The Ten Commandments of Effective Customer Service

Donald L. Caruth, Ph.D. & Gail D. Caruth
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Donald & Gail Caruth
Donald & Gail Caruth
Just the other day in a familiar company down the street and around the corner, Morris, VP of Marketing ascended to the boardroom. He had looked haggard and disheveled. He looked as though he had not slept a wink in days. He was beset on all sides by problems. Sales were down, returns were up, and worst of all, customers were vociferously complaining. Morris was finally going to the top to seek words of wisdom from The Chairman.

After relating his tales of woe The Chairman spoke. He revealed to Morris in a haunting, sepulchral tone The Ten Commandments of Effective Customer Service. Three hours passed before Morris finally descended from the boardroom. The elevator doors opened and he got off the elevator with a spring in his step. He had new hope in his heart. Clutched tightly in his hands were ten computer flash drives. He was about to share with all management the ten secrets.

Commandment One: Customer service is everyone's job. Everyone in an organization serves the customer. Even those employees who do not deal directly with customers serve the customer by providing support to those employees who do deal directly with the customer. Every member of the organization must have a sense for serving the customer. Great customer service results from an understanding that customer service is everyone's job.

Commandment Two: Respect your customer at all times. A customer is not an account number, a sales statistic, or a specified amount of money in your pocket. A customer is a living, breathing, human being who deserves respect at all times. Be courteous to your customer. Be appreciative. Treat your customer the way your customer wants to be treated. Value your customer's individuality and differences. It is never a mistake to assume the customer is right. Demonstrate to your customer you want to do business with them by respecting your customer at all times.

Commandment Three: Give your customer what your customer wants. Every product or service must satisfy a customer need. Every product or service must provide a value to the customer. All organizations are in the business of satisfying customer needs. Products or services that satisfy customer needs sell themselves. Make certain you know what your customer needs. You cannot be the judge of what your customer needs, only the customer can make that determination. To be certain that you provide what the customer needs, go ask the customer and then give your customer what your customer wants.

Commandment Four: Exceed your customer's expectations. Promise less, deliver more. Customers keep coming back to firms that provide them greater than anticipated benefits. An organization can never go wrong by giving customers more than their money's worth. Exceeding expectations assures repeat business. Give your customers reason to return to your firm and continue to exceed your customer's expectations.

start quoteCommunicate to be understood, not to impress. The only way to be certain communication is effective is to talk to your customer in language your customer can understand. end quote

Commandment Five: Be truthful to your customer. Honesty truly is the best policy. Do not lie to customers. Do not exaggerate the benefits of your products and services. Do not engage in hyperbole and puffery. Dishonesty drives customers away and keeps them from returning. You want your customer to come back so be truthful to your customer.

Commandment Six: Ask your customer to evaluate your service. To find out what customers think of your service ask them. You cannot assess the level of your service, only customers can do that for you. Solicit their feedback and be open and responsive to the answers you receive. If you want to know how you are really doing then ask your customer to evaluate your service.

Commandment Seven: Thank your customer and mean it. Customers are the only reason for a firm's existence. Say thanks for them to others and say thanks to them as often as possible. Always be sincere in giving your thanks. Do it in a positive, not a perfunctory manner. Demonstrate to your customer how much you appreciate doing business with him or her and thank your customer and mean it.

Commandment Eight: Talk to you customer in language your customer can understand. Avoid technical jargon, sophisticated mumbo-jumbo, and the latest industry clichés. It is the responsibility of the person of knowledge to communicate in such a fashion that others can understand. Speak to your customer at a level of understanding the customer can comprehend. Communicate to be understood, not to impress. The only way to be certain communication is effective is to talk to your customer in language your customer can understand.

Commandment Nine: Give your customer your full attention. A customer is not an interruption. A customer is the sole reason for a firm's existence. A customer can go down the street and around the corner to a competitor for service and the customer knows this. When dealing with a customer, give the customer your undivided attention. Show the customer that the customer is your number one priority at that moment and give your customer your full attention.

Commandment Ten: Follow-up with your customer. The customer encounter does not end with the sale. Follow-up is necessary to determine the degree of customer satisfaction with the product or service and the experience of doing business with the firm. Follow-up indicates continued interest in and concern for the customer. Show you care and follow-up with your customer.

Morris knew from past experiences that without these Ten Commandments, effective customer service would not survive; in fact, the opposite was generally true. Painful experience had repeatedly demonstrated that without these laws of effective customer service the company would cease to exist. The consequences of poor customer service in an organization can only result in diminished sales, customers who go elsewhere and never return, and a shrinking organization.

Ultimately this leads to the slow and painful death of the organization. Thus experience of the parable of the boiled frog is repeated. Often, executive management does not know of the existence of an underling negative factor until it is too late. This is similar to the internal workings of the frog and its mechanisms that detect danger. If you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will immediately try to scramble out. However, if you place the same frog in room temperature water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will sit contentedly and do nothing. Slowly he will sit and boil to death, not aware of the peril surrounding him.

Morris wondered why the answer concerning customer serve had not come to him earlier. How many hours had he spent contemplating this and trying to resolve the questions in his mind? The answers to all the failures he had observed now seemed so simple, of course it was obvious: effective customer service. How could he have been so foolish as not to have seen this before? Customer service can only survive in an atmosphere that delivers to customers what customers want and need.

Morris knew he now held in his hands the answers to questions long pondered by those much wiser marketing managers who had gone before him. He wondered why he was chosen to deliver this message. What had he done to deserve this honor? He could think of no reason. However, this did not presently seem important to him. He knew he would have plenty of time to search for those answers later.

Morris knew that a very important task now lay before him. He was determined that it was something he was not going to fall short of accomplishing. He was on his way to deliver to management The Ten Commandments for Effective Customer Service.

Contact Information: Donald Caruth can be reached at; Gail Caruth can be reached at

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