One of the enduring myths in the workplace is the notion that
customer service principles only apply to employees who deal directly
with paying customers. Anybody else doesn’t really count as a
customer, and therefore doesn’t have to be treated with the same
care and sensitivity. This is a dangerous notion—one which frequently
contributes to entrenched poor customer service (employees dealing
directly with paying customers are often only as good as the support
and service they receive from their colleagues in the back office).
In the final analysis, every job provides a form of customer service.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re making the tea or negotiating a
multi-million dollar deal. Highly effective companies practise high
levels of customer service throughout the entire company. This is
what some customer service questions may sound like:
• Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.
How did you deal with the situation and what was the outcome?
• Can you describe a time when you gave excellent levels of cus-
tomer service? What did you do to make it so good?
• What does good customer service mean to you?
• What are the fundamentals of providing high levels of customer
• Do you think of yourself as a service-orientated person? Why?
• What importance do you attach to service? Why?
Table 8.5 shows how the four steps can be used to prepare
responses to customer service questions.
Here’s a sample question and possible response dealing with
Question: Can you give us a recent example of when you had to
provide good customer service? How did you go about it?
A recent example of being required to give consistently high
levels of customer service was when I was working in the
accounts section of Guillotin. My duties involved dealing
Table 8.5 Providing effective customer service
change in the
What I did to ensure
the duties listed under
step 1 were performed
• I always listened to what
the customer had to say
and never made
assumptions about the
• I gained an in-depth
understanding of the
products and services
• By listening carefully
and asking the right
questions, I was able to
match our product or
service to the customer
• I never over-promised
• I understood that,
without customers, I
would have no job
Working in an
Guillotin, in which
annual reports had
to be submitted.
with both internal
• All customers
good levels of
• Satisfaction of a job
well done and
with both internal customers—that is, the various departmental
managers—as well as external customers, including people
who owed us money and accounts that we needed to pay
(step 2: context).
The steps I took to ensure that I was providing consistently
good customer service were often the same for both the
internal and external customers. Experience has taught me
that customer service principles are universal. A good example
of this was when I was dealing with our departmental
managers. I never made the mistake of assuming I knew what
they needed from me, even though we had worked together
for several years. Things change and one has to keep up with
those changes in order to provide good levels of service. At
our meetings, I always made the point of finding out what
all our managers were doing and what their upcoming projects
were. If I knew something was coming up, I could plan for
it and thus ensure good service. I also made sure that I had
a detailed understanding of all our new services and products,
and how these could benefit all our customers. For example,
the acquisition of a new database allowed me to provide
managers with much more up-to-date detail about our
customers (step 3: the what and how).
As a result of this process, we were able to draw up a set
of service delivery agreements with the various managers
which gave us relevant guidelines and customer service targets.
These service delivery targets played an important role in terms
of our section receiving consistently positive feedback from
our managers and avoiding redundancy (step 4: outcomes).