Customer Service Teams & Controversy: Leaders Are You Ready?

Customer Service Teams: How will yours treat customers when controversy strikes?

Leaders, how sure are you that — in the midst of controversy — your customer service teams will put the customers’ needs first?  

If your answer is “I would like to think ” or “I would hope ” read this true story.  The lessons learned will help you ensure that your customer service teams deliver the ultimate customer service — even in the midst of controversy.

Customer Service Teams: Image is a Taxi as in the story.

Customer Service Teams & Controversy: Leaders Ready?

Image licensed from

The Story

I flew into major city to deliver customer service training to a large software company. Got a taxi and arrived at a hotel just fine. Then the taxis went on strike. I asked one of the bellmen if he could reserve a car service to get me to the work site. He said, “No, you’ll have to take your chances by hailing one of the non-striking taxis out in the street.”

Strikers pounded the taxi I was in with eggs. It was very upsetting. After work I spoke with the general manager and told him what happened. Once again I asked if they could help me find a way to get to work the next morning.

He said he was shocked and embarrassed that the bellman hadn’t called a car service for me that morning. They had arranged car services for several hotel guests! He then reserved one for me for the remainder of my stay and made sure they took credit cards for that is how I would be paying.

When I saw the bellman, I asked him why he had refused to help me. He said: “Because I am in support of the taxi strike!” I asked him why he didn’t tell me that earlier and he just stared back.

In essence, he wanted to be in support of the strike without risking his job. He wanted to make it easy on himself while making it difficult for me. He chose to use me to be in support of the strike instead of putting himself on the line.

It wasn’t the bellman’s integrity that delivered horrible customer service; it was his lack of it.

Leaders: Ensure Your Customer Service Teams Put Customers First

I never stayed at that hotel again. Although the general manager was very customer focused he didn’t know the bellman wasn’t! How sure are you that your customer service teams are truly customer focused — even in the midst of controversy?

  • Don’t hope customer service teams are customer focused. Find out!

    When you are aware of a controversy, as in the case of a taxi strike, meet with all customer service teams to openly discuss how they feel about it. Have each one of the team members role play what they will do. With active role plays, you will unearth people’s true feelings.

  • Inform customers.

    Communication empowers customers. Lack of communication enables private battles. Signs in the lobby, notices in rooms, and so forth would have prompted me to speak with other customer service teams right away when the bellman turned me down. Also, the GM would have found out much sooner that the bellman was subverting customer service. Communicate and let customers help you discover the truth.

  • Be very present.

    Customer service teams circulating and asking customers how they are doing show customers you all care. Proactive customer service prevents regrettable embarrassing mistakes like the bellman’s hidden resistance.

  • Train customer service teams to resolve conflict.

    Not all controversy is an external event. Sometimes it’s a customer’s objection to your policies. Do your customer service teams become rigid and defensive when customers object? Scripts feed this rigidity and intensify conflict. Much better to train customer service teams to negotiate and find a satisfactory solution with and for the customers.

Assumptions and lack of interaction can kill the ultimate customer service experience. Leaders, don’t less this happen to you. Communicate & stay involved.

Question: Leaders, how will you stay involved to inspire the best without suggesting to the teams that you don’t trust them?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leaders, Are You Conquering Customer Loyalty?
Psychological Barriers to Super Customer Experience

©2013 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

One Response to “Customer Service Teams & Controversy: Leaders Are You Ready?”

  1. Hi Kate, this story I believe came as a test through which many lessons have been learned. You made some very valid points about how to ensure customer service team put customers first but then asked a tough question at the end – I can’t think of something else I would do differently. I am for the most part a hands on person, so I get involved with the team and allow them to see how it should be done. That usually work well for me. Thanks for sharing your story

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