Get Customer Service Right, Or You’re Out of the Game

One of my favourite quotes from The Dark Knight; “You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying!

A little dramatic perhaps – not to mention some of the best acting of all time – but this directly applies to customer service.

Your clients don’t get anywhere near as angry if you come to them with a potential issue, it’s when they have constantly chase you for resolution of a KNOWN issue when things go horribly wrong.  If your customer service is only ever reactive, you have failed, and if you can’t even react well, you are out of the game.

From my favourite website ever,;



Type in the phrase ‘customer service’ into Google and you’ll get over 1.6 BILLION results. There are institutions and college degrees dedicated to to it, blogs by the hundred, books by the thousand, and articles by the million (this one is very good; 8 Rules for Good Customer Service, by Susan Ward), yet how do organisations STILL get it wrong?

That’s easy, blame the CEO (or equivalent).

Just as a lack of a security culture is the CEOs fault, lack of a Customer Service culture is every bit as much on their shoulders.  You may recall from my post Top 10 Roadblocks to PCI Compliance where I stated; “Let’s be very clear; The CEO sets the tone for the entire company: its vision, its values, its direction, and its priorities.  If the organisation fails to achieve PCI compliance, its the CEOs fault, and no-one else’s.

Replace “PCI compliance” with “Customer Satisfaction”  and the rest is the same.

The symptoms of the inability of some organisations to provide good customer service (the CEO being the cause) can include;

  1. Poor selling techniques – if salespeople are not trained to sell only what the customer needs (not wants or even asks for), the organisation behind this salesperson will be unable to support the customers questions.  I don’t care how nice you are, or how great your products, if you’ve sold something the client doesn’t need, they will rarely buy from you again.
  2. Poor products or services – there’s a fairly good chance that if your vendor does not provide good customer service, the other services and products provided by them are suspect, and should be reviewed.  Do your research, and ALWAYS ask for a proof of concept (POC) before you buy.  No POC, no purchase.
  3. Black-hole communication – No-one wants to be yelled at, so if your calls and emails are going unanswered, there’s a very good chance you aren’t going to like the answer when you finally corner them.  This is also an extension of 2.  And finally, forget how quickly the salesperson comes back to you BEFORE the sale, how are they immediately after?
  4. No Customer Service SLAs built in – in other words, if you have to ask for SLAs related to communication, or even something as simple as response times, there’s a good chance you won’t get the service you’re looking for.
  5. Very low renewal rates – include this question in your RFP for new services and products, and have them prove it.
  6. Limited, or no references – this one is too obvious  to expand on, but ignore industry awards, they are a farce.

An organisation that truly embraces a customer service culture will probably allude to it in their Vision Statement, and almost definitely in their Values.  Do business with only those organisations that take the term ‘partnership’ seriously, especially in security, and ANY company that bandies around the phrase ‘Trusted Partner’ needs to be taking client satisfaction to the next level.  Are they?

Good customer service is even simpler than security, and far less difficult to achieve, you just have to treat it as a foundation of doing business.  Your clients happiness is more important than your profit.  If you don’t believe that, you don’t care enough about them to give them what they need.

In one respect or another, we are ALL customer service reps, and this (to me) is the definitive guide to being a good rep; How To Win Friends And Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

Yes I’ve read it …twice, and yes, I still have a lot of work to do 🙂

Anyone seen any articles on Customer Service in the security arena?


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