7 Characteristics of the Best of the Best in Customer Service 

By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert, Speaker, President Telephone Doctor Customer Service 

Pick up any ad and there’s probably a line of type or two of how well you’ll be treated when you shop or call there. Usually the advertisement reads, “We’re the best”… or “Service is our middle name” – something like that. The TV, radio and the internet, are loaded with commercials for being very customer service minded. 

Why then, do we hear so many horror stories about how people were treated? Telephone Doctor surveyed several companies to seek out the traits – the characteristics of those that have the service mentality. Clearly, not everyone does. The good news is you can learn the skills of the ‘best.’ No one has a monopoly on a great service mentality. 

Here then, are the seven traits that were among the highest in the survey. 

#1 Empathy

This trait won hands down as the most important characteristic when serving customers. In so many cases you get APATHY, the exact opposite of EMPATHY. Simply put, empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if what happened to them, happened to you? 

True Story – On a recent trip, my wallet was stolen. All my credit cards, checkbook, drivers license and, of course, the few dollars I had in it. 

I proceeded to start making the appropriate phone calls to each credit card company – there were 4 in all. After explaining who I was, and that I was at Disneyland and my wallet was stolen with 4 credit cards, cash, and checkbook, the person on the other end blurts out: NAME? 

There was no, “Gee, I’m sorry that happened,” no “Oh my, how sad.” All they wanted was my name. No empathy, no sympathy at all. I hope those people (and by the way, all 4 credit card companies did the very same thing) never have to go through that loss. All I wanted to hear was a, “Gee, that’s so sad.” Or a plain old, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Someone who understood. Someone who had empathy. 

Empathy is the # 1 ingredient for a service mentality.  

#2 Enthusiasm 

Ah yes, enthusiasm. Appropriate enthusiasm cannot be replaced. It’s a sign of giving service that is above and beyond. When a customer feels that you are enthusiastic for them, they just fall right into the palm of your hand. Generating enthusiasm with a customer is perceived as their having made the right decision. It’s a confirmation that they’ve done the right thing. And everyone likes that. 

Enthusiasm is the #2 ingredient of a great service mentality. Do you show enough enthusiasm in your job? And to your customer?  

#3 Responsibility 

Being responsible is so important. It’s the biggest trait your employee wants in you. Being responsible is living up to a previously agreed commitment. It can be a large responsibility or a small one. Example: I was a keynote speaker at a corporate meeting last spring and when they asked me my needs I told them all I needed was a handheld wireless microphone. “No problem,” I was told by the contact. She said she had told ‘Bob’ to have the handheld wireless microphone ready for when I was supposed to speak. 

Well, when I got to the meeting room there was only a lavaliere microphone; the one you clip onto your garment. Not the correct one we ordered, but nonetheless, it would have worked. However, my contact was terribly disappointed. She told me, “You know, I gave Bob the responsibility to get you the handheld, and he let me down – which in turn disappointed you.” She continued, “You needed something and he didn’t do it.” When you agree to something for a co-worker or a customer, it’s key to be responsible and keep your commitment. 

#4 Resiliency 

How fast can you pop back into a good mood when something has disrupted your schedule? 

We all get hit with some problems during the day. Things that weren’t what we planned. The ability to bounce back from any adversity is an important service mentality. 

My mother use to tell me, “It’s not the problem Nancy, it’s HOW you handle it.” As usual, mothers are right. The handling of any situation is what makes the situation good or bad. And if you’ve been hit with a disappointment or something that you weren’t planning on, it’s up to you to bounce back; be resilient. Your customers should never know you were disappointed. Need to work late and miss dinner with some friends? Or perhaps you had a minor disagreement with someone. The customer should never know that. 

Resiliency is needed to have the service mentality. 

#5 Balance 

Just like the justice scales that need to be kept in balance, so it is with our own workload vs. the customer. There’s a fine line between pleasing the customer and losing money for the company. In other words, it shouldn’t all be one sided. When a customer needs something, that’s fine. If, however, we go over the line one way or the other, it becomes unbalanced and not fair to either the customer or the company. 

Finding the right balance at your job and in your company will help you maintain the right balance for both you and the company. Is the customer always right? No, the customer always thinks he’s right. We need to know the difference between giving away the store and sticking to company guidelines. 

BALANCE keeps everything in check. 

#6 Ownership 

This is my personal favorite because I see it so much as I call and shop around. It runs rampant though the business world. This is the proverbial “it’s not my job, or not my department, or I wasn’t here that day, or I don’t know anything about that.” 

And the worst? “I’m new.” Being new does not give you the right to be unhelpful. 

Customers don’t care if you were on vacation when something happened and they need help. They don’t care if it’s not your department. You answered the phone; they’re depending on you. You are there to help them now. 

If you answered the call, you own the call. Take ownership of the situation. It’s not that you’ll need to do everything, but taking ownership and making sure the customer knows that you will find out for them is the key! Our Telephone Doctor Motto is “It should never take 2 people to give good customer service.” 

You get the call. You own the call. 

#7 Adaptability 

Granted, this service mentality might need some practice, but it’s another important ingredient, characteristic, or trait of the service mentality. 

Think about the number of people who you help every day, either on the phone or in person. They’re all different, aren’t they? Not only in culture, color or accent, but in mood and personality. We need to be able to adapt to all kinds of personalities. 

Having difficulty understanding someone? Learn to adapt to their particular problem. Ask them if they could please slow down so you can get what they need. 

Slow talkers? Adapting to them is so important. Mostly because slow talkers don’t like to be rushed. So rushing a slow talker through a conversation will only make matters worse. You’ll need to adapt to those that are slow talkers. 

And of course, there’s the fast talker who you also need to adapt to, to help them. 

Think of the chameleon. That little lizard like animal that takes on the color of what it lands on. They adapt to the color. And usually they’re difficult to see. But they’re there. 

We need to adapt to the situation so that every transaction is a seamless one. 

Well, there you have it, the 7 characteristics that make up a SERVICE MENTALITY. You probably have some of them. Work on the ones that you don’t have or aren’t up to par in. Possessing these traits will garner you happier customers (and a happier boss).

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Communication and customer service expert Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor, founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, is back in the saddle again. Well, back into live onsite programs, and still offering her ZOOM programs, in a cost saving manner. Whichever you choose, onsite or Zoom, you’ll be glad you did. The reviews are excellent, and audiences have loudly applauded her in either area. Sales, customer service and communication skills are her area of expertise, and she welcomes calls, texts, or emails. You can reach her directly at nancyf@telephonedoctor.com; through the website at www.nancyfriedman.com, where you can sign up for her newsletters; or call/text directly at 314-276-1012 central time. Bring it on. Whether you need a keynote speaker or workshop/breakout speaker on customer service and communication skills, you’ll make a great choice.