This week's ten commandments strikes a little closer to business operations than marketing strategy.  All the same, your organization's internal operations practices are just as important to your brand as the marketing department's long-term strategy.  Don't believe me?  Ask a firm that's violated one of these rules:

  1. I doesn't matter what your job is
    Everyone in the company is responsible for customer service - from the man who actually answers the phones to the woman in the office who writes the paychecks.  If someone asks you a question about your product, you better know the answer.
  2. Whether or not it is, it will always be seen as your fault
    Externally, no one cares what position you're in.  If your widget breaks, everyone in your company is considered at fault.  Never answer a customer with "I'm sorry, but so-and-so department ..."  Whatever the problem is, apologize and do what you can to get the right person on the job.
  3. The customer is not always right ... but they should feel that way
    There are times where a client forgets to read the fine print of a service agreement, so when they complain about something that's been expected many of us are trained to think "the customer is always right" and bend backwards to help.  This is detrimental to business and sets a trend of ignoring your own policies.  You should do whatever you can to make things right in the mind of the customer, but never assume they are right by default.
  4. You should only have one level of customer service
    Whether your customer pays $10 a month or $10,000 a month, they should both receive stellar customer service.  Even the small guys can kill your brand if you serve them poorly.
  5. Don't give your customer the run-around
    They called you because something on your product, in a brochure, or on your website gave them your number.  Unless you have a very good reason for redirecting them (i.e. you're leaving the office for a 3-week vacation in 10 minutes) you should never transfer them to someone else.  Do whatever you can to contact the "right person" on your own and relay the information.
  6. You're never "new"
    Don't ever make the excuse that you just started and don't really know what you're doing.  As sympathetic as your customer might be, they don't really care as much about the problem you're having as they do the problem they're having.
  7. The person answering the phone is the most important member of your company
    Whether you pay them minimum wage or a premium plus benefits.  Whether they're an "intern" or an "executive vice president."  Whether they know what your upcoming product does or not.  The first person a customer contacts is the most important person you have.  They are the external mouthpiece for your brand to all of your existing customers.  Treat them appropriately.
  8. Never be "in a meeting"
    If a customer needs your help, you better be available.  Unless you're really in a meeting, never give that as an excuse for not taking a customer call.
  9. It doesn't matter whether or not you understand how to do it
    Make sure you're always speaking on the customer's level when explaining how to fix or use a feature of your product.  If it's technical, chances are they don't understand the terms you use.  On the same vein, don't dumb things down so much that you irritate people.  If they know what a COM Object is, chances are good that they verified their monitor was "on" before calling you with a problem.
  10. The focus is always on the customer
    It's never about you.  Remember that in everything you do.