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Don’t Put the Onus on the Customer

One of our faithful Shepard Letter subscribers, Warren Danziger, emailed a great story worth sharing with everyone. The short version of the story is as follows:

It was time to call the HVAC company that Warren had used for years to come out for the semi-annual inspection of his air conditioner and furnace. As usual, he received excellent service. Shortly after the service call he received an email requesting he complete a survey, which he was happy to do. Upon completion of the survey he was sent a $15 coupon to print out for the next service call, which he must provide at the time of the next service.

Warren’s reply sums up this lesson, quite well:

Thank you for the coupon. Why is the onus on me to save the coupon for 6 months and to remember to present it to the repair person? If you really mean it, make a note in your computer file and automatically deduct it from my next service call.

Way to go, Warren! He recognized a friction point that the company may or may not have be aware of.

Now, there may be some cynical people in the world that might say the company purposely makes the customer hold onto the coupon for six months, knowing the customer will forget about it or lose it and it won’t be redeemed. However, I don’t think that was the company’s intent. They just wanted to show some generosity and appreciation. Warren recognized there was a better way to do it. What the HVAC company could have done was sent the coupon with something similar to the following explanation:

You are welcome to print out the coupon, but save a tree and don’t worry about it. We’ll remember to apply it to the next service call. Thank you again for your business!

This is a powerful customer service lesson. There are many times companies think they are doing right by the customer, but in reality, they could be causing an inconvenience. So, analyze the process you put the customer through while they are doing business with you. What onus do you put on the customer? Even a slight inconvenience is worth discussing with your team to determine how to mitigate or even eliminate the friction.

Customer service is a differentiator. And, it’s more than just being nice, friendly and helpful. The people side of the business builds a connection with the customer. That is and always will be important. And, what is happening in today’s environment is that the customer also wants a better experience. And, part of that experience is convenience. You must make it easy to do business with you. Take great people skills and combine them with an easy and frictionless experience, and you will have a combination that is hard to beat.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)


  1. This is such a great point, Shep. Don’t you love it when the person checking you out at the grocery store pauses and says “I have a coupon for that.” Even then though, it shouldn’t be on the checker to make that call. It should be in the system!

    • Isn’t that the way it should be! The other day I got my watch batter replaced. When I went to pay the salesperson gave me a coupon to use to save a few dollars. Pretty darn nice! You know where I’m going back the next time I need a watch battery!

  2. Great point, Shep!

    One of the many reasons I like doing business with my local Armstrong Garden center is they have everything in their computer.

    Forgot my gift card? No problem, they have it right there.
    Forgot my receipt? No problem, they can look up my last order and tell me what plants I bought (or process a return).

    The technology is out there, so it certainly sets the expectations that all companies figure out a way to do it.

    • Exactly the point! The Customer Effort Score is a great way to measure the friction and hassle of doing business. And, thank you for sharing the article.

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