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80% of Customer Service Is Just Being Nice

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“Eighty percent of success is just showing up.”

— Woody Allen

And 80 percent of customer service is just being nice.

Recently, I’ve been writing more about the simplicity of customer service. The concept of customer service is simple: Just be nice. OK, maybe I am oversimplifying this a bit. A great customer service experience consists of two other elements: operations and the quality of what you sell. That’s the other 20 percent. (Without that 20 percent, it doesn’t matter how nice you are.)

First, let’s cover operations as it applies to the customer experience. Anything that isn’t considered part of the frontline customer service experience but impacts the customer experience can be put into the category of operations. This can be accounting, warehousing, the manufacturing process, hiring or anything required to run a business and produce a product.

Then there is the quality standard. Whatever you sell has to meet the customer’s expectations. If you sell expensive leather shoes, the customer will expect them to last a long time. Conversely, if you sell cheap shoes, the customer shouldn’t be surprised if they fall apart after a year. Either way, you have a quality expectation that needs to be met, if not exceeded.

Finally, you must add delivery to the mix. This is the part about being nice. Even if you are flawless in your operation and meet the customer’s quality expectations, you can’t leave out what may be the most important part: the frontline customer service experience, which is controlled by people (hopefully nice people). This is 80 percent of customer service. It’s the “show” you perform for your customer. This is what customers see and experience as they take delivery of your product or service.

That is why people will pay more for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. They provide an amazing experience, and it starts with the nice people behind the counter who take your order and make your coffee.

Even a website is part of customer service. A customer’s experience will be a direct result of the thought and effort someone put into making it easy to navigate and understand.

One of the reasons that is so successful is because of its website. Even though their customers are shopping online, they know that if they need help, they can just dial a phone number (that is easily found on every page of the website) and get their question answered or their problem resolved.

There are lots of companies that manufacture or sell virtually identical products or services. It’s the ones that can differentiate themselves with their customer service that are the most successful. And a big part of that customer service—maybe even as high as 80 percent—is simply about being nice.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email [email protected] or go to


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