A real-life lesson in customer service

I know I didn’t write this so thanks to Glenn Fisher for letting me share this excellent lesson in customer service:

The train manager apologises for the coach being cold but gives no indication of a possible solution.

Then the audacity kicks in…

In his best QVC voice, he goes on to say that, despite the cold, the buffet coach is still open…

And in the buffet coach, you can “try our ever popular breakfast baguette,” or maybe, he suggests, a hot coffee or a sandwich.

The sandwiches, he tells us, are priced at £3.95 i.e. a rip off.

Now, you can see already that he’s blundering business- wise, but to top it off he ends with a ‘confidence inspiring’ “there’s currently no queue.”

Wow. How wrong can you get it?

OK. There are lessons here; you could actually use my horrifying train journey at the weekend to improve your business sense.

Not only did the train manager make mistakes, he missed an opportunity…

Two mistakes we can deal with quickly…

First, there is a problem with the service – it’s cold.

Sometimes there will be a genuine problem with a product or service that isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault.

Most people automatically think to tell customers ‘why’ the problem the occurred…

But think about it: how does it help you knowing that the train had spent all night in the Croydon depot and the heating isn’t working.

That’s plainly obvious.

When a problem does occur you have to alert your customers as to how and when the problem will be fixed.

That’s what you really want to know – the information that will inform your own action.

If you knew the heat was going to be back on in five minutes, you wouldn’t worry about it. But if it was going to be off for the whole journey, you might put on more layers of clothing, get a hot coffee… take whatever action you could.

And then the second small mistake…

a lesson in customer service

When someone says there’s ’no queue’, you might think that’s a good thing. But it’s not always the case.

Like when you walk by three restaurants in a row and two are busy but one is empty. Which do you go in?

The empty one because there’s no queue?

Hmmm. I’d think twice about that. Why is there no queue? Chances are it’s because that restaurant is a bit rubbish.

The actions of other people can often be a good indicator as to whether you should consider purchasing a product or service.

Be quick to point out your product or services’ popularity but think twice about advertising its easy availability.

But here’s where I think the train manager really got it wrong. And this is really what I want you to take away today…

Adapting your offer to match the situation

You see, on the back of the announcement that there was a problem with the heating – the train manager tries to ‘sell’ to me.

Normally, I would have no problem with the train manager doing this. In fact, having the wherewithal to market the onboard café over the tannoy shows some good marketing sense.

But in this situation, it shows a complete lack of business sense.

As Jay Abraham writes in his book ‘The Sticking Point Solution’…

In business, “your goal cannot be to get rich. Your goal must be to make the clients’ life or business richer, more protected, and more fulfilled so that they get more out of the process of doing business…”

At this point, you’ve just disappointed your customers – they’re cold and they don’t know when they’ll be warm. Instead of making your “clients’ life… richer,” you’ve done the opposite.

If you try to do business in the normal way at this point – it isn’t going to work. Your customers will resent you for it.

There is opportunity to do business here – but in a different way.

You need to be flexible. You need to be able to look at a situation and react to it.

In our train example, the customers are cold and, in the short term, there seems nothing the train manager can do about it.

At the same time, the train manager wants to sell hot drinks and sandwiches.

There’s a way to adapt your marketing strategy here in a way that will benefit both you and the customer.

I bet you’ve already got this…

Instead of trying to sell in the normal way – it would be incredibly effective if the train manager were to say:

“Once again, allow me to apologise for the current lack of heat at the moment. This is being fixed and heat should return shortly…

“In the meantime, to extend our apologies, we have reduced the price of all hot food and drinks by 50% for the duration of the journey.”


I’m cold but I can get a hot coffee for half price.

Better than that, I’m less angry with the train company because they’ve reacted to the situation and shown a willingness to ease my journey… to enrich my life.

Even off the back of a seemingly negative situation, it is possible to still provide an effective offer to your customers that enriches their experience.

It’s just a case of refocusing your goal… as Jay Abraham says, “your goal cannot be to get rich. Your goal must be to make the clients’ life or business richer.”

Keep this lesson in customer service in mind at all times and your business will become much more effective.

Glenn Fisher is the founder of All Good Copy and he can be found here: www.theglennfisher.com

Want more help with customer service? Check out:

Small business owners need to sort themselves out… (article)

Just Flippin’ Follow Up (podcast)

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