Time for a Makeover? Does your customer service need a makeover? Even in high-end service environments, a seemingly tiny disconnect between a customer and a service provider can cause a customer to walk away from your business. Here are a few ways to minimize these types of service disruptions.

It was a posh conference center. Absolutely gorgeous. My client was going all out for his staff, booking a full-day off-site training with a delicious lunch and snacks included.  The facility’s staff was quick to greet me and made sure all my presentation technology was up and running too. Impressive.

Throughout the day the service was impeccable, leading me to think, “I’d like to book a public workshop here.”

Then, I asked a front-line desk person for a pen.

“I only have one pen left. People borrowed the others and didn’t bring them back. If I give it to you, are you going to bring it back?” she asked.

“I will!” I promised, feeling strangely excited about being handed a perfect example of what NOT to say.

When it comes to customer service, I think in “before” and “after” pictures. In my mind, her response was equivalent to a “before” picture of someone with overdone make-up or an 80’s style mullet. I immediately start thinking of how I’d do a “customer service makeover” on her words to create an “after” image of customer service excellence. Here are three ways:


Practice widening the gap between “what you think” and “how you choose to say it.” Pause if you need to, if that’s what’s required to find the positive spin. Before responding, ask yourself evaluative questions like: “Is it necessary and productive?” “Will it make a positive impression?” and  “Will it leave the customer feeling valued?”


Frame requests in ways that leave customers feeling good about cooperating. Instead of giving the impression of lack or mistrust (“don’t walk off with my pen!”) reframe your request in a positive light like this:

“Lucky you! This is my very last pen. When you’re done, if you don’t need it, I’d love to have it back.” 


To stop problems from recurring, make a habit of identifying  and addressing root causes. Make a list of common customer requests and complaints that are putting a strain on service staff. Then work internally to come up with creative solutions. Doing a customer service makeover will make your customers happier and your internal staff will be calmer and more empowered.


A few weeks after training at that posh conference center, I was picking up a pie for my son’s birthday from the Grand Traverse Pie Company. (Like me, he likes pie more than cake.) The teller ran my credit card, and handed me the receipt to sign.  “Do you have a pen?” I asked. That’s when the magic happened.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I started the day with six pens, but they’re all gone. I’ll go track down a pen for you right away!”

“No need,” I said, feeling excited to spot the perfect example of what TO say.

I pulled out a pen from my purse saying, “I’ve got one, and I’m leaving it with you for the next customer.”

This service provider didn’t need a customer service makeover. His service style was spot on.


It’s worth noting that I haven’t booked that fancy conference center for a public class. It went from the top of my list to one-of-many options to consider.

What about you? Could a small disconnect in customer service knock your organization off the top of a customer’s list? Is it time for a customer service makeover? 

Written by Marilyn Suttle. She specializes in customer service and communication. She’s an international conference speaker, trainer, and bestselling author who works with organizations to ensure a strong customer focus and successful leadership teams.

Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan is known as the business bible – a blueprint for client service success.

Taming Gladys! The Busy Leader’s Guide to Creating Fierce Customer Loyalty is filled with activities you can do with your staff to keep customer loyalty strong.

The Customer Service Roadmap is an in-house customer service training program designed for employees who have front line customer contact — face to face, telephone, email, chat, forums, etc.  Instead of a one-time training event, we offer a series of short, bite-sized courses focused on developing 7 core customer service skills.

Email Marilyn@MarilynSuttle.com for more information.


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