Customer service tip: Check your light bulbs

Most customer service training courses teach the importance of “doing the little extra things” to create a happy customer. This article focuses on the other end of the scale – getting the basics right to avoid customers losing trust and confidence in your company.

Let me share a simple story with you to explain…

I was facilitating a customer experience workshop at a hotel. I arrived early and made my way to the lobby elevator.

I was headed to the 12th floor conference room.

On entering the elevator, I pressed the button that read, “12”.

The button did not light up.

I pressed it again. And again.

No light.

I could feel myself getting mildly stressed.

I then pressed, “11”, and it lit up.

I asked myself, “Does this elevator only go to the 11th floor? Or is it that the light for the 12th floor button is not working?”

I did not want to spend the time to find out. So I took another elevator.

The 12th floor light lit up and I was on my way.

Later that day, I was in another part of the building. On reaching the outside of the elevator, I pressed the “down” button…and it did not light up. I pressed a “down” button outside a nearby elevator, and, sure enough, it lit up.

“Yet another elevator light is not working,” I thought to myself.

I felt myself getting annoyed.

I started to ask myself, “What else am I going to find that is not working?”

Let’s decode what is happening here.

We erode trust when we don’t get the basics right

Brands are built on trust and confidence.

A lot has been written about maintaining trust by keeping your promises. A lot has been written about brands that have been damaged, or that disappeared from the landscape completely, because of some form of wrongdoing.

However, the case of the light bulbs gets down to something much more fundamental.

It is about understanding that customer trust is eroded when we don’t get the basics right.  When this happens, customers – like me – will start to ask, “What else is going wrong?”

Every business has lots of examples of “light bulbs” – the basics that won’t “wow” the customer, but are essential to maintaining customer trust.

You don’t get “wowed” when you receive a letter from a bank that has spelled your name correctly.  But you get upset if the bank spells your name wrong. You start to ask, “If they get the basics like the spelling of my name wrong, what else will they get wrong?”

Imagine getting your car back from a car service with an oily foot mark on the driver’s side floor.

Imagine a fitting room in the women’s clothing section of a department store – it has an unclean floor.

Imagine an insect in your food on a plane flight.

What would your reaction be? What happens to your trust and confidence in the service provider in each case?

So, let’s turn to you and your customers. What are the “light bulbs” – the basics that are only noticed when they are not working? How well are you checking your own version of the light bulbs?

In closing, by all means, do the little extras for customers, make it easy for customers.

And, amid all of this activity, be brilliant at the basics. Make sure to regularly check the many light bulbs in your team and your company.

Until next time.

3 thoughts on “Customer service tip: Check your light bulbs

  1. Pingback: 5 Best Blogs on Customer Support for June 2017

  2. Hi George,

    There is also a second meaning to be derived from this: actually the lift was doing everything you asked of it. It’s just that it didn’t tell you!

    Sometimes, we need to make the invisible, visible. If we can or indeed are doing something for a customer then we should make sure they know it. Otherwise, they may:
    take it for granted, assume we can’t or aren’t and finally use a competitor who makes their service visible – doh!


    • Thanks for your comment Simon. The lift should have given me the confidence that it would take me to the 12 floor. It was a “people in the lift, but the lights not working” syndrome.

      Agreed that we need to make the invisible visible. Looks like a good subject for a separate blog post!


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