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When service providers become game show participants

Has this happened to you? After waiting in line, it’s your turn to be served. As you begin to explain what you need, the telephone rings. The person who you thought was there to serve you turns away to answer the telephone.

Why do service providers do this? Participants in my customer service workshops have offered several explanations. Some have been instructed to answer the telephone by the third ring. Others say that the biggest orders usually come from telephone calls and that these customers are their top priority. Customers who phone are busy people who are often in a hurry.

A participant in a Spirit of Excellence session offered a more creative explanation. The service provider thinks he is on a game show. He can accept the prize behind Curtain One that he has seen, or choose an unseen prize behind Curtain Two. When the service provider abandons us to answer the ringing phone, he sends a message that he would rather take his chances that the caller is offering a better prize...a bigger order, an opportunity for more business, whatever makes the unseen customer more attractive that the person who is already on site.

What happens in your organization? Do staff allow the call to go to voice mail while they continue to serve the customer? Does someone else answer phones while another serves a customer? Or do they say, “Excuse me while I check for a better prize behind Curtain Two?”

On game shows, contestants can’t return to Curtain One if they don’t like what they see behind Curtain Two. Why do so many service providers assume their customers will allow them to return when there is nothing behind Curtain Two?


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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© Nelson Scott.  All rights reserved.

A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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