Dangers of Customer Service For Simpletons – Boo On Oversimplification #1


Share on LinkedIn

The easier access that social media affords anyone who can make it work is both a plus and a minus. The downside is that it’s not the people who have valuable things to say that always gain influence, since influence and social media readership are based on how well you can market and self promote. This sets up some interesting weirdnesses where self-promoters are able to accumulate readership based on characteristics that have nothing to do with how useful or even truthful and accurate the content is that they post.

Customer service is one area where the “advice” offered is often in the form of sound-bytes and fortune cookie statements that only seem to make sense if you don’t think about them. The problem is that oversimplification without acknowledging that things are being oversimplified provides people with a false sense of their own competence, and in business, not knowing what you don’t know is essential for survival. Over-simplification is an enemy of business, as is, by the way, over thinking and making simple things so complex that one never acts.

A Customer Service Example Of Oversimplification

The following have been tagged with the Twitter hashtag #custserv . It’s good to note that Twitter itself can make very smart people look very stupid, since expressing things in 140 character limit can be hard for even the brightest content and topic experts.

Take a look at the image to the right. It’s probably something many of us have said before, and in this context it has to do with doing the right thing in customer service because it’s the right thing. To be honest, I generally abide by this. But is it oversimplified, and can it be potentially harmful to misunderstand what is “underneath” this?

The Problem:

The problem, or one of the problems, is the meaning of “the right thing”. It’s easy to forget that what YOU think is the right thing, is not what I think is the right thing, or what the customer thinks is the right thing. Not only do ethnic cultures and place of birth affect what the right thing is in customer service but these things vary even within the same country. The “right thing” in New York city, may be different than in Utah, or California. In fact, you can bet on it. The “right thing” will often be different for the customer than it is for the owner of the business. Customer service, at least where the rubber hits the rode has very little to do with doing the “right thing” since there is no universal “right thing” in “real life”.

As this stands, this “guideline” is useless. It’s way oversimplified.

Too Picky?

Maybe this is being too picky? Are there real world consequences of taking this “oversimplified guideline” seriously? Yes. First, to believe that YOUR beliefs are universal and that everybody shares what you believe is “right” is the height of arrogance and self-absorption, and customers will realize this if they interact with you enough. It DOES come through. Second, you destroy communication by taking a dogmatic absolutist approach to values, and that is a huge problem. You alienate people, as the image says, but you do it because you reduce the customer conversation to “I’m right”, and doing the right thing, and “You are wrong”, and doing the wrong thing.

If you want a recipe for disaster and an enraged customer convey that.

If you understand that you have an idea of the right thing, and the customer has an idea that might be somewhat different, you can dialogue about the issue. Often in my work I do that early on in conversations about work, even if there isn’t a problem, because I want both of us to feel that we are both ending up doing enough of the right thing to be happy. When shipments go awry, for example, I often ask the customer what they think would be the right thing to do, particularly when there seems to be evidence that they product was delivered. Then we work from there. The customer explains his “right thing” and I explain mine, and we almost always find a point where we are both happy.

That doesn’t happen if either one of us clings on to our unique “right thing” in a dogmatic way.


It may be you are in a position to see your way as the ONE right way, and while that may not be a great path to growth, you are entitled, but there`s a catch. If you believe that, you should be willing to take the business and personal consequences fo being self-centered, arrogant, and culture centric. If you are posting oversimplied dreck such as in the image, you should also be aware the some might find posting misleading or harmful simplifications as unethical.

After all, isn`t that the right thing?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here