Customer Service in Times of Change – Insights.

In my previous post I chronicled a recent service experience with a promoter of National Customer Service Week to highlight a common problem of mistaken empowerment with disastrous business results. I recount the same story here, now with a focus on the challenges that customer service and technical support teams face in times of great change.  Here is what happened and customer service insights on change, change resistance, and rebuilding trust.

The Service Experience

A company actively involved in promoting National Customer Service Week approached me to be an advertising sponsor.  This was the first year they decided to sell advertising sponsorships. They sent information explaining levels of sponsorship, cost, and what each level of sponsorship gave me.  Initial discussions went well. We agreed on the size of the online logo ad pretty easily.  He asked me to send a short paragraph about myself for their first email bulletin. After receiving my text, he replied that the paragraph looked great and they would run it as is. The service experience was easy and well paced.

Things suddenly changed when he sent a proof of the bulletin. I was shocked to see they used only one line from my write-up. To make matters worse, they changed my verbiage into bland, boring words.  His question to me was “WOW, doesn’t it look great?” No it didn’t. I called him and asked what happened? He said, “Don’t worry we want you to be happy. I’ll get back to you.” Before he hung up, I said if we are limited on the number of words, I will be happy to rewrite it. However, the words must reflect my brand.

He emailed me a new version that was slightly longer. Sadly, the words were modified again. To me this was strange behavior and a blatant downward shift in service. It was after hours so I waited until the morning to call him. I left this voice message. “Since I don’t understand what is going on, can’t get any answers, and have no trust that the remaining advertising activities will be handled appropriately, I am going to pass on the opportunity to be a Gold Sponsor.  I wish you continued success.”

Nimble teams win business. Image:GlobalBusinessPosters

He sent me an email saying the source of yesterday’s struggle was the editor of the email bulletin who insisted the bulletin have the same look and feel as it had for the last 10 years! He offered me a discount on the membership and said they would print my paragraph the way I wanted it.  What he didn’t address was the loss of trust from the daylong confusion. When I asked him if he could assure me that my remaining ads, my time, and my brand would not be affected by their internal struggles, he emailed “Evidently you have a bad taste in your mouth about this and it’s best we terminate this relationship”.   

This company, one of the official promoters of National Customer Service Week, undertook a big change – selling advertising sponsorships. What they apparently did not do was change their mindset from continuity and tradition to the new business of representing sponsors for a fee.


  • This economy presents sudden and intense changes that require flexible agile teams.  Nimble teams win business. Lumbering, slow teams lose. Teams that are intensely focused on procedures — like many customer service and technical support teams – may find themselves in the lumbering category and ill-equipped to deliver superior customer service.  How agile are your customer service and technical support teams? There are ways to become nimble and the time to learn is well before the change. Software development teams are transforming to be more agile: Agility Community Summary.

    Resistance to Change Hurts Customer Service Image:Jorgempf

  • When struggles erupt internally, think long and hard before pretending to the customers that things are progressing normally while projecting confusion. As you string business customers along you are impacting their businesses. They walk away for the sake of their businesses. Are change resistant employees costing you customers, reputation, and revenue?
  • Rebuilding trust after difficulty requires more than one attempt and is not done well through email. Business customers and consumers will take time to trust you again.  When you have broken the trust, talk to the person – don’t write. He mistakenly chose email to communicate rather than the phone. He claimed he emailed to give me time to think.  Yet his second email immediately terminating the relationship disproved that claim. He wanted to be in sole control of rebuilding the trust. He wanted to define the only issues that mattered – price and verbiage in the bulletin. He wanted there to be only one offer.  When I didn’t immediately say “OK”, he severed the sales and service relationship. You can rebuild trust if you share control of those moments with the customer. Prove your value on the issues that matter to the customer not just those important to you.

Customers remember moments. How do you want to be remembered?

Please share your insights about delivering superior customer service during times of change. I welcome your comments below.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, has for 20 years delivered customer service and teamwork training for dynamic teamwork and the ultimate customer experience. See footage of her workshops at and preview her new customer service and sales training DVD about American regional differences.

3 Responses to “Customer Service in Times of Change – Insights.”

  1. Liam says:

    Hi K8

    Another cracker as always!

    This seems to me very bizarre behaviour on the part of the organization you were supposed to be sponsoring. The very least they should do is to give you a reason why they are altering your text. It reminds me a bit of what Philip Kotler called the ‘product approach’ to marketing which many technical people seem to display, they think that a ‘good’ product can sell itself and doesn’t need marketing or sales people. By extension, anyone that cannot comprehend how wonderful the product is will be intellectually challenged in some way. When the intellectually challenged one is the person with the cash who is going to pay for it, that does not bode well for the business!

    I also endorse your comments about getting on the phone and talking to customers when they have a problem or complain.

    In terms of urgency, the face to face meeting is the most immediate and urgent form of communication, bt it obviously can take time to arrange, the next best after that is to use the phone. If someone responds to a complaint by e-mail when they have the customer’s phone number, the message they are sending is that the complaint is not sufficiently urgent to warrant picking up the phone. What message does that send to the customer?

    I once read in a book about the mafia that every action a person does sends a message. The same applies for anyone in an organzation who has dealing with anyone outside the organization.

    It’s up to all of us to make sure we are sending the right message.

  2. Dean Lindsay says:

    Yep! Yep! Yep! Just found your blog. It is really right on with regard to Customer Service. National Customer Service Week should be ALL YEAR (but you knew that)!! Thanks.

  3. Seema Gollob says:

    Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Finance a9

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