What is Customer Service?

I’ve never taken one of those Rorschach tests.  You know the psychological test in which you’re shown a series of inkblots and are supposed to say the first thing that comes to mind?  These are supposed to evaluate your personality characteristics and emotional functioning (note to self: call psychologist and schedule one of those).

So, what’s the first thing that popped into your head when you saw the title of this post?  A cubical farm filled with folks wearing headsets?  The “call center”?  A feeling of panic at the thought of dialing an 800 number and being tossed into IVR jail with no escape except to hang up in frustration?

I’m guessing your immediate thoughts went to something along those lines.  And that’s tragic.  Its a tragedy that so many organizations continue to be satisfied with letting this be how their customers view customer service.

We had a lively chat in our weekly #custserv gathering last night on Twitter.  The topic was “Is Customer Service the New Marketing?”  While I don’t agree with that statement; and the reasons why are for another post.  It became clear in that conversation, that the above visuals are where the vast majority of peoples’ heads go when they think of customer service.

Customer service is not a department.  Its not a function.  Its not that one floor, non descript brick building rising up in the middle of an Idaho potato field.

I’m in customer service.  I’m a technologist that works in a contact center.  My number one objective is to serve my customers, both internal and external.  Notice I didn’t say “service my customers”.  My customers aren’t cars coming into the dealer for a 30,000 mile check up.  They are valuable partners in my business, that I do well to serve.  In return, they provide value back.

In delivering our work, whether you’re a marketer, a financial analyst, a package designer or night security guard, if we all thought more like Craig Newman, who’s business card reads “Founder, CEO & Customer Service Representative – Craigslist”, I think we’d all be better served.


  1. Customer service is a company wide effort. Everything we do for our employers will somehow impact the customer. It should be a motivator to do a good job. After all, the happy customer pays your bills. I agree. I think most companies view it as a department rather than part of everyone's job.

  2. Hey Andreea,
    Thanks for stopping by. In my mind, its a culture a business philosophy, an path to long-term sustainable profitability. We live in an experience economy. Products are commodities. Look at Zappos or Amazon or eBags (yes, I know. everyone references these guys). But look at what they sell: shoes, books, music, electronics, clothes, luggage you could buy anywhere, and in some cases cheaper. But that's not why they have grown such loyal customers. Look at Zappo's tag line "Powered by Service". Not "we sell cool shoes".

    Thanks again

  3. totally agree.

    Amazon excels as a customer service company that just happens to be online.

    (thanks for the great discovery of that hashtag, i´ll be listening)

  4. Hi Barry,
    You pose the question "What is Customer Service"? Excellent question and not a trivial one. I offered a new/different definition approx. one year ago and I offer this post to expand the discussion:
    Define Customer Service Like This and Then Make it Unforgettable

    Would love your thoughts on it!

  5. Customer service is key to customer retention. It is the art of keeping your customers happy. Our simple principle is follow the Golden Rule and treat others the way we want to be treated.

  6. Showing genuine concern and helping to make the next interaction in a friendly and helpful manner to customers is what customer service is all about.

  7. @business opportunities – that pretty much sums it up, regardless of what's on your business card or the department in which you work. thanks!

    @baskets by Bonnie – it is much an art. perhaps thats why it confounds many in management who take too analytical approach. thanks much!

  8. You are correct. Customers like us must be catered well by these customer care people so that they may be able to get enough reputation for their company, and for them to earn trust from their clients.

    Good customer service for me means helping customers efficiently and effectively in a very friendly manner. It is one of the things that can set your business apart from the others of it's kind actually. Today, call center associates are being trained well in order for them to excellently handle all kind of customers queries. And for me it's important because admit it or not, it's not always easy dealing with us customers, especially the angry ones.

    Well anyways, thanks for the very informative post!

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