Customer Service Lesson: Helping vs. Selling


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Amaze Your Customers

It was 1987 and I’d just moved into my first house. Doing some weekend repairs, I noticed that a saloon type door was coming off of the wall. I took the bracket and hinge that connected the door to the wall and headed to my local Ace Hardware store.

I remember the nice gentleman that helped me. I showed him what I wanted. As we were walking down the aisle to get the replacement part he asked what I was using it for. I told him, and he stopped. He stated, “You need a different part. If I sell you this, you will be back in here sometime soon. Maybe a few months, maybe a year, but you will be back to replace it again.” We walked to a different area and he said, “This is what you want.” I would use the existing bracket, but only needed some inexpensive hardware to mount it. This was not only what I needed, it was even less expensive.

There are several lessons here:

  1. First, the person helping me was doing more than taking an order. He simply asked an extra question to determine what I really needed.
  2. What he sold me was less expensive than replacing the entire bracket. He wanted to give me exactly what I needed, regardless of price. He was more interested in taking care of his customer than the money.
  3. But the big lesson here is that he didn’t try to sell me. Instead of selling me what I thought I needed, he sold me what I really needed and also saved me money. In other words, he helped me.

As a result of this experience, I went back. 25 years later I remember the experience and am still telling the story.

So, think of a time when you received an amazing customer service experience. How did it make you feel? Did you tell others? Did you go back?

Your answers are the same ones you want your customer’s answers to be if asked these same questions. So how do you go about getting those answers? The lessons just mentioned are a good start.

What’s really amazing about this Ace Hardware story is that I had no idea that I would end up writing a book that features them as a role model for amazing customer service. But I did. They were delivering that level of service 25 years ago, and they are still doing it today. They helped me. And that’s what they are known for; being helpful. It’s their brand promise. It’s how they amaze every customer, every time.

We could stop here, but I want to put in a plug for the just mentioned book, which is titled, Amaze Every Customer Every Time. My Ace story and dozens more just like it are examples that support the 52 customer service tools covered in this book. These tools will help you deliver better customer service, create a better employee culture, increase customer loyalty and much more. I urge you to at least visit the website, which is and download the free chapters, which include five of the Tools and much more. Start delivering amazing customer service today!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


  1. …and your story puts me in mind of a sales lesson I learned many years ago while taking some basic training. The instructor reminded us that the goal should always be to provide the customer with more in emotional and functional use value than we receive in cash value. This is where asking questions, understanding the customer’s real needs and requirements, and responding in a proactive manner – being helpful -comes into play.

  2. Michael – Well said. If we could provide more value than what the customer actually pays, we succeed at so many levels. That value can be in the form of product quality, service, emotional connection, relationship, support and more.


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