I suspect we’re all guilty of it; becoming so bogged down with details or running away with our own marvellous ideas that we forget to stop and consider whether our client is receiving excellent service.

Recently our family car failed its final MOT and went to Mazda heaven. The painful ordeal of replacing it gave me some interesting insight into how good and bad service can be so attractive or off-putting to a customer – even to the extent that they might consider buying a lesser product or service as long as they can buy it from someone who they like.


The lessons may have been learnt whilst purchasing a car but the principles hold true in many other situations and hopefully you’ll agree that it’s worth revisiting your own customer service policy to ask if you are considering these points.

As I customer, of course I want to receive what I’ve asked for/been promised – that end result should be a given but how we get there matters as well. I want to be made to feel that (a) I have the seller’s full attention; (b) I’m getting a good deal; (c) I’m getting good value (yes, it’s different to a good deal and I want both), (d) I am special (or at least an individual, not just another mug) and (e) I will be looked after.

…value is the relationship between benefits or worth versus price paid or invested.

I’ll explain.

1. I want the seller’s full attention.

It might seem fit to be taken for granted but it’s very important not to make your customers feel like you have a hundred other things you’d prefer to be doing but that they are a valued customer and you want their business. Believe me, it’s very uncomfortable to be a customer faced with a disinterested seller – it can make you feel second rate and not at all valuable.

Managing expectations in a professional and considered manner is absolutely fine – if you DO have a lot on and can’t guarantee your full attention straight away, work out a more achievable timescale and politely offer or negotiate that instead. Your client will probably appreciate your honesty and if their job can’t wait, for example, you may be able to let it pass without losing face (you may be able to recommend an alternative for the customer to try or even charge a slight premium and move things around to accommodate it if circumstances allow and the timing is that precious to the customer).

2. I want to feel like I got a good deal.

Yes, you might have special offers that are on your board or rate card but everyone gets those.

…let me feel that I’ve won

I want you to recognise my individuality (see point four) and bend a little to let me feel that I’ve won. It doesn’t have to be much but if someone wants to haggle, make sure you have a little room for manoeuvre and concede a few quid or maybe throw in a personalised sweetener – it will give the customer a sense of achievement and make them happier with their purchase.

3. I want to get good value

Similar but different to number two, above, value is the relationship between benefits or worth versus price paid or invested.

Reliability, high standards and trustworthiness are huge selling points and leaving your customer knowing they didn’t pay over the odds but got a good quality product or service in return for their hard earned cash will give them confidence that you aren’t going to sell them a dud product or service next time.

4. I want to feel special…

…or at least I an individual worthy of an individual approach.

Your general offering may work for some, even many, of your customers but don’t be so rigid that you can’t spot that little change in emphasis or requirement that would allow you to go the extra mile and hit the sweet spot for that particular client – often at no extra expense to yourself.

Listen to the customer, find out what suits them and make them feel like you want them to buy from you and tell all their friends/family/customers/suppliers/contacts how well you treated them.

5. I want to be looked after

After the transaction is complete, how will you treat your customer? Knowing how they want to be looked after is, again, different from one person to the next (one man’s ‘after-care’ may be another man’s ‘nuisance’) so make sure there is a process in place to gain feedback tactfully, follow up helpfully and offer additional services sensitively.

If you sense somebody would rather just buy and be left alone, tailor your approach and don’t harass them, but remember the value of a well timed call or email to remind a client you’re there to help if they need you.

In the end we got the car we wanted but felt let down and disappointed by the approach shown by the dealer. That left us feeling we needed to try much harder to enjoy the purchase and we’ve been telling our friends to steer clear rather than referring more business their way.

What a shame for us, and what a missed opportunity for them. Have you had particular experience with good or bad customer service that’s made a big impact? Or as a provider, how do you reflect on your own customers’ experience and how you can influence it positively?