The customer service strategy with the best RoI


A recent article that I saw from Dr Jack Lewis & Adrian Webster, authors of a new book: Sort Your Brain Out, got me to thinking.

It got me to thinking about an article that I wrote here on Forbes back in February called: The Little Things That Destroy Your Customer Experience.

In that article, I suggested a list of ‘little things’, gripes if you like, that can wreak havoc on your customer experience and on your customer’s perception of your customer service. I also went on to suggest that businesses often have a tendency to focus on big, new and ‘shiny’ initiatives rather than fixing the little things that often go wrong.

As it turns out, focusing on the ‘big’ things and overlooking the ‘little’ things may be a really big mistake. Lewis and Webster’s research and their article suggests that, when it comes to customer service and how our brains work:

“our reward pathways [in our brains] over-react disproportionately to losses in comparison to gains. This is why we humans are so loss averse and why understanding how your customers have been let down in the past is so important – there is little that motivates us more than the promise of help to avoid the crushing disappointment associated with unexpected losses.”

Therefore, whilst focusing on conceiving, implementing and delivering a customer service or experience strategy based on delight or ‘wow’ may feel like a more positive and better approach to customer experience, it turns out that a strategy of minimising disappointments could offer a better return on our investment of time, money and resources.

When it comes to how our brains work and what is important to us, according to Lewis and Webster’s research, the gold of customer service and customer experience is in fixing the mistakes, the problems, the ‘grit’, the hiccups, the gripes and the average. And, fixing them first. It may not be sexy but it’s more likely to be effective and deliver returns.

Customers, it seems, are pretty simple creatures, really. Most customers will be happy if things just work, first time, easily and all of the time. Minimise their disappointments and negative surprises and it’s pretty likely that you’ll create happy customers.

So, unless you have perfect delivery in all areas of your business, having a strategy based on delight or ‘wow’ is not likely to pay as well as a strategy that eliminates disappointment first.

Where are you focusing first?



[Note: I have since posted The Little Things That Destroy Your Customer Experience on a number of LinkedIn groups and on my own blog and asked people to suggest their own ‘little things’. The response has been great and, in the near future, I will post a crowd-sourced, ‘big’ list of little things that destroy your customer experience. Watch this space for that update.]

This post was originally published on my column.

Photo Credit: hometownzero via Compfight cc

10 comments On The customer service strategy with the best RoI

  • Great point Adrian. It’s a balancing act in my opinion. Half of the dozen types of Purple Goldfish deal with “maintenance” or the little things you do to manage the experience. They are follow up, convenience, waiting, special needs, added service and handling mistakes. The goal is to be seen as low maintenance.
    Little things can truly make the biggest difference.

  • Adrian,

    When looking at prioritizing improvement opportunities for the various customer segments, e.g., Promoters/Detractors, Apostles/Defectors, etc., I found that if you fix everything that is an issue for Detractors/Defectors/etc., you end up pleasing everyone else. The problem with this approach is that those folks are unhappy with everything. As with anything, all things in moderation. Fixing the dissatisfiers certainly enhances the experience for a broader swath of your customers.

    Annette 🙂

    • Annette,
      I wonder if your statement ‘those folks are unhappy with everything’ is true or is it that they are just more risk averse than many others?


  • Adrian, an interesting thought, it throws the “Kano Model” theories of delighters versus basic needs up in the air a little, but I have a lot of sympathy with the idea. There is nothing about McDonalds that delights me, but I guess Ronald is crying all the way to the bank.


    • James,
      Thanks for that.
      Since the Kano model was developed in the 1980s then there have been great advances in our understanding of how the brain works. Perhaps it is time for it to be revised in light of our better understanding of how the brain works, what it values, what it fears and, therefore, what we should prioritise and focus on.


  • Lots of great points made in this podcast regarding support-based communities (ones HP can echo from our 5+ years in managing the HP Consumer Support Forums). In my opinion, Brands can’t underestimate the value of having a forum(s) where customers can seek peer-to-peer solutions and recommendations. At the end of the day, many customers want to hear from other people just like them.

  • Nicely put and an enjoyable read. It’s a perfect reminder that you can’t very well go above and beyond if you can’t cut the mustard to begin with. How interesting to think about it from a psychological aspect and really get to the bottom of why we focus on the wrong things… very interesting! Cheers!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      There is a lot for us to learn about how the brain works and how that impacts on the decisions we make and how we behave. I’m fascinated by it all and am enjoying the learning journey and sharing my observations as I go. Glad that they are interesting for you too 🙂


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