The Customer Service Emu


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emuDuring my childhood, my family (“family” as in just my mother…this was not a complete family decision) had taken in a pet emu named Emu.

We lived in a town that was considered “rural suburbia”. Think track homes with half acre farm lots, horse trails instead of sidewalks and the fresh scent of nearby dairy cows drifting through the air.

Emu the emu resided in the back left corner of our yard, beside the chicken coop, fenced in with medium height chain link and a make shift gate that was “secured” with a twisted wire. Emu spent most of the days biting the air with a tilted head, as if it were very confused, along with lots of pacing back and forth.

On a random normal weekend, there was a commotion in the back yard. Our chickens in the coop were flying around, squawking and showering their feathers everywhere.

My mother ran outside with a slam of the screen door and began screaming for my sister and I.

“THE EMU HAS ESCAPED! It’s running through the neighborhood!”

Scene from a movie? No. Story of my childhood? Yes.

My sister and I went outside and witnessed Emu bopping around in our neighbor’s yard. Our neighbors were not friendly with us to begin with and our emu in their yard was not the best idea of a peace offering.

My mom was already at their door, pounding, and asking to be let into their yard. When they finally allowed her into the back, Emu took one look at my mother and hopped the fence into another neighboring yard.

This went on for a while, until Emu was high tailing it back and forth on our street. More neighbors were out at this point and eventually, Emu’s prison break became just a memory. The fence was heightened and the wire on the gate was replaced with a lock. Emu resumed it’s slow air biting behavior as if nothing ever happened.

How the heck does this emu story benefit you and your business?

When it comes to customer service, there is always one emu customer in the bunch.

It’s that random, special customer who requires extra attention to make sure things don’t get out of hand. If you’re not prepared, your emu customer will escape, run amuck and make you look incredibly crazy to the rest of the world.

I’m sure you know who these customers are too–they are quiet, unassuming and you rarely hear from them.  You don’t bother to ever worry about them because well, they are busy biting air (you assume). Until that moment all H-E-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose and you are now on a full fledged sprint to try and catch up with them to fix the situation.

3 Customer Service Tips From Emu the Emu

Understand Your Emu (Understand Your Customer) 

An emu can jump high and run fast. You may not know this if you don’t read up about emus before you take one in. Do research and know who your customers are, what they need and require to utilize your service efficiently.

Monitor Your Emu (Monitor Your Customer)

I’m not talking about micro-managing or creeping around on your customer, but instead, just monitor. If we had paid more attention, we would have noticed the wire on the emu’s gate had been gnawed on, clearly Emu was planning to escape. Knowing there was a plan in action, we could have monitored the behavior and perhaps bypassing the whole embarrassment of your mother and yourself chasing after an emu that is bolting down the street. By listening to feedback from your customers and understanding their plans, we can enhance our service and prevent chaos.

Appreciate Your Emu (Appreciate Your Customer)

Facing high school already as the “nerdy quiet girl” was hard enough. Tack on “the girl who has an emu and it escaped” doesn’t make it any better. Almost two decades later, I look back on this situation and really appreciate the darn emu for teaching me that if you want to escape, you can, no matter what. You just have to gnaw some wires and jump. This goes for customers too–the crazy, chaotic situations that arise from some customers are lessons to learn from and opportunities to become even better with your business.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jenny Dempsey
Jenny is Consumer Experience Manager for Apeel Sciences and FruitStand with more than 15 years of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on


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