how we are perceived by the customer. I do have to agree with Craig and Ken about the systems. There are so many systems that we go through that it is almost impossible to have them all up and running. I would also like to add that when you place your information into the IVR it doesn’t always come through to us so we may have to ask you again for the same information that you entered. We don’t like doing this anymore than you do, however without this information we are unable to assist you.
    I love that you were able to hear the other side out. Thank you for the article.

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