Graham McGregor 's Opinion

A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

Graham McGregor on what is your customer service mind-set?

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

I read an excellent article on the philosophy of customer service a few days ago by Derek Sivers.

Derek used to own a super successful online business called CD Baby.

CD Baby dominated their niche of selling independent music. 150,000 musicians, 2 million music-buying customers, $139 million in revenue, $83 million paid directly to musicians.

Derek never did any marketing. Everyone came by word-of-mouth.

The #1 reason, by far, almost every time someone raved about his company, was this: "You pick up the phone! I can reach a real person."

They called and got a real person on the 2nd ring, instead of an automated call-routing system. Or they emailed and got a surprisingly helpful personal reply, instead of an impersonal scripted FAQ response.

Derek discovered that many clients choose one company over another mainly because they liked their customer service.

So he structured his CD Baby business to match this priority.

Out of 85 employees, 28 people were full-time customer service.

Since then, many entrepreneurs and interviewers have asked Derek for his customer service tips and tricks.

He recently realized it's not something you can add on top, it's really a philosophy - a mind-set that has to come from the core.

So here are two of six key mind-sets that Derek thinks guide great customer service:

Mind-set #1: You can afford to be generous

All great service comes from this feeling of generosity and abundance.

Think of all the examples of great service you've encountered.

Free refills of coffee. Letting you use the toilets even if you're not a customer. Extra milk and sugar if you need it. A rep that spends a whole hour with you to help answer all your naive questions.

Contrast it with all of the bad experiences you've had.

Not letting you use the toilets without making a purchase. Charging an additional 50 cents for extra sauce. Salespeople who don't give you a minute of their time because you don't look like big money yet.

All bad service comes from a mind-set of scarcity, feeling like they'll go out of business if they don't fiercely guard their bottom line.

If you really feel secure, abundant, that you have plenty to share, then this feeling of generosity will flow down into all of your interactions with customers.

Share. Be nice. Give refunds. Take a little loss. You can afford it.

Of course it's also just smart business. Losing 10 cents on extra sauce can mean winning the loyalty of a customer who will spend $1000 with you over the next 10 years, and tell 20 friends that you're awesome.

Mind-set #2: Every interaction is your moment to shine

Probably only 1 per cent of your customers or clients ever bother to make a customer service interaction. So when they do, this is your time to shine. Three minutes spent talking with them is going to shape their impression of your company more than your name, price, design, website, or features all combined.

If your customer service is taught to be efficient, it sends the message, "I don't really want to talk with you. Let's get this over with quick."

Since that's what everyone else does, do the opposite. Take a few inefficient minutes to get to know anyone who contacts you.

For example, at CD Baby, if someone would call, saying, "I'd like to talk with someone about selling my music through you," Derek's team would say, "Sure. I can help. What's your name? Cool. Got a website? Can I see it? Is that you on the home page there? Very cool. Is that a real Les Paul? Awesome. Here, let me listen to a bit of the music. Nice, I like what you're doing. Very syncopated. Great groove. Anyway... so... what would you like to know?"

Derek found that when someone takes even a couple minutes to listen to you, it's so touching that you remember it for life.

This isn't some sales technique, it's just good human behaviour. It makes life better. It makes work more fun. It's the right thing to do. And it pays off.

'The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.' - Sam Walton

Action Exercise:
Read the complete article on customer service by Derek Sivers and put into action anything that you find useful.

Graham McGregor is a consultant specialising in memorable marketing. You can download his 396 page 'Unfair Business Advantage' Ebook at no charge from

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Graham McGregor

A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

Graham has had 36 years 'hands on' experience in sales and marketing. He has sold a range of services including advertising, sales training, personal development, life insurance, IT services, investment property and business consulting services.

Read more by Graham McGregor

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