A Transport of Delight; or, Customer Service, NOT


I’ve read a lot of reports and listened to a lot of customer service/customer experience user experience — you’re supposed to delight the customer.

What if I don’t want to be delighted? What if I just want to do whatever and go on to my next task?

For example, whenever I go into my phone store, agents open the door, greet me, ask me what I want to do. This is all excellent customer engagement. They’re showing courtesy, caring, politeness, etc.

But what do I want to do? I want them to get out of my way.

All the door opening, the greeting, the … engagement — they just get in my way.

Same with websites. Some websites want you to sign up for something, they want to do a survey after you’ve been on their page for a few minutes — some of them even want to chat right away (I’m looking at you, Talbots).

Perhaps the worst offenders are restaurant websites. All you want to do is find out where it is, whether it’s near a Metro stop, whether your gluten-allergic friend can meet you there.

But no. Instead, you get dancing figures, immediate loud music, and menus in PDFs. Oh, and it blows up your phone.

And website content is too often like this:

“Our new features allow you to compare offerings, consider value vs. price, and …”

That allegedly customer-focused content is still all about the company. Why not this instead?

“Compare offerings, consider value vs. price, and …”

Take yourself out of the equation and truly focus on your customer.

Nobody said customer service was going to be easy. Nobody said customers weren’t going to be tired, busy, peevish – you name it.

So maybe you have to give up on some of the benefits to customer engagement. Maybe you don’t get the huge mailing list you want.

Maybe you leave delight as a happy accident–serendipity. Let it happen by chance. Let’s leave space for delight; let’s not make it our aim. Overfocusing on such targets often defeats its own purpose.

Delight? Just make it work. Make it work first. Take care of the basics before you go beyond it.

And the engagement thing? We’re not even dating.

The title? Of course, the delightful song by Flanders and Swann — all about a company definitely getting in its customers’ way. A brief excerpt follows:

Along the Queen’s great Highway I drive my merry load
At 20 miles-per-hour in the middle of the road.
We like to drive in convoys – we’re most gregarious:
The big six-wheeler scarlet-painted London transport diesel-engined 97-horsepower omnibus.

Katherine Spivey is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Katarina Hong

Interesting point of view. As most people know, customer service is so important and the goal is to please to customer and make sure s/he has an enjoyable experience. But I do agree that it can be overwhelming with an abundant amount of stuff popping up on my screen or someone following me around in the store. Thanks for posting!

Sonia Chakrabarty

Thank you for sharing this post! It definitely highlights the complexity of customer service–and how varied customers really are. If only there were a way to choose how much engagement you wanted!

Katherine Spivey

Perhaps like a traffic light – red light, just answer the question; yellow, I’ll do 2 surveys; green, call me all the time. Very difficult to gauge, and might change.