Can Anyone Work in Customer Service?


“Harry, anyone can work in customer service.” I sat back in the chair in my manager’s office, fuming, letting his last statement wash over me. Anyone? Really? A million things raced through my head; but I wisely said none of them. I resolved then and there that I would leave that job and find a place that realized the full business value of exceptional customer service, which led me to GoSmallBiz (sorry- shameless plug).

Since then, I’ve thought of at least a million great comebacks to that statement; but I’ve always found that a well-told story is the best way to get a point across. Speak of the devil… here’s one now:

It was 11 pm last Tuesday night. No, I wasn’t off work the next day. No, there wasn’t a family emergency. As an adult league hockey player in the state of Georgia, you have to take your ice where and when you can find it. After a rousing victory, we were having a beer before heading home for the night. We were talking about one of our friends who had lost his wedding ring on a road trip and the calamity (and subsequent road trip embargo) that ensued. Trying to showcase my superior intellect and memory, I boasted, “I take my ring off all the time at work and I’ve never lost it.” Note the foreshadowing- if you close your eyes you may even hear some ominous music playing faintly.

Fast forward to that Friday. I was staying late, finishing up a few things, and left about 6. As I called my wife walking to my car, I looked down instinctively and saw that my wedding ring (yes, the one I never lose) was not in its normal place on my finger. I went back up to my office and feverishly searched to no avail. After spending about 20 minutes looking for the ring, I convinced myself that I must have left it at my house, and went home for the weekend. After 2 more days of tearing my house apart (complete with reminders of my stupidity from my wife- who, of course, has also never lost her ring), I decided I must have simply overlooked it at work, and came early on Monday morning prepared to search for it.

Related: [eBook] Customer Communications — Business Writing Fundamentals

Can_Anyone_Work_Customer_ServiceWhen I got to the office, I saw a very welcome site: my ring sitting on my desk with a note that read simply, “I found this ring.” No name was signed to it. No credit was sought. Just my ring sitting front and center for me to find.

I’ve always subscribed to this quote from John Wooden: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” This was a test along those lines. Granted, it wasn’t a tremendously nice ring; but it easily could have gone for a couple hundred bucks at a pawn shop. Instead, though, this employee, whom I’ve since found out is named Jacqueline, left the ring on my desk with absolutely no way for me to know who she was.

As I thought about this story, I realized, grudgingly, that my previous manager was right. Anyone can work in customer service. Anyone can be taught to look someone up in a system or read a manual and help someone with an application. Anyone can follow a policy or recite a mission statement. But truly great customer service takes character. It’s about doing the right thing for the customer whether anyone is looking or not, regardless of whether or not you get credit. That is not something that just anyone can do.

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Harry Kierbow

Harry Kierbow is the Director of Social Media for Commissions Inc (CINC), a real estate technology and marketing company. He's played professionally on Facebook (and other social networks) for more than 7 years now, managing campaigns for brands (both big and small) and individuals (also both big and small). Universally regarded as the greatest ice hockey goalie to ever come from Griffin, GA (by his mom at least), you can find Harry between the pipes on the ice rinks of Georgia (yes, there is more than one) or playing with his 2 kids when he's not perfecting social media ads or binging true crime documentaries on Netflix. Connect with Harry on LinkedIn @HarryKierbow.