Customer Service Reps: Give Them The Greatest Gift

National Customer Service Week is approaching quickly.  As you prepare to celebrate with your customer service, customer care, help desk, and technical support reps, consider giving them the greatest gift of all.

Customer Friendly Procedures - The Greatest Gift to Give Your Reps

Procedures and policies that you use with customers need to be both achievable and respectful of customers’ time and needs. Here are two recent concrete examples that teach volumes from the not so friendly customer service procedures.


NJ Transit system now uses double-decked trains. The upper level has racks above the seats for luggage and other items.  The lower level has no racks or storage of any sort. Space under the seat is not large enough for luggage.  NJ Transit trains stop at the Newark Liberty International Airport stop to drop off and pick up travelers.

I have witnessed travelers with standard to large size luggage board the train and come to the lower level to find a seat. Once there they realize there is no accommodation for luggage. They leave it in the aisle leaning against the seats. The conductor comes through and states the policy: “You must move all luggage out of the aisle and away from your feet.” The customers look up, around, and sit there staring in disbelief. The policy is actually not achievable and definitely not customer friendly. NJ Transit has its struggles with finances since the governor reduced subsidies. It wants us all, including travelers with luggage, to ride the trains. In that case, it must address the needs of its customers with achievable customer friendly procedures.

NJ American Water requested by mail that each customer call to schedule time to replace the old water meter with a new water meter. I complied and scheduled an appointment three weeks ahead. A few days prior, I called to confirm it and said simply, “I am calling to confirm my appointment this Friday for the new water meter. Do you have me on your list?” The customer service rep asked me for my name and my account number to verify my identity. I complied.

In her dull routine voice, she then asked me for my street address, town, and zip code. She then asked me for my phone number and backup phone number! Meanwhile she hadn’t addressed my question. I was very annoyed and said, “I’ll make you a deal — you tell me whether or not I am on your list and I’ll tell you my phone numbers. She replied “Yes, you’re on the list.”

Out of professional curiosity, I then asked, “Why are you going through every piece of data before offering me any help?” She replied, “We are required to update your customer record when you call.” Trapping customers into playing 20 questions to update records before helping them is not great customer friendly service. Even in technical support, questions for updating records should come after helping the customer unless it is critical to solving the customer’s current problem. First help then update your records.

Give your service and support teams the greatest gift — an opportunity to deliver true customer care with customer friendly procedures and policies.

National Customer Service Week Challenge: Have all reps brainstorm customer friendly improvements to breed passionate commitment to superior customer service.

What customer friendly changes would you like to see?

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, delivers workshops and consulting for truly memorable customer service and teamwork. On Oct. 4, 2010, she will deliver an info-packed webinar through the Help Desk Institute on spotting and adapting to your customer’s personality type. Email

9 Responses to “Customer Service Reps: Give Them The Greatest Gift”

  1. Barry Dalton says:

    Again, another excellent point about the method of message delivery. Wasn’t that something we were taught early in life – how we say things is as important as what we say.

    At the root of some of these not-so-customer friendly scripts is, as you identified, the not-so customer centric policies companies implement. And unfortunately, I’ll throw this out there for discussion. If you were to boil poor customer service down to two issues, if someone asked you “describe the root cause of poor service experience in two ideas”, my vote would be for 1) corporate policies 2) unempowered front line service delivery agents.

    Solve those issues and what gains could be realized in customer experience and sustainable profitable growth.


  2. Barry Peters says:

    Kate: great examples of the importance of execution. Having the information available is only half the game.

    And could personally relate to the NJT example. Not taking luggage, but have watched others struggle. Again a matter of execution. If personnel would tell customers where the storage is, much of this could be avoided!

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Exactly Barry. Oh there could be signs/arrows with indicating where to go with baggage.

      On the innovation side of things, I couldn’t help but wonder why NJT didn’t seize the day and buy more luggage friendly trains. The airport stop was already built when then started buying the double decked trains. If they had purchased train cars with more at level seating, they could have launched an entire marketing campaign to attract far more tourists. The extra revenue would be immense. They truly missed the boat!


  3. Jim Morgan says:

    Great post, Kate–I’m chuckling so as not to cry. The funniest/saddest part is that I bet those CSRs could tell their bosses what needs to be changed if asked, but nobody asks or listens. This leaves the CSRs and conductors in the horrible position of having to enforce stupid policies and take the heat for policies they know are stupid… without being able to say the policies are stupid!

    And we wonder why turnover rates are so high in most call centers.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Maybe I should do a post on all the “stupid” policies that reduce customer service. Hmmm… might be too long for a blog post. Perhaps a blog roll!

  4. Karen says:

    Kate – this is so right on! I already have something similar on my list to brainstorm with our agents but you just provided the actual vehicle – the questions and examples. Thanks for sharing! karen

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Great Karen. So pleased that you will be able to use this post as a mechanism for inspiring your reps on to improvements!
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Such a great post. It dictates exactly what I experienced with AT&T yesterday morning as I was calling about an issue I was experiencing with my internet service. Before I could receive any assistance, I was asked a billion questions just so they can make sure the info on their CRM system is “updated.” As a service rep myself, I chuckled and acted like it was nothing. But, others may get turned off and start thinking about bringing their business elsewhere.

    After reading this post, I have decided that this will be my main focus for my Term Paper this semester. Corporate Policies and how they affect the guest experience.

    I welcome all suggestions that may arise.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many people get annoyed Remy. Many find it maddening because the roles switch and the customers become the service providers at that moment. Never ask for help before giving it!

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