The New Age of Customer Service


There is No Room for Error Anymore.


The story begins with my first real job as the manager of Blockbuster Video in 1990. The only form of social media was talking to friends, email, and if you were lucky and had enough money, you had a cell phone the size of a football.

The rise and fall of Blockbuster Video is legendary. It rose because it understood customer service and its customers better than any other company. After all, their IT department leader foresaw that the essential part of growing the company was analyzing what movies customers loved. The company empowered managers to run their stores as if they were the owner. Blockbuster was the first company that greeted every customer as they entered the store. While technology ultimately doomed Blockbuster, the lessons I learned have stayed with me to this day.

One of the biggest customer complaints Blockbuster faced was late fees. When I became a manager, my first boss said, "I do not want to hear about any customer complaints." So, when a woman walked up to the checkout counter, I faced my first dilemma. She placed on the counter the movies she was returning and new releases she wanted to rent and handed me the iconic Blockbuster Video membership card. I scanned her card and brought up her account. Yikes, she had over $200 in late fees! I politely informed her about the late fee, and she went ballistic and said no one ever let her know that the movies were late. I then pulled up the customer notification screen. I started reading back to her the dates and times when we emailed her and left voice messages, and sent letters to her that her movies were late. One by one, she said she "was never contacted." She was lying straight to my face, and after 3 or 4 times, I looked her in the eye and said, "I will write off your late fees, and please be careful to return your movies on time."

Despite the Blockbuster policy that forbade me to write off this huge amount, I did it anyway. She was incredibly grateful and continued to rent the movies she loved. I was the store manager and would not let any complaints leave my store and have a customer bad mouth my store to all their friends.

Flash forward to the age of social media. It is April 2017, and a United Airlines flight is overbooked. The flight attendant offers $800 in credit to a passenger to give up his seat. The passenger refuses the offer. The flight attendant does not provide anymore because of "Corporate Policy" and then proceeds to have three security officials drag the passenger off the plane. What happened next? Another passenger on the aircraft filmed the incident. The video went viral, and United Airlines stock loses $1.4 Billion in market cap in one day!

The moral of the story is, in the age of social media, there is no room for error anymore, and policies mean nothing when it comes to making a customer happy.

Lastly, I would like to share some important things I have learned that keep my clients happy.

  • Urgency! When a client calls or emails me and needs help, everything else I am doing stops, and my focus is on helping my client.

  • Communication: if a client calls or emails to ask about a project's status, you have failed. Providing timely communication on the status of projects must be second nature.

  • Relationship Building: get to know your client. Life is too short to talk about business all the time.

  • Word of Mouth: turn your client into a brand ambassador as it is only a matter of time before they know someone who needs a website.

  • Email Marketing: Email your clients at least six times per year to wish them a Happy New Year, Thanksgiving, etc. Develop a holiday email marketing schedule to keep top of mind awareness. The old saying, out of sight, out of mind is all too true.

  • Clearly define the scope of work for a project, not only what your deliverables are, but what your expectations are from the customer! The fastest path to an unhappy customer is over-promising. The old cliché still holds to this day, under-promise and over-deliver!


Steven Crayne

Founder | Starting Gate Marketing

E: Steve@sgmcrayne.com

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