Please, please promise never to do this to our customers!

Whenever I experience a mediocre customer service encounter, I think, “How can I learn from this? How can I make sure it NEVER happens to our customers?”

I’ve lived at the same address for more than 20 years and I’ve had an ongoing subscription to The Gainesville Sun all that time. I think of myself as a valuable customer, especially in an age of declining loyalty to print media.

No paper this Saturday. No problem, I’m out and about early and pick one up at a newsstand. No paper Sunday. I call in, endure several levels of automated phone directions, eventually get a human being (or at least an airport announcement version thereof) who informs me that the reason I did not get a newspaper is that as of November 30th I had requested weekday-only delivery.

This is news to me, particularly since it is mid-January and I’ve been getting the weekend paper fine up until now. She responded affirmatively to my request to put me back on full 7-day delivery (she took my order, but did not apologize or offer sympathy or even empathy for any inconvenience, the misunderstanding).

After acquiescing to me forcing my money upon her employer, she moved to the next line of her rote script and asked if there was anything else she could do to “help” me.

I said, “Sure! Will you deliver a Sunday paper?”

I mean, this is the phone number you call when you have a missed delivery. They have someone running around the city filling in the missed deliveries. The marginal cost of a newspaper is rather small and quite frankly, I think it is they who have messed up their records.

“Please? I’ve been your customer all my adult life. I delivered papers on a bicycle for you when I was eleven. Can you spare me a single newspaper?”

“No, sir. I’m not authorized to do that.”

What a missed opportunity to put a smile on a customer’s face, to build loyalty, and at such low cost!

I didn’t argue. Life is too good to put energy there. They have their company culture, their service model. And, obviously, the customer is not the focus of it.

I want to put my energy into moving forward, to making sure our customers are the focus on my organization. So, Memo to My Company: Please, please promise never to do this to our customers!


– Apply rules intelligently, flex where you can.

– Take full advantage of opportunities to put smiles (particularly low-cost ones) on our customers’ faces.

– Remember that customers are the reason we are here. They pay our salaries, put food on our plates, gas in our cars.

– Strive to SERVE our customers. In a very real sense they our bosses, our owners, our constituents.

This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive. Originally posted January 28, 2008.