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The Sykes Group
2476-115 Nimmo Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Tel: 757-427-7032
Fax: 757-427-0929



Customer Service Article
Bad Customer Service Is Not So Funny: Five Secrets to Giving Outstanding Customer Service
By Ed Sykes

The following story tells how a customer service experience went from funny to sad in less than 24 hours, and five secrets to creating an outstanding customer service experience.

Recently, Joy and I were invited to go to a local comedy club. It was one of those clubs where you eat dinner while listening to the comedians.

We had a very enjoyable evening with our hosts. The comedians were funny and the meals were delicious. The server gave us our check for the meals and, after perusing the bill, gave the waiter our credit card for payment. I noticed that the waiter went to all the tables he served at the same time and collected all the receipts and credit cards, cash, and payments at the same time. We were a little concerned that the payments would be applied to the wrong receipts. However, we assumed the best and assumed the server had an organized system for applying the payments to the right receipts.

We were wrong!

We checked our online account and saw that there was an incorrect charge of $75 in addition to the normal charge. Not only that, the overcharge resulted in this account being over its limit. Suddenly, it was not so funny.

The following are five secrets to resolving a customer service situation and creating a great customer service experience:

  1. Walk the Talk
    Joy telephoned the comedy club at 10:12 a.m. of the morning she found out about the overcharge. She was greeted by a voiced mail message that said, “No one is available to take your call after business hours. Please call back between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or leave a message.” That’s what she thought she did.

    If you promise to answer the phone between certain hours, then answer the phone between those hours. If you promise the customer a solution, additional information, etc., then make sure you deliver. Walk the talk and don’t offer anything less.


  1. Listen with Empathy
    When Joy called back after leaving a message on the voicemail and not getting a response, she finally got someone on the phone. Joy explained the above overcharge situation and the customer service “expert” said, “Are you sure the charge is incorrect?” Wrong answer. This person had already judged/assumed the customer to be incorrect or incompetent. Along with this judgment, as Joy explained our situation, there was no response from the customer service person during the conversation. Empathy means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and feeling the customer’s pain, gaining an understanding of the situation, and communicating that you understand. Some of the things that this customer service person could have said to show empathy are the following:

    • I appreciate your sharing this information…
    • I can understand how you could feel that way…
    • I can see how that would be an inconvenience…
    • Please tell me more…


  1. Take Ownership and Apologize
    When Joy mentioned the $75 overcharge, the customer service person said that it was our bank’s fault although it was clear that the comedy club initiated the charge. Take responsibility for creating a solution for the customer. Show ownership by saying the following:

    • We will investigate this for you immediately.
    • I will create a solution.
    • Let’s make this charge go away.
    • Let me have you talk with someone who has the answer for you. It will take (whatever amount of time). Can you wait?
    • We will make this happen for you.
    • I will personally take care of this for you.

    In our situation, the customer service person could have said, “Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I apologize for this overcharge and any inconvenience it caused you. That is never our intention. Again, my name is (name of rep). I will personally investigate this for you immediately and correct this situation.”

    Taking ownership shows the customer that someone is in charge, that someone cares, and that someone can move to the end result that really counts…creating a solution for the customer.


  1. Create the Solution
    All your actions and communications with the customer must move to creating a solution. Joy asked the customer service person when the charge would be removed and the rep said, “I don’t know; I guess soon.” Does this answer move us closer to the final answer or solution? NO. It leaves the customer unsure about the solution and creates more anxiety and questions in the customer’s mind.

    Correct Way: All the rep needed to say was, “Thank you for asking. We will immediately initiate the removal of your charge today. The charge, along with any overlimit charges, will be removed from your bank within the next 48 hours.”

    Move towards creating a solution, create the solution, let the customer know what the solution is, get the customer’s approval and commitment on the solution, and act on the solution.


  1. Offer an Incentive to Come Back
    Remember, treat your customer every time as though it is the first time to impress that customer. You may only have one opportunity to impress that customer. To say the least, we were not impressed with our comedy club experience. Joy even mentioned in the beginning of the conversation that it was our first time at the club. There was no reaction from the customer service rep.

    Correct Way: “Ms. Fisher-Sykes, I am saddened to hear about this situation, especially since it is your first time at our establishment. We like to make each customer’s experience at our club a positive memorable one so that you want to come back again and again and tell others about our club. We want you to come back to our club. Here are two complimentary passes to our club so that you can come back at your earliest convenience.”

    If you can’t give the customer a monetary incentive, give the customer a perceived incentive. It could be a special call with advanced information on your establishment’s promotions or, in our case, it could be seating at the front table of the club to make us feel special.

Apply these five customer service secrets, and your customers will laugh all the way back to your business, organization, and government agency.

Suggested Reading

Ten Customer Service Secrets to Win Back Customers

Five Secrets to Showing Your Customers You Really Care: Creating Empathy

Check Yourself for Outstanding Customer Service

Leave Your "Buts" Behind for Great Customer Service

Getting Back to Basics: A Customer Service Tale

Show Your Customers You Care


Additional Customer Service Resources

Want to learn how to provide outstanding customer service? Our Outstanding Customer Service, Master Your Attitude, Assertive Communication, Conflict Management, How to Deal with Difficult People, and How to Handle Workplace Stress and Master Your Life programs can help you lead others to the next level.  Also read our articles on motivation, goal setting, etc. Call us at 757-427-7032 or e-mail us at

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Ed Sykes is a professional speaker published in the areas of leadership, change management, customer service and teamwork. He works with business and government organizations who want to reach the next level of success and individuals who want to perform at their best. You can email him at, call him at (757) 427-7032 or visit his Web site at


We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as the author's name and Edward Sykes' name and contact information are included: / (757) 427-7032/


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Last modified:
10/09/2011 07:42:15 PM