Tuesday 20 February 2007


I am increasingly convinced that Joel Spolsky can write no wrong. Yesterday, he published one of the best articles ever written about customer service, including, though he doesn't put it this way, an explanation of what "The customer is always right" actually means:

When an irate customer is complaining, or venting, it's easy to get defensive.

You can never win these arguments, and if you take them personally, it's going to be a million times worse. This is when you start to hear business owners saying, "I don't want an asshole like you for a customer!" They get excited about their Pyrrhic victory. Wow, isn't it great? When you're a small business owner you get to fire your customers. Charming.

The bottom line is that this is not good for business, and it's not even good for your emotional well-being. When you win a victory with a customer by firing them, you still end up feeling riled up and angry, they'll get their money back from the credit card company anyway, and they'll tell a dozen friends. As Patrick McKenzie writes, "You will never win an argument with your customer."

I've said this a million times: To be brilliant at customer service is extremely easy. You need just two things: common sense and empathy. The reason good customer service is so rare is that most people have neither.

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