Customer Service

Subscribe in your email box!

Subscribe in your feed reader!

I try to write about three times per week. Most of it is pretty good and will probably help you grow your business. If it doesn't, then I probably can't help you.

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

You can use a traditional RSS Feedreader with this fancy-dancy link. I think this approach is harder but if you want to do it the hard way, who am I to say otherwise?

Your Most Important Customer

posted this on Friday, September 13, 2013 at about 9am.
Your Most Important Customer

I mentioned in my last post that I was in Sun Valley last weekend. We stayed at the very nice Sun Valley Inn. It was a great location and a great place to spend a weekend away.

I was getting my bike out of the bell closet one of the days and I noticed a sign. The sign told the bellmen and the valet that they are not allowed to play games on duty.

Normally, customers wouldn't see that sign because it was an employee only area but I had just followed the valet in. At first I thought it was a little funny that they had to have that sign. It didn't really occur to me why they had to have that sign.

Later that same day, I went to pool. I don't usually expect a pool attendant. I'm not usually at hotels that are fancy enough to need them. I needed to interact with the pool attendant a couple of times (because apparently when you are rich enough, you can't get your own towels). Each time I had to interact with her, I felt like I was tearing her away from her phone while she was texting or doing Facebook or checking her email or something.

Even though I didn't need an attendant, the fact that there was an employee there that seemed to think her phone was more important than her customer frustrated me a little bit.

Yesterday I was at a location for a small workshop. At the venue there was only one employee. Each time I needed some help, I had to interrupt her phone call on her cell phone to get help. She was the only employee at the venue and her phone call was far more important than the task at hand. That task was taking care of her customers.

It's very possible that in both situations what they were doing was very important to them. It's very possible that in each of their situations they were conducting business. In fact, I've been to locations where the phone was ringing and the person helping me asked me to wait while he or she answered the phone.

The problem all the scenarios have is the understanding of who your most important customer is.

Your most important customer is the one standing in front of you right now. Just as it is rude to interrupt someone when they are talking to someone else, it's rude to allow yourself to be interrupted when you are talking to or should be taking care of your most important customer.

Corey Smith and his wife are the proud parents of five wonderful children and live in Meridian, Idaho. He is the president of Tribute Media, a Meridian based Web Design & Marketing Agency.

He is the author of two books, "Do It Right: A CEO's Guide to Web Strategy" and "Tweet It Right: A CEO's Guide to Twitter." You can learn more about his books here.

Interested in having Corey speak for your organization? Need help building or marketing your organization? Want to tell Corey how cool you think he is?

Five Worst Words in Customer Service

posted this on Saturday, April 6, 2013 at about 10am.

Customer Service

It never ceases to amaze me when I go to a fast food restaurant how frequently customer service seems to be a lost art.

I was at Subway the other day and I was standing in line... it was my turn. With a glazed look, the girl behind the counter said, "May I help who's next?"

I was the only next person.

There was no one else she would likely consider helping and she asks to help who's next and not how can she help me.

Contrast that with a restaruant that has a more personal approach. One of my favorite restaurants is Costa Vida. We have a location not far from where we live. When I went the first time and approached the counter, my first interaction with the staff was, "Hello, sir, how can I help you?"

It is so much more inviting to be addressed directly. It is the simple acts of customer service that can make the largest difference.

When Your Policy Sucks, Suck It Up

posted this on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at about 2pm.
Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza

I’ve been amazed at the backlash that has ensued from a veteran who hasn’t received a $197 refund because his doctor grounded him from flying.

You can see the full story here at Fox News.

What’s amazing to me is how much Spirit Airlines is ignoring the story in social circles. Here is a screen shot of their Twitter feed from the last few days. Nothing about the story at all. Not even an acknowledgement that they are being blasted in the media or on Twitter.

@SpiritAirlines tweets

In fact, here is just the last few minutes of Tweets from the moment I decided to write about this.

@spiritairlines tweets

What’s even more amazing is that they have posted today a Q1 earning of over $23million. That’s in one quarter. You can download the release here.

Now, I’m all for making a profit. In fact, I’m okay with Spirit making $23million in profit. That’s their right and they have a product that people buy. However, sticking to your guns on a policy that has this much impact this soon after a story breaks is very stupid.

The most telling of their attitude towards those that made their $23million possible is from the referenced story at FoxNews:

“We’re happy to look at [letters in support of Meekins]; however, we are standing by our decision not to provide the refund,” Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson told

Their response should be. “We’re sorry we didn’t understand the importance of this issue and have since not only refunded the $197 ticket but have also given his immediate family free flights for 1 year.”

In case you want to voice your concern, here's Misty Pinson's contact information:

Misty Pinson
Director, Corporate Communications
954.628.4827; 954.918.9432/cell

The moral of the story, “When your policy sucks, you have to eat crow every once in a while.”

Yes, I know, it’s not easy. I know that I’ve eaten my share and surely will have more to eat before my career (day, even) is over.

BTW. I pulled the picture of Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza from here.

Excellent Customer Service Isn't Enough

posted this on Friday, April 13, 2012 at about 12pm.
Pink Princess Phone

Most marketers believe that high customer satisfaction scores correlate with sustainable growth. Conversely, significant drops in scores should link to declines in growth.

But this isn’t necessarily so.

We all think that if we strive for customer satisfaction levels of 90% or 95% that our sales will increase. That is not really the way it works. Those who are obsessed with satisfaction are focusing on the wrong metric.

Confused? Read on.

When I first graduated from high school, I worked for AT&T. I worked in the leased telephone division. One of my jobs was to convince people that leasing a telephone made sense. I was supposed to help them keep contracts on telephone equipment whether they needed them or not (sound like AOL?).

Picture the conversation, “Yes, ma’am, that pink Princess phone that you sold in a garage sale 7 years ago is a leased telephone and you’ve been paying $4.25 per month for it ever since. But don’t worry, there’s good news, I can send you another one free of charge as long as you continue to lease.”

Yeah, the product and service sucked.

One of the marketing initiatives was advertising that 94% of our customers said that we had “excellent” customer service. The marketing managers hoped that if the word excellent was spoken to our customers during the call that when the surveyors called they would be more likely to say we had “excellent” customer service.

As a result, I was required to say, “I hope that I provided you ‘excellent’ customer service today.” Even when I knew the client wasn’t happy with us and there was nothing I could do because our service was stupid, I had to encourage them to think our customer service was excellent. Basically, we baited the customer.

So, what is the difference between excellent, super, great or outstanding? Or, what is the difference between excellent, good, or pretty darn acceptable? It all depends on the way the consumer thinks. But we were able to grow our “excellent” rating to 96%. We were able to achieve that rating just before they closed the division for failure to meet revenue and profit targets.

Our improvement in our rating didn’t make a bit of difference on our revenues because the product we offered wasn’t a product that made sense for our clients.

The reality is, customer service is a very important thing to focus on but too often we don’t realize that it’s only a part of the picture. If you focus on trying to fool people into thinking that your product is great and your service makes up for the failings, they’ll catch on and you’ll fail. If you focus on providing them with a real product with real value and truly try to take care of them then the customer satisfaction will have a sustaining impact on your company.

You can't win them all.

posted this on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at about 5pm.

Over the last four years since I started my company, I have worked hard to make it better. I’ve tried to make it better for my customers and employees alike.

Of course, I’ve also tried to make it better for myself.

Recently, I was doing some research and found a bad review of my company from a former client. In fact, the word they used to describe the work that we did was, “botched.”

Of course, it is a bit disheartening to know that someone doesn’t like us. It’s especially hard to take it when we really try hard to do right by our customers.

In fact, for this client in particular, we went as far out of our way to make him as happy as we could. We added feature after feature to his website for free in an effort to make him happy… against our better judgement. We coached, counseled and consulted to help him create a product that would work well.

To give you an idea of the struggle we had, one complaint during this process was, “I don’t understand why Flickr, LinkedIn and Facebook can handle photo uploads so much better than you can.”

He didn’t want to accept that his budget simply couldn’t support the feature he was asking for.

We finally realized that we would never make him happy so we had a nice disengagement offer that stated, in part,

We’ll add all the free features we’ve committed to and we’ll help you transition to a new support person. But, after this project is complete, we can’t do any more work for you.

This gentleman had another $15,000 of budget that he wanted to put into marketing and future development with us but we simply said, “We can’t make you happy so we want you to take that money elsewhere.”

Still, this person wrote a bad review and wasn’t happy with the experience.

As we wrap up our fourth year in business, I recognize that we are far from perfect. We have a long way to go to achieve the level of customer delight that I expect from those to whom I give money. In fact, I am quite sure that our company will never truly live up to my standard of service.

With that said, I also have to recognize that I can’t win them all. There will always be those that complain. There will always be those that think they know more. There will always be those that simply will not be happy with any level of service. To those people, I’m sorry I won’t be as good as you want.

To the rest of you… let’s create something spectacular.

Has bad service become acceptable?

posted this on Friday, October 7, 2011 at about 10am.

IT pro

For years I’ve struggled with good support for home Internet. After all these years, I am amazed that I still have issues.

Now, mind you, I recognize that my problems are not the same as the real problems that plague society (like hunger, homelessness or the French). However, I have determined that high speed internet companies seem to hire the least common denominator for their customer support and are not willing to find out how to solve the problems.

Years ago, I decided to leave Qwest because they couldn’t seem to properly support my high-speed internet. Time after time I would call for support and spend the first 20 minutes teaching the person on the other end how my account was set up. They didn’t understand the most basic of things that every internet service provider should understand.

A few years ago, I added Digis to my home. In the beginning it was great. It was very fast service. Then, they started to load it down with too many clients in the area. Our speed began to suffer. After a few weeks of slow service and multiple calls, I found someone that finally admitted that they overloaded the system and they were putting up a new tower to augment the speeds within a few weeks.

After another six weeks, I was so frustrated I called and spent another hour on the phone when someone told me that they were throttling me because I was using too much bandwidth. For those of you who don’t know what that means, throttling is when they turn down your speed after a certain amount of usage.

So, I started my hunt for a new provider. But, no one would call me back… I tried all the providers here in town and they all had awful pre-sales support. I was amazed how often I would leave messages saying, “I’m ready to buy,” only to get no call back.

But, after a few weeks, my speeds returned to their former glory… with no fanfare or notification. I didn’t change my usage. They must have gotten that new tower in after all.

Recently, I had another issue with Digis. I found two different URLs would not pull up on my computer when I was at home. Twitter uses a URL shortener ( and Droplr use a URL shortener ( and these short URLs would never work at my home. I would not be able to click on those links and find the site they were meant to take me.

I spent a lot of time going back and forth with support via email. They tried to ignore my requests for help my not responding to many of my emails. Finally, I got them to respond with

Our engineers checked all the routing, the ports, and any other information associated with those URLs. Our system is not blocking them. Our network engineers have tested both of these short URL’s and they are both operational. Digis does not block any sites or URL’s and we have have checked our servers and both URL’s are accessible via the servers.

I’m a pretty smart guy. I did everything on my end that any IT guy would do and the problem was definitely not on my end. It was, without a doubt, their issue. But, I couldn’t figure out how to get them to understand that.

This morning, I woke up and happened to click on a link and, what do you know…. it worked. I checked multiple and links and they worked.

I hadn’t changed anything on my end. Everything was identical on my end. They must have finally found the problem and fixed it.

I wonder if one of the reasons why internet service providers provide such bad service is because it's simply become acceptable. People don't know what their options are and don't know enough to ask for more.

So, when an internet service provider says they can’t help you, maybe you should ask again and again and again until they finally do. I think that we’ll have to deal with bad customer service from internet service providers until one comes along that can really do it right.

It's Always the Waitress' Fault

posted this on Monday, October 3, 2011 at about 2pm.
Kids at Costa Vida

Yesterday I was traveling with my children after a weekend out of town. If you’ve read my bio, you know that I have five wonderful children. I love them, but, as you can imagine, I have to take some considerations in how I approach things… especially when my bride isn’t with me.

At restaurants, I look for tables that have a combination of two characteristics.

  1. They need to be close to the bathrooms.
  2. They need to have fewer people around.

My children are very well behaved but I am a realistic person.

Yesterday, as we were anxious to get our food, eat and get back on the road, the restaurant was very slow. There was no one waiting in the waiting area but it took nearly 10 minutes to get our table. Staff just walked around and really didn’t pay attention to us.

Finally getting to our seat, the hostess gave us three kids menus (remember how many I needed?) and a large handful of crayons. We had about 12 crayons… 10 were blue and two were red. That doesn’t divide well… nor provide for many coloring options.

The waitress came and, during the order, one of my daughters spilled her water. It was innocent. We had two napkins on the table and, as I was struggling trying to wipe up the water with only two napkins, the waitress read back the order to me… didn’t help at all.

If you know me, you’ll know that I can be a bit impatient, but I bit my tongue. I did ask for two more menus for coloring and additional crayons. They never came.

After being in the restaurant for about 30 minutes, the waitress came and said they were still working on my food then went to the kitchen and told them what my omelet order was. I heard from across the dining room.

Finally, after being in the restaurant for 50 minutes she commented that they were still waiting on my omelet. #doh!

I had her start bringing the kids’ food out and commented, rather brusquely, that we’d been there a long time. Thank heavens my children were being well behaved.

Finally, as we got our food, my meal wasn’t even prepared properly.

I haven’t even shared half of the problems that occurred during that long hour and fifteen minutes but it prompted a tweet indicating that my tip would reflect how I felt. As you can imagine, I had a number of comments like, “Well, a tip should reflect the server and not the restaurant as a whole,” or, “Well, you should talk to the manager and ask for a discount.”

Here’s the reality: Whomever you are talking to at a business is where your perception of that business is defined. In a restaurant, it’s the host/hostess or the waiter/waitress. That person is responsible, fully, for your experience to be the best.

My point of it’s always the waitress’ fault is that the waitress is the one that represents the restaurant. It’s her (or his, if the boot fits) responsibility to make sure that I, as the customer, am well taken care of. Even when there are problems in the kitchen, she should be proactive in getting the manager involved. She should be proactive in getting more crayons for the kids. She should be the one to proactively apologize that the kitchen is backed up. You see my point?

Let me give you a positive example. I love the food at Costa Vida. At our local spot in Meridian, Idaho, the staff and management are spectacular. I am not sure what it is about them, but the staff has very little turn over and they really take great care of their customers. (Much better than other Costa Vida locations I’ve been to.) I was in line today for lunch and the person behind me asked a question of the server, “Can I get the daily special but pay an extra dollar and make it a large?”

The first response from the server was, “No.”

However, she paused, then said, “Let me go ask the manager.”

I was smiling a bit because I was thinking about this blog post. I was hoping the answer would come back as yes to further prove my point. She talked with the manager for a good 45 seconds then came back and just started making a large. The customer was very happy that the exception was made and even the manager came over and said something to the effect, “Just don’t tell anyone because we aren’t supposed to do this.” (I hope I don’t get anyone in trouble)

The server at Costa Vida went out of her way to make a customer happy. A customer that would have just been satisfied was now thrilled.

If you are in the restaurant business, your customer doesn’t care what is going on in the kitchen. Your customer doesn’t care that your delivery truck didn’t make it. Your customer only cares that his or her experience is made the best it can be made.

In any business, this is true. You can be in retail (Home Depot, Target or Old Navy). You can be in business to business (copier sales, Web marketing or computer services). It doesn’t matter. The customer experience starts and usually ends with the one, single person they talk to. An attentive server, customer service rep, cashier, project manager, technician, etc. can make the difference between a thrilled customer and a customer that never wants to come back… or worse, a customer that will tell others to never go.

Don’t assume that customers will be as vocal as I am. Assume they will leave angry and, upon being asked, will simply nod their head and say, “It’s fine.”

Oh, and the end result at the restaurant from yesterday? The manager caught wind of my frustration and asked me how things were. I responded, “Your service is terrible.” I enumerated why. He gave me a 50% discount on the meal. But, the most impressive part was the waitress, recognizing her part in this, came and apologized for her part of the problem. She was sincere and genuine. She was new and was open to a few kind recommendations from me. Because of that, I ended up giving her a 15% tip on the total amount the bill would have been before the discount was offered.

I was minimally satisfied that I received a discount. However, I would have preferred to pay full price and have a great experience than get a discount and be frustrated. A discount at the end never makes up for a poor experience during the process.

The 5 Worst Words in Customer Service

posted this on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at about 10am.

It never ceases to amaze me when I go to a fast food restaurant how frequently customer service seems to be a lost art.

I was at Subway the other day and I was standing in line… it was my turn.

With a glazed look, the girl behind the counter said, “May I help who’s next?”

I was the only next person. She wasn’t even looking at me.

There was no one else she would likely consider helping and she asks to help who’s next and not how can she help me.

My favorite restaurant locally is Costa Vida. Very often when I go, I’ll hear, “Hello, sir, how can I help you?”

It is so much more inviting to be addressed directly. It is the simple acts of customer service that can make the largest difference.

Subscribe to RSS - Customer Service