Customer Service Case Study: Who Are You Serving?

SucessWhen involved in customer service, are you serving your company and its rules – or your customer? Do you make rules to make sure your customers are happy, or are you wrapped up following rules designed for you – often at the expense of your customers?

Here are two conversations I had recently that make the distinction clearly. I was having a helluva time getting through to a UK phone. I had the code, knew how to place an international call, but still getting a wonky recording when I tried the number provided. I called 611 on my ATT phone.

SDM: Hi. I’ve got a problem calling an international number. I get a strange sound when I dial it. Can you help?

ATT: I can try. What’s your passcode?

SDM: I have no idea. Can you give me a hint? I use so many.

ATT: No.

SDM: I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you my old address, old ATT number I just disconnected where I had the number for 15 years, and you’ll be able to have proof that it’s me. I just need some help dialing an international number.

ATT: Sorry. Unless you have your passcode, there is no way I can help you.

I hung up, and called back. I got a different rep.

SDM: Hi. I’ve got a problem making an international call, and I just spoke with one of your other folks who couldn’t help me.

ATT2: So sorry for any problems we might have caused. Let’s see what I can do. Do you have your passcode?

SDM: No.

ATT2: That’s ok. Can you give me the last 4 of your social?


ATT2: Thanks. I’ll use that for now, and when we’re done, we’ll reset your passcode to something that might be more memorable, ok?

The rep figured out that the number I was calling was not accessible to non-country dialing. Together – both on Google and sharing thoughts – we found their ‘out-of-country’ number and I then placed the call easily.

This woman put me first. She didn’t disobey the rules, exactly, but made my needs greater than having a passcode, without compromising her employer.

Which are you doing? Serving the rules or the client? Do you know when there might be a real risk to going outside the rules, or when it’s ok to serve the customer creatively? Without putting customers first, you won’t have a job to maintain the rules.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy including Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased:  She can be reached at 512 771 1117

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