Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

80% of Customer Service Is Just Being Nice

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is just showing up.”

Well, 80% of customer service is just being nice.

Recently I’ve been writing more about the simplicity of customer service.  The concept of customer service is simple.  Just be nice.  Okay, maybe I am over-simplifying this a bit.  A great customer service experience consists of two other elements: operations and quality of what you sell.  That’s the other 20%.  And, without that 20%, it doesn’t matter how nice you are.

First, let’s cover operations, as it applies to the customer experience.  Anything that isn’t considered part of the frontline customer service experience, but impacts the customer experience, can be put into the category of operations.  This can be accounting, warehousing, the manufacturing process, hiring or anything that it takes to run the business and produce the product.

Then there is the quality standard.  Whatever you sell has to meet the customer’s expectations.  If you sell expensive leather shoes, the customer will expect them to last a long time.  Conversely, if you sell inexpensive shoes (read that as cheap), the customer shouldn’t be surprised if they fall apart after a year.   Either way, you have a quality expectation that needs to be met, if not exceeded.

Finally, you add delivery to the mix.  This is the part about being nice.  Even if you are flawless in your operation and meet the customer’s quality expectations, you can’t leave out what may be the most important part: the frontline customer service experience, which is controlled by people – hopefully nice people.  This is 80% of customer service.  It’s the “show” you perform for your customer.  This is what the customer sees and experiences as they take delivery of your product or service.

That is why people will pay more for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.  They provide an amazing experience, and it starts with the nice people behind the counter who take the customer’s order and make the coffee.

Even a website is controlled by people.  The customer’s experience will be a direct result of the thought and effort someone (or a group of people) put into making the experience simple and easy to navigate and understand.  One of the reasons that is so successful is because of their website.  Even though their customers are shopping online, they know that if they need help, they can just dial a phone number (that is easily found on every page of the website) and get their question answered or the problem resolved.  That’s part of their customer service.

There are lots of companies that manufacture or sell the same types of products or services.  It’s the ones that can differentiate themselves with their customer service that are more successful.  And a big part of that customer service, maybe even as high as 80%, is simply about being nice.

Simply put, if the product or service does what it is supposed to do (operations and quality), and you are nice about the way it is delivered, you have a winning combination.  It really is that simple.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional  speaker and New York Times   bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Shep, you are spot on with this one. Nice always makes a difference in customer service. Research even shows that customers are more forgiving of errors and have lower expectations for delivery time and product quality when they like the people who are serving them.

  2. Reminds me of Pareto’s 80/20 rule… It’s not really surprising because that is the golden rule and it has persisted throughout the ages. Just because we’re living in the digital age doesn’t mean we’re exempt. Love that last line… how simple can it really be? Cheers!

  3. Hi Shep, this is all very true – no matter how nice you are if you don’t have the ability to solve a customer’s problem it isn’t going to give a good impression. Too many companies seem to think that you can simply get by through on niceness without arming customer service teams with the information and empowerment they need to do their jobs!

  4. Hello Shep, thanks for the great blog. Although we can always argue if it is 80/20 or 70/30 I absolutely agree with you. Talking about I really like tweetwall it gives so personal feeling about shoes they sell. I think if you want to be brand that people love, being nice isn’t enough. You constantly has to surprise and delight customers all the time. The biggest opportunity you have is when something goes wrong, look at it as an opportunity.

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