Secrets for getting the very best customer service

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

It’s the proverbial man-bites-dog story for consumer reporters: an over-the-top customer service experience in which an employee goes the extra mile.

It’s even more rare — on the order of man-bites-man — to find a proven way to extract the very best service from employees.

I won’t mince words. Men are not biting men.

But a series of recent stories and one reader’s experience give me hope that it’s possible. In other words, you could get superior service every time you go to the store or log on to your computer to go shopping.

Beam me up, Netflix

If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ve probably already seen the funny IM chat transcript between Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix and another fan. It’s been described as the best customer service “ever” by the person seeking help with getting a good picture on an episode of Parks and Recreation.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s playful, humorous and more importantly, it gets the job done.

The most problematic part of the incident came in the comments, where another customer service rep confessed the company he works for would fire him if he engaged in that kind of light-hearted banter with a customer. Truth is, the interaction was infinitely better because the Netflix customer service rep was allowed to be himself.

There’s a lesson in here for the rest of us. By acknowledging the humanity of employees, we give them permission to be more human. Do you think Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix was using a script, as many call center workers do? Unlikely.

Insubuy is the premier online marketplace for travel insurance, visitors insurance, international travel medical insurance, international student health insurance, and exchange visitors insurance for individuals, groups, multinational companies, international workers, and others. Visit to get instant quotes, make side-by-side comparisons, and make an instant purchase of most insurance plans.

Give them a chance

Reader Bruce Kane brings us the next story of unexpectedly terrific service. Several weeks ago, he saw a delivery truck driving down the highway erratically.

“He was weaving and failing to maintain his speed,” he recalls. “As I passed him, I could see he was focused on his cell phone.“

Kane honked to alert the driver of their dangerous driving, but the driver simply accelerated and resumed texting. So Kane emailed the company to let them know. (Here’s our guide to contacting the CEO directly.)

To his surprise he heard back from the CEO.

“I would like to express my thanks to you for sharing the information pertaining to the lack of safety and professionalism it appears you encountered while following one of our vehicles last evening,” the CEO wrote. “It is very unfortunate and something we are truly concerned to hear and it of course has been justly communicated not only with the believed offending party but also with the fleet users who use our vehicles on a daily basis.”

By way of apology, the CEO sent him a $100 gift card

“My personal thanks for taking the time to share the information and help us rectify a drastically and careless action which could impact our standing with the communities and neighbors who depend on us to protect what matters most to them,” he added.

Kane was shocked by the immediate resolution at the highest level. He wasn’t even expecting anything more than a form acknowledgment. Instead, the CEO apologized. Who would have thought?

But Kane shouldn’t have been surprised. His initial email to the delivery company was brief, cordial and non-accusatory. It simply pointed out the fact that one of its drivers wasn’t meeting the company’s high standards of conduct. (Related: A few secrets about asking you probably don’t know.)

It’s not new, but giving a company a chance to fix things often leads to the best service. Not always, but more often than you think.

Too often, customers jump into a situation expecting the worst. They anticipate a scripted non-answer at best, or a “no” at worst. But the folks who get great service are open to the possibility of getting it.

And sometimes, they do.

Should a "special" strategy be necessary to extract better service from a company?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

Related Posts