Is It Possible To Take Customer Service Too Far?

I read an article recently. Like most good customer service articles, it contained an anecdotal example of great customer service and giving us all something to aspire to. Generally, these stories see the customer in a horribly sticky situation and the customer service rep coming to the rescue with some dramatic feat that you would never have thought to perform yourself.

These stories are usually very uplifting and can provide a good case for providing amazing service and always going the extra mile (the old “I told you, I’m telling everyone!” mentality).

The story I read featured an unfortunate person who had somewhere very important to be in a very short space of time. They were staying in a hotel in a city far from their home. It was late Sunday evening and suddenly they realised… they had forgotten their shoes.

Could customer service come to the rescue?

This unhappy person turned to the concierge to help in her dilemma. The concierge, however, was powerless against the lack of stores open and the fact that she possibly didn’t have that many connections.

So the story ended with the concierge offering the customer the shoes off her own feet.

The customer went to her fancy party with this poor girl’s shoes. There was no mention of whether or not this girl was able to get hold of a second pair before she went home. She was simply rendered shoeless.

And all I remember about that story is that it took place in some hotel in New York. I don’t even recall if the tale mentioned the name of this hotel. What does it matter if you’re telling everyone about this amazing customer service if the hotel doesn’t even get credit?

You can’t take customer service too far.

Obviously. But there has to be a line where people accept that they are just stepping on other people’s toes (or on other people’s shoes).

I like to think that, had I been in the customer’s position, if anyone ever offered me the shoes off their own feet, I would thank them very genuinely for the very kindly meant but highly unnecessary and unusual offer. But I would not take the shoes. Because they would not be mine to take.

I am not entitled to some other lady’s shoes because she works in a customer service role and I am a customer.

It works both ways.

Customer service is a two-way relationship between to equal human beings. Customer service representatives should always be polite, willing to help and informed. Likewise, customers should take care to treat customer service people with respect.

Customer service is evolving and more and more emphasis is rightly being placed on treating the customer like a person, not a wallet on a conveyer belt. But customer service workers should not be expected to put themselves at the whim of the customer.

In the example provided above, I don’t believe customer service took place in its traditional form. The employee was certainly going the extra mile, but she was also placing this one customer’s needs above her job, for example. How could she, as a concierge, have continued her shift looking professional without any shoes?

She also created an unequal power relationship between herself and the customer. Customer service is an exchange between two human beings who should each expect to be treated with respect.

Customer service is so important and memorable customer service is certainly an asset to any company hoping to inspire loyalty in their customers. But there can be instances where, as a customer service representative or as the customer, it might be getting a little extreme…

Let us know what you think.

Is it possible to take customer service too far? Let us know your thoughts. Tweet us or post your comments to our Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn page.

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