Customer Service -- I Beg Your Pardon!

Jan. 29, 2014
Yeah, I heard about customer service long time ago... It wasn’t a movie or a bad joke, though. I think the person even meant it when I heard these two words.

Recently I didn’t have time to replace brake shoes in my old Buick Roadmaster (drum brakes) myself, so I decided to bring it to a car company who should according to the best market knowledge be able to deal with this simple challenge.

My wife drove the “Master of Road” from the mechanic and I saw the smoke coming out of rear wheels. So I jacked up the car myself and fixed it.

Although I made a complaint and had to listen to the car company CEO’s explanations, he still did send me an invoice! He lost a customer.

Customer service problem in a car mechanic case is a classic. Telecom providers, financial institutions, construction companies, etc. are very advanced in this discipline as well.

We all live in this real world and have made our experiences with mostly really lousy customer service, so I do not feel the need to start listing my favorite cases here.

The bad customer service correlates to a certain extend with the company size. Large companies have even delegated customer service to an outside firm, sometimes far away. Here is what happens: Customer service company delivers regularly according to the outsourcing agreement reports to the client company and everybody thinks that the end customer is happy. The illusion goes on and nobody even realizes that the customer is thinking about alternatives.

Good customer service is about:

  • Being responsive at all times
  • Listening and understanding what your customer wants
  • Deciding consciously that you want to meet the customer requirement
  • Delivering what the customer wants and when he wants, with no surprises and no strings attached
  • Listening to feedback and learning and changing


Leading by example and empowering the organization and employees to do things so customers feel great about your company.

I can only encourage SME leaders to visit customers together with your employees frequently.

When your employee seems no longer to be in position to know the answers or does not have the official authority, according to company process, in front of the customer, show him that decisions made in favor of good customer service are always good for the company. If this is done consistently and regularly employees will react in favor of the customer and in the mid and long term in favor of the company they work for.

Good processes can support this, but the main success factor is the SME leaders attitude towards customer service and their eagerness to show with examples.

About the Author

R. Paul Vuolle Blog | CEO

R. Paul Vuolle's blog "The SME's Guide to European Manufacturing," has moved. You'll find his latest ideas and commentary on SME European Manufacturing on IndustryWeek's IdeaXchange. 

You'll find more articles written by Paul at

R. Paul Vuolle, CEO of Bellevue SME Advisors GmbH in Switzerland and Germany, works actively with small and medium (SME) size manufacturing companies in Europe in SCM/Outsourcing, logistics, turnaround and restructuring, market expansion, as well as succession planning and financing. He also frequently supports technology start- ups in building up their business. 

Paul has over 20 years operational industry experience in engineering, electronics, industrial automation, building automation, investment goods like electrical drives, automatic test & measurement systems, HV Transformer production systems. During his career he has worked in manufacturing industries in supply chain management, outsourcing, logistics, production, R&D and successfully selling to international large key accounts. Paul has also run a sizeable amount of M&A transactions in numerous countries around the world.

He has built up his experience working in various leadership positions and functions in large corporations, such as ABB, and having executive positions in medium-size family companies and as a technology entrepreneur.

Paul is MSc. E.E. from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich as well as BSc.E.E. from Helsinki Institute of Technology.

Paul is a long time member of IEEE and of its Industrial Applications Society.

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