The Six Cardinal Rules Of Customer Service

The best weapon for people in business is customer service. It’s that simple.

People will pay more for better service. To get off on the right foot with your customers, whether they are large or small, whether they come to you via the phone or in person, here are Six Cardinal Rules for Customer Service. Adapting these easy steps will make your day—and, more important, make your customer’s day. It will be a better experience for you and your company.

  1. People Before Paperwork – How many times have you stood and waited while someone tallied up a batch of figures or counted a pile of money? Then, only after they were done, were you asked, “Now, how can I help you?” And how many times have you waited while someone “fiddled” with something or wrote up a note before they acknowledged you? Reminder: Paper can wait. People should not. Paper won’t walk away, but the customer might. Drop what you’re doing and pay immediate attention to the customer
  2. Don’t Be Too Busy to Be Nice – In most interviews, managers and owners hear something like this from the applicant: “Oh, I love to be busy. If I’m not busy I get bored and unhappy.” Then we hire them, and one of the first things we hear is the complaint, “Wow, I am so busy.” Well, being busy does not give you carte blanche to be rude. Don’t be too busy to be nice. It’s not worth it.
  3. Rushing Threatens Customers – Whether it’s on the phone or in person, avoid rushing people. Make each experience a great one. And remember, one-word answers make you sound cold and unfriendly. Slow down. Smell the roses. Stop rushing people. Use full sentences. Rushing threatens customers.
  4. Don’t Use Military Language on Civilians – Simply put, company jargon should stay within the company. Mistakes and miscommunications thrive on company jargon. The employee is far more familiar and comfortable with the terms and abbreviations than the customer is. Some companies seem to have words and abbreviations that would make the CIA envious. Use simple, easy-to-understand words to the customer. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.
  5. Be Friendly Before You Know Who It Is – Have you ever been a customer and been treated in a rather average—maybe even below average— manner? And when they realized you were a friend of the boss or someone other than an “average” customer, they brightened up? Why wait to be friendly? Why discriminate? If you’re friendly before you know who it is, you’ll make a whole lot of extra good points. When you’re friendly before you know who it is, you’re delivering the same great service to everyone. That’s the way it should be. Don’t discriminate.
  6. Say Thank You – “There ya go” is not “Thank you.” “Uh-huh” is not “You’re welcome.” Count, just for one day, how many times people forget to say “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” to you. “There ya go” just doesn’t hack it. When customers spend money, they want to hear a big, smiling, “Thank you. We appreciate your business.” When we as customers say “Thank you,” we don’t want to be grunted at with the old, mouth-hung-open “Uh-huh.” Speak clearly. “You’re welcome” is a wonderful phrase. Please use it more often. Don’t be a grunter. When your customer tells you, “Thank you,” give a great big smiling “You’re welcome” right back at them.
Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Nancy Friedman is president of Telephone Doctor, a customer service training company in St. Louis, Missouri, and on the Web at To receive a free monthly e-mail article on customer service and a free subscription to the Telephone Doctor Newsletter, e-mail or call (314) 291-1012.