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Why is it that Customer Service Directors, or Customer Service Managers, can’t be contacted by customers?

Isn’t their job to be the link between a Company and its customers? Aren’t they the people who are ‘passionate’ about customer service? Isn’t that their raison d’être?

George Smiley with all his brilliance had less trouble hunting down a mole in the Circus, than most customers have hunting down Customer Service Directors in big companies.

Twenty years ago, it was possible to pick up the phone and actually get through to a Customer Service Director. I know that for a fact. I did it on a regular basis. Now Customer Service Directors – even Customer Service Managers – are just too important to talk to customers.

They’re busy managing the thousands of Customer Service Advisors they hide behind.

The trouble is front line Advisors operate within strict guidelines and have very little power to keep customers satisfied, most of whom try to get to a decision-maker in the hope of a more favourable response to whatever’s bothering them.

And if one a disgruntled customer should get to the guy at the top, it’s jackpot time. Customers know that if you’re talking to someone who’s used to dealing with £millions, £50 compensation is nothing more than small change found on the side of the road.

It’s been a game of hide and seek over the past twenty years and front-line staff have found very creative ways of reducing the stress of having to keep customers from getting to their senior colleagues.

In one Company, Advisors all called themselves Manager, and simply switched phones between themselves whenever a customer wanted to escalate the conversation. In another, they took turns to be the Manager on different days of the week.

So guess what. You won.

Customers have given up trying to get hold of you – but they’re sore losers and they’re taking revenge: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, that’s where it’s at.

Game on!

Dr Valerie Bram is a Director at T2 –

Can anyone tell me why a customer at the end of the phone is more important than the customer actually there in person?

What is it about the phone that makes people cast aside common courtesy, and abandon any semblance of commercial wisdom the moment they hear it ring? Is it Pavlovian conditioning? Does free will desert them?

Let me explain what I mean.

After traveling halfway across the States, I finally reached my hotel tired, hungry, and longing to get to my room. I handed over the booking confirmation, slapped my credit card down for extras, filled in a form – vehicle reg, blah, blah – and just as I was about to be given my key, the phone rang.

Wham. I disappeared – in a flash – under Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, while the customer on the phone zoomed down the line in true Matrix fashion to push right to the front of the queue.

In those first few minutes at Reception, I should have felt the full force of sublime customer service, distilled into an exquisitely crafted procedure, by an emotionally astute Receptionist, leaving me staggered by its quality and originality.

Moments of face-to-face interaction are fleeting and precious these days. It only takes a second to leave an impression that lasts a lifetime. Reputation, credibility are on the line, time after time.

Think I’m teaching my Grandmother to suck eggs? Not so.

Why on earth was the customer on the phone given preference, while the paying customer (who was on the spot) was left hanging – abandoned, ignored, feeling second rate?

Front line staff always go for the phone. Always.

Dr Valerie Bram is a Director at T2 –


Over the past few months, T2 has run a series of writing workshops for the market-leading provider of conveyancing search solutions.

Each year, the organisation runs over 1 million conveyancing searches and delivers property intelligence to more than 2,500 clients across England and Wales.

Recently, the company has won several awards in recognition of its outstanding customer experience and customer satisfaction levels.

But as they say, “If you are standing still, you are also going backwards. It takes great effort to maintain forward movement (Reed Markham)”.

So to enhance the skills of the customer service and sales teams, the Customer Service Manager and long-time friend of T2 commissioned a bespoke training programme.

The programme focused on the application of Psycho-Linguistics to the written word: a key technique that will help front-line staff add positivity and emotion to their prose.

We were also asked to inject into the programme insights about brand personality / tone of voice, style and syntax.

All of this has already started delivering results in terms of more effective communication and increased client satisfaction. And as a by-product, learning new skills also boosted employee engagement.

T2 trainers were impressed by the commitment the participants showed in wanting to improve a very desirable skill.

And we were also immensely pleased to receive this feedback:

“Thank you so much for your time. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved your work – it’s a great course.”

“Great course, opened my eyes to how I and the company want to be viewed by our customers.”

“Really helpful and inspiring.”

Would you rather be on the receiving end of a fake smile, or a genuine scowl?

Sitting in a Chicago restaurant waiting for my flight back to the UK, an endlessly cheerful, bubbly, smiling, bouncing teenage waitress was fussing over me like a mother hen. That’s the Americans for you.

I found myself wondering whether a more sober, less obtrusive, less-happy British waitress would improve my customer service experience.

It’s a fine line to tread – do you want life to be sugar-coated, or would you prefer a touch of realism. It’s the red pill or the blue pill.

These days, small transactional moments are barely noticed. Texting, e-mailing, conference calling, work-home, clients-family,  consume us. We don’t pay much attention to anything. Life is busy, busy, busy.

But considering we interact with service staff all the time, at the check out, at coffee shops, in hotels, restaurants, cinemas, call centres – pretty much throughout the day – how these people treat us can be the deciding factor as to whether our day is good or bad.

Do we want customer service staff to deliver a one-size fits all approach to customer service like the Americans, or to graduate the intensity, and the type of customer service to the individual? That takes perception, judgement and sophistication.

Maybe the super-duper, happy, in-your-face customer service is the only way to be noticed in modern society.

Is there’s a lesson here?

Yes, there is. Aesop told us centuries ago, it’s easier for the sun to get a man to take his coat off, than for the wind to do it.

Give me sunshine every time.