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Customer service rule number one

I've always taught Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) that the number one rule of Customer Service is "Do the best you can with what you have." Let me give you an example.

For several years, I've served on the Board of Directors for Pella's community theatre, Union Street Players. Many years ago, our group decided that we wanted to do something with our growing collection of costumes. So, the Union Street Players Costume Shop was started. It has been a labor of love for our members for many years. As a non-profit organization, we do not make a profit and our staff is made up entirely of volunteers. The shop is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon (if we the volunteers show up).

It is quite common for our customers to get frustrated and disgruntled. We often get phone calls from frantic individuals who are trying to throw together a last minute costume for a child's school project or an impromptu skit at the corporate business meeting. It's painful for me to apologize and explain that we simply do not have the staff or resources to accommodate every emergency costume need. I'm personally crushed when I see a long line of frustrated customers waiting in line while one of our volunteers fights with the ancient computer and quirky database at the desk. We continually try to make improvements. However, the fact that the shop is even open a few hours a week is due to the kindness of our members' hearts and their voluntary efforts.

Even a for profit business must sometimes make choices regarding what they can do, and are willing to do, with the limited resources available to them. Hopefully, we are equipped with a knowledge of what drives our customer's satisfaction and a sincere service attitude. We can't satisfy every customer. In some tragic situations we may not be able to satisfy most of our customers. But, at the end of the day every CSR can pat themselves on the back and sleep well if they can honestly say, "I did the best I could with the resources I had."

- Tom Vander Well

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