A Shocking Experience

Customer Service Excellence Can Boost Sales

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I received a subscription invoice for a magazine I had never heard of nor received. This didn’t surprise me. This used to happen a lot. Magazines would show up and later an invoice arrived to continue my “subscription.”

I scrawled “please cancel” on the invoice and returned it in their pre-paid envelope. That was the end of it, or so I thought.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

A few days later, the magazine arrived. I looked at it and was interested. I read it. I enjoyed it and wished I hadn’t canceled it. Maybe I had ordered the publication after all, though I couldn’t remember doing so.

I pondered what to do. It wasn’t fair that the publisher had sent me the magazine in good faith but wasn’t going to collect their payment. I also wanted to receive future issues. Yet I wondered if I had the energy to contact the publisher and try to resolve it.

The Dreaded Call

Notice that I said, “try to resolve it.” My overall experiences had so numbed my expectations that I doubted I’d succeed.

Worry swirled in my mind.

  • How many phone calls would I need to make?
  • How many times would they transfer me to the wrong person or department?
  • Would someone hang up on me?
  • Might they tell me to call another number and then another, only for them to direct me back to the first?
  • Could I understand and communicate with the agent?
  • Would they understand the situation and know what to do?
  • Might I make things worse?

These questions swirled in my mind. They were all based on frustrating experiences I’d had with other companies. I gathered my resolve. Dreading the task before me, I blocked out time to focus on this chore.

A Successful Outcome

Things got off to a good start when I found a prominent “subscription number” in the magazine. I took a deep breath, and I dialed their toll-free number.

An actual person answered.

The agent was both pleasant and professional. She seemed happy to talk to me. I could understand her—every word. I explained my dilemma, and she understood. No transfer, no pondering, no delays.

“I can take care of it,” she said with confidence.

And she did.


Resolving an issue on the first call isn’t hard to do, but in my experience, it’s rare.

It starts with intentionality. The essential elements are hiring qualified people, training them well, and empowering them to take proper actions.

Beyond these basics, provide clear instructions and develop flexible policies with a customer-first perspective. Wrap up by celebrating excellence and rewarding successful outcomes.

In place of dread, work to make sure your customers and prospects look forward to contacting you. In this way your customer service staff can best support your sales and marketing efforts.

Sales Success Tip

Make problem resolution frictionless for your staff and painless for your customers. Sales will result.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Sticky Series books, including Sticky Customer ServiceSticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Leadership and Management featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Common themes at every turn have included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management.

He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books to encourage, inspire, and occasionally entertain.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.