21 Customer Service Tips from Real Life Examples

As business owners, we service customers.  

But as consumers, we are the customer, and we want top-notch service just as much as anyone does.

Often it’s the experiences we have when we walk in the shoes of the customer that open our eye to how we can do things better.  

So last week we asked –

What’s the story behind your favorite customer service experience, where you were the customer, and what did you learn from it that you’ve applied to the way you do business with your customers?

The stories that came flooding in were fantastic examples of great service that inspired business owners to raise the bar, as well as, not so great service that taught the lesson of what not to do. You only get one chance to make an impression, so you’d better focus on making it great, because customers never hesitate to share awful experiences. Even if you make a mistake, the best solution is to own up, and do what it takes to exceed expectations to make things right. Such practices will leave your customers feeling like the precious commodity they truly are.

 Our sincere gratitude to the 21 entrepreneurs who were kind enough to share their stories. Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

If you would like to contribute to this week’s question, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get involved.  We’d love to have you on a future post!


1. Love The Lagniappe

A lagniappe is a small, unexpected gift. My lagniappe was provided at a beauty salon, for which I had a gift certificate for a massage. The massage was wonderful. Equally wonderful was the presentation of a long-stemmed rose as I was leaving. Needless to say, if I had felt like a queen for a day during the muscle-relaxation treatment, I felt like the Queen Mother herself when I walked out! The lagniappe probably cost the salon a dollar or two, but they got hundreds of dollars worth of free PR as a result of my total satisfaction.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli

2. Great Customer Service – Turn Problems Into Opportunities

When I stop patronizing a vendor, it is not because of the problem but the response.
Years ago, Softwareoutlet.com sold me an IBM Worldbook Encyclopedia for $40 which carried a $40 rebate. IBM sent me card stating the rebate was not valid – no reason given. I contacted Softwareoutlet and they sent me a $75 credit toward any future purchases and free shipping. I would have been happy with the promised $40 but they actually doubled its value to make up for the inconvenience. I have been back many times since.
Now on the rare occasion when one of my customers has an issue, I make sure to give them extra to cover their inconvenience. This always results in an appreciative email and a happy customer. Sometimes problems become opportunities to shine.

Thanks to Izzy Goodman of Complete Computer Services

3. Top Tips For Treating Your Customers Like Gold

I recently stopped into a store and I was followed by the store clerk throughout the store. When I reached the counter, there was no one there to wait on me because they were walking around following other people as they came. I was in a rush and as the clerk stepped up to the register, she offered no apologizes for keeping me waiting. I questioned her about it and let her know that it was poor customer service and that I would never treat my customers like that. She looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language. I treat all my customers with high regard and am respectful of their time. When a customer comes to my office, they are treated like a VIP. I offer them a beverage, take their coat, and listen to what they are looking for. Listening is key to great customer service.

Thanks to Mattie Stevenson of Above & Beyond Marketing And Event Management, LLC (formerly Above & Beyond Event Planners)

4. They Acted As If They Really Cared

When I called Capital One VISA last week to contest a charge to my card, the customer service representative I spoke to spent a great deal of time on the phone with me so that he could be sure he had obtained all the facts. I had been willing to let part of the charge stand because the company in question had performed some of the services it promised. However, after hearing the entire story, the employee told me that he would delete the entire transaction. He never once consulted a supervisor.

The moral of the story: Even if your business is a one-person operation, you must demonstrate to your customers that you really care about them by doing everything you can to meet their needs and solve their problems. And if you have employees, empower them to do the very same thing.

Thanks to Jane Blume of Desert Sky Communications

5. Good Ol’ Customer Service!

My favourite customer service experience was when I purchased a product online that was faulty. I emailed the company to let them know that the product was damaged and they were incredibly apologetic and sent two replacements to compensate. Unsurprisingly, I still order from that website today and frequently recommend it to friends. My experience with that company has helped me to always think from a customer’s perspective when operating my own business and strive to improve services on an ongoing basis.

Thanks to Victoria Olubi of My Curls

6. Make Some Time To Give Them Your Full Undivided Attention…

In our search for a web company in 2006, we came across a company that had a unique orientation process. They had a 2-hour orientation with EVERYONE that would be involved with the project on both sides, including subcontractors. It seemed like overkill at first, but then I realized that the cost of the work would be the same as buying a car, so I decided to do it. As a new client, I loved it. No phones, no interruptions, 100% ATTENTION SPAN from all. At the end of the day, we knew the people who would be on the other end of the phone or the email. The very next day, I created a half-day “retreat” for all new publishing services clients (sometimes by webcam). We have a full (and fun) agenda, and by the end of the day, EVERYONE understands the author’s goals, the book and the strategy.

Thanks to Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing Inc. Publishing Services

7. Channel Of Gold!

My favorite customer service experience was a stay at the Four Seasons Scottsdale- yes you are spending a certain amount for the service but the point learned was it was the most amazing feeling to be treated like gold! The unexpected extras, no one being a “no person” and smiles on the staff’s faces every time I turned around. Not only do I take that feeling and try to relay it in my everyday work life, but I talk to myself and keep reminding myself how much I want to go back and REPEAT the vacation and that is what a customer needs to be a REPEAT CUSTOMER- it worked on me so I’ll channel it for my business!

Thanks to Jill Mikols Etesse of SmartyShortz LLC

8. Playing The Customer – Customer Relationships Management – Learning From Examples

I offer Customer Relationships Management and when I was introduced to Trader Joe’s and became a happy customer, this made my job easier. I was able to give examples of how Customer Relationships are managed. Each way we “touch” another in business is identified as Touchpoints. We help discover gaps and bottlenecks with the workings within a company that stop them from realizing true customer satisfaction.

Thanks to Gayle Naftaly of Access.office

9. Awesome Customer Service From An Unexpected Source!

On April 18 (Tax Day), I visited my accountant to pick up my return. I had been told it was waiting for me at the front desk. When I arrived, however, my accountant told me that he had mailed it by mistake. I was about to turn around and return home frustrated when his assistant intervened. She asked if I had my checkbook with me. “Yes,” I replied. She then made a copy of all the relevant forms, sat down next to me in an empty conference room, and patiently walked me through the entire payment process. She even offered to mail the various checks for me to the proper agencies. This episode reinforced two “Golden Rules” of exemplary customer service: 1) Continually look for ways to surprise and delight the customer, and 2) there is no substitute for personalized attention.

Thanks to Michael Brenner of IdeAgency

10. A Few Days Of Leniency And A Little Forewarning

One time, our main business credit card expired, and one of our communication services that we used often was cancelled without advanced warning. The day we received the notice about payment not being accepted is the same day we got the cancellation notice–and that was actually the due date. We thought that was a pretty rigid standard. After this mishap, we created a solution for our own customers – We implemented advanced notices to our GovernmentAuctions.org members whose payment methods were expiring. Additionally, we gave them a leeway of a 15-day grace period after their due date to get their card number or expiration date updated before we cancel their subscriptions.

Thanks to Ian Aronovich of GovernmentAuctions.org

11. Do Unto Your Customers As Others Did Unto You

I’m on the road a fair amount of time traveling to client sites, and in the car I listen to educational CDs from The Teaching Company. One “class” particularly intrigued me and I was excited to receive the set of CDs, but the two first ones were defective. I emailed the company, expecting a long returns process. Instead they apologized, sent a new set out the day they received the email, and did not require me to send back the defective ones. Now when clients email me, *especially* with complaints, I respond right away with a plan in place to make it right, as The Teaching Company did for me. Lesson learned!

Thanks to Jeannette De Beauvoir of Customline Wordware

12. Customer Service Story

The first time I visited an Apple store was is in Tokyo, Japan. As someone who runs their own small business, I was curious to see what ‘pixie dust’ I could pick up from Apple and apply to my own business.

Something interesting happened that I didn’t expect on the second floor. An American couple, with their three kids, came out of the elevators. Remember, this was July, which is very hot in Japan.

A young Apple employee approached them and, instead of asking what they were looking for, gave them cool drinks and guided the kids over to some Macbooks where they could play. Once the parents were refreshed and the kids happy, they could start to browse in peace. It’s a small detail but a valuable one.

FYI: the Apple employees in Japan all spoke perfect English. How cool is that!

Thanks to Ivan Walsh of Klariti Small Business Center

13. What Is The “Heart & Lungs” Of A Business?

You would think that getting a free product or service is the determining factor when understanding quality customer service, but it’s not. Rudeness is a no-no in my book. There are two nail shops in my area and the customer service at one is superior to the other. At one shop the young lady that did my pedicure was very rude. Most times one person in a business can run clients away- because all it takes is once. Although the prices are higher at the other shop, to be treated like a queen any and every time I patronize them, is worth it. Because I worked as a server for many years, I understand that repeat customers are the heart and lungs of a business and are how most businesses survive. Understanding that component, has provided referrals and great testimonies for Corporate Chics, LLC.

Thanks to Tawana Necole of Corporate Chics, LLC

14. It’s All About Anticipating My Needs

Recently, I experienced excellent service in my own industry, when hiring a photographer for updated head shots. She excelled by:
– Addressing all of my questions and potential objections on her website,
– Responding to my inquiry quickly,
– Including everything I needed for a quality result (hair, makeup & clothing support) in the package,
– Turning around results much faster than average, and
– Delivering more photos than promised. A fun surprise!
My key takeaways are 1) Quick response times=happy customers; 2) Consider your client’s needs when creating policies and packages; and the old favorite, 3) Under-promise and over-deliver.

Thanks to Kate Watson of Art Aligned

15. Celebrate Your Customers And They’ll Come Back

I used to be a loyal Nordstrom customer simply because the sales people made it easy. They remembered my name, my size, and my tastes. They would shop for me, mail it to me, and then charge the card on file. They made shopping a fantastic experience and navigating through the Half Year Sales a breeze. My lifestyle has gone from downtown to rural so I no longer shop at Nordstrom, but I cherish the memories and apply them to my blog. When I bought my first DSLR, it was difficult finding information on how to use it. Today, I write a blog that helps to make learning how to shoot with your DSLR easier. My goal is to give my readers a fantastic experience when they come to my blog and to make navigating through the how to of amateur photography a breeze. Photography is a celebration!

Thanks to Kimberly Gauthier of Kimberly Gauthier Photography

16. Make Them Feel Like They Are The ONLY One.

Before I took my first cruise, I had heard stories about customer service on cruises. I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the second I boarded, I knew I was in for a treat. Every employee on that ship smiled, said hello, and always wanted to know if I needed help, down to the janitors polishing trash cans. I felt special, like I was the only person there. I took away that it didn’t matter how large (or small) a business, the staff can still make every customer feel like they are number one. My own company has over 200 clients and we had been having a hard time keeping up with everyone. After the cruise, we put together new processes so we can be in continual contact with past clients, and always be available for current or potential clients, making them feel like they are our ONLY client.

Thanks to Angela Nielsen of One Lily Creative Agency

17. Getting Your Money’s Worth

Syracuse NY has long winters and rusty cars from salt-sprayed roads. One corrosion-proofing service manager made a life-long impression on the value of understanding his company’s efforts to give me my money’s worth on my car when he showed me his work detail before I paid the bill. I later made a point to treat my various customers the same way, whether internal (bosses, peers and subordinates) or external (those who pay the bills). Our plants became corporate winners for profit, quality and safety through teamwork we created, and the businesses turned dwindling customers into raving fans, prompting product expansion, new construction and leadership. Treating customers with respect, educating them on the efforts of our service, and targeting their needs is a strategy for success.

Thanks to Artie Lynnworth of Author,

18. Escalating Up The Ladder

I purchased a service from a national company and was really disappointed in how the service performed. I contacted the company and was immediately connected to a senior manager, who listened to my complaint and discussed several options to get the service working for me. He then called several days later to make sure I was happy, that the service was not only working properly, but was meeting my needs.

I have always been good about following up with my own clients, but this experience gave me the opportunity to re-examine how to define my service offerings to make sure they continue to exceed my client’s needs.

Thanks to Janet Boulter of Center Consulting Group

19. Making It Right, Forty Floors Up

Trip to Hong Kong…
My husband and I arrived at the hotel around 5pm and were greeted with a smile and cordial welcome. After check-in formalities we were given 2 keys to 2 rooms. I was confused, asked why two rooms, and was informed I had two reservations (Orbitz.com) that were prepaid and could not be refunded. The front desk agent and manager advised changes had to be handled by Orbitz directly, not by the hotel. I insisted on taking only one room and would speak with Orbitz the next day. The manager was gracious, offered an apology and a larger room. To our delight we were given a luxurious suite in the premier tower above the 40th floor with magnificent harbor views. Today we are raving fans of the hotel.

Lesson: Offer a solution, then give more than what is expected (without fanfare).

Thanks to Linda Nagamine of EZ Living Connection LLC

20. Lutron Customer Service Far From Dim

I had a Lutron dimmer/fan control installed in my home that began to malfunction. I am a VP of an online lighting retailer and we sell Lutron products, so I was curious to see what kind of customer service I would receive as a consumer. I called Lutron’s 24/7 tech support and the rep I spoke with had never heard of my issue. We performed a couple of resets on the dimmer and when that did not solve my issue he arranged to have a replacement control shipped to me. In addition, the rep included a pre-paid label and asked me to return the defective unit back to Lutron so they could try to figure out what happened. Awesome! Everyone at Pegasus Lighting knows the value of providing great customer service and it is why we strive to work with, and sell products from, companies like Lutron.

Thanks to Chris Johnson of Pegasus Lighting

21. No Reservations About Going Above 100% Service!

My experience took place at the Four Seasons Hotel. I was at the pool asking how to make reservations to the restaurant in the hotel. The staff there started telling me the name of the restaurant and the details on the menu. One of the staff members left during the conversation and came back after two minutes. They had made the reservations for me! This attentive action led into a discussion on how the Four Seasons trains their employees to go above and beyond expectations.

The Four Seasons has their staff undergo 10 weeks of 8 to 10 hour days on training how to treat visitors who stay at the hotel. I listened intently and tried to take as much as possible back to my team at MyCorporation, who specialize in creating great customer service relationships in our line of work. When we arrived at dinner later that day, they knew the names of my little boys (who are 3 and 5 years old), me, what I ate for lunch, and how many times we had stayed at the hotel. It’s all about doing the unexpected, now that’s excellent customer service!

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation

Thanks so much again to all our wonderful contributors for your valuable customer service tips this week!  We hope to hear from you again.

If you are new to the Question of the Week and would like to get involved, simply follow the link below to get started.  We’d love to have you share your knowledge and experiences here too, and get a bit of PR in the process.

This week’s question is –

Famous Quotes that Rock Your World
If you are like me, then you love inspiring, challenging, motivating, or even tough-love when it comes to famous quotes. It is amazing how the words of others can really rock your world by resonating with your heart.

What single quote (written by someone other than you) is your all-time favorite, AND what makes it so powerful and meaningful for you?

(Please respond to both parts of the question and include the author of the quote.)

Why should I join the discussion?

Because this online forum is a great place for us to exchange ideas, learn from each other and network. My goal is to unite successful women entrepreneurs to share our insights and solutions to the challenges we most commonly face in our businesses.

How do I get involved?

Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response before the deadline, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.


I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!


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  1. Marcela
    Posted September 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

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    I’m hoping you write once more soon!

5 Trackbacks

  1. By MSN Blog » Excellent Customer Service Examples on September 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    […] Delivering excellent customer service in every industry is crucial. It’s easy to pass tips back and forth to each other on different ways to provide it, but sometimes the best way to learn is through real life experiences as the customer. Dr. Shannon Reece is an entrepreneurial strategist that asked business owners this question in her blog: […]

  2. […] 21 Customer Service Tips From Real Life Examples […]

  3. […] 21 Customer Service Tips from Real Life Examples […]

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  5. By Customer service tips on June 29, 2011 at 11:50 am

    […] 21 Customer Service Tips from Real Life Examples « Strategies and … […]

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