2010-04-22-Insults1Kindness and Professionalism — that’s what great customer service boils down to, according to my colleague Tim Miles.

And while Tim has drilled down to discover the 7 elements in small business Kindness and Professionalism (which you should consider a must-read), for me the real genius is in his general formula of “Kindness and Professionalism.”  Why?

Because it’s the opposite of “Adding insult to injury.”

Believe it or not most medical malpractice suits, along with most “United Breaks GuitarsPR and word of mouth catastrophes all prominently feature both elements — often with the “insult” taking precedence over the injury.

Imagine what would typically happen without the “Insult.” If united broke the guitar and then apologized and even only partially compensated Dave Carroll for the loss, do you still think he would have made that video. Think about that: even if the ordeal still cost Dave hundreds of dollars — even if the “injury” part of the equation was still present — that element alone would never have sparked a viral YouTube revenge without the added injury of an uncaring and calloused bureaucratic response.

But flipping the equation goes beyond avoiding PR nightmares; adding kindness to professionalism offers a powerful mental framework for creating emotionally compelling customer service.  And these elements are present in every “WOW” customer service story you’ll ever hear or experience, whether it’s the I Heart Zappos story, the various Nordie stories, and so on.

So, think about it: Kindness and Professionalism.

And then head on over to Tim’s blog to see everything that can go into each part of that dynamic duo.


  1. Mike Reeves-McMillan on 01.31.2012

    Very true, Jeff. One of the things that defines poor customer service for me is the lack of an apology. It’s a lot more difficult to hold on to resentment after someone has apologised to you, but no apology is almost as infuriating as the initial problem.

    A quick search reveals quite a bit of research on this question, which seems to generally indicate that I’m not alone.

  2. Jeff on 02.01.2012


    Thanks for the comment. I’d agree with you, but I have to ad that the “insult” part of it more often comes from an insincere or false apology than no apology at all. That’s the more common mistake. The flip side of that is false “kindness” can strike just as offensive a chord as a faux apology.

    – Jeff