David Mitchell’s Customer Service Wisdom

Since it’s the last day of Customer Service Week, I’d like to draw your attention to a more light-hearted speaker than we usually have: comedian David Mitchell.

David Mitchell is well-known for his angry rants about things that make no sense to him. They generally include things like social tics he is awkwardly aware of, the futility of trying to compliment the people he meets and the phrase “I could care less.” Generally, what makes these so popular is the way they tap in to the opinions of normal people – people who also secretly wish they could talk about how stupid those things are.

Recently on QI, along with Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Stephen Fry and Jo Brand, he took a stab at something he’s noticed in customer service: the ubiquitous need for customer service representatives to act delighted all the time, regardless of the circumstances. Yes, it’s nice to be served by a smiling face, but if you can tell that that person isn’t really happy, the effect can be quite jarring and even counter-productive.

Obviously the problem is that this can’t be put on or trained into staff: they actually need to be happy to avoid everything feeling staged.

As a business, then, the trick is to ensure your customer service staff are genuinely happy. Someone faking a great mood is, to quote Mitchell, “a liar or a moron.” You risk more customers feeling this way¬†than just the sarcastic comedian crowd, so investing in the happiness of your staff can have lasting benefits beyond just staff retention and performance: the customer will wind up happier and more at ease too.

Here’s the clip (careful, some strong language):

Phill Jupitus jumped in with a bit of wisdom concerning bad customer service too: there comes a point where it’s so bad, that people will begin to seek it out just for laughs. We’ve written about that before – but I’ll admit I thought Ed Debevic’s, the Rudest Restaurant in the World, was a one-off. Turns out we’re not so lucky.