The 10 Rules of Service

These rules are not new but often are forgotten when interacting with customers. They should help establish and main-tain a positive attitude that will be invaluable in maintaining good customer relations. Some are obvious and easy to accept. A few are less so and must be understood in order to be accepted.

(Ed. Note: Click for part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

Rule 1: Our customers are our most valuable assets and the most important people in our business. This attitude is fundamentally important to any business relationship. It cannot guarantee success, but if it is forgotten, the result will surely lead to loss of customers. This may not destroy the business, but it will keep it from reaching its fullest potential.

Rule 2: Our customers are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them. They do not owe us any favors. Realizing this helps establish a proper relationship with each customer where we endeavor to meet their needs at such a high level that they will feel compelled to use our services, even though they have other options.

Rule 3: Our customers are the purpose of our work, and without them, we would not have jobs. Following this rule makes customer relations much more personal. Keeping good relations with customers is not just for the benefit of the company. Maintaining good customer relations is a vital part of every job and contributes critically to keeping that job.

Rule 4: Our customers are not just names and numbers in our books. They are real people who have as much right to be satisfied as we do. This rule also personalizes customer relations. As a supervisor, your job is to interact with individuals who have the right to excellent service that will be satisfying to them.

Rule 5: How often have you gone into a business establishment and felt that you were an intruder? Our customers are not intruders but a very necessary part of our business. The customer is a real and important part of any business operation. They should be treated as such and made to feel as such.

Rule 6: Our customers do us a favor when they do business with us. We owe it to them to see that they are completely satisfied. If we consider the customer as doing us a favor by giving us their business, it makes us more inclined to respond in a positive way.

Rule 7: Our customers are free to take their business wherever they wish, and we encourage that right whenever possible. This is probably the most troublesome of the 10 rules unless it is properly understood, and it is the most powerful if correctly understood. As stated in the comment to the second rule, we want to provide a high level of service so that our customer feels compelled to use our services. However, in a competitive environment, they are not compelled to use our services. You can only encourage your customer to exercise their right to consider taking their business elsewhere if we are totally convinced that they will not do so because they know ours is the best service or that, if they do exercise their right, they will return because they will discover that they cannot get customer service anywhere else to compare with what you provide. You should never encourage your customer to take their business elsewhere, but if you are the best, you can be comfortable protecting their right to look around. We want them to look at the competition because it makes us look even better.

Rule 8: Our profits and our jobs depend not only on getting new customers but on keeping all your current customers satisfied with eve-rything you do on their behalf. We talked last about how much easier it is to keep current customers than to recruit ones. In good times, companies often plant the seeds of failure by focusing on growth and forgetting to service their old customers. New customers are great, but they should never displace existing customers.

Rule 9: Our satisfied customers are ambassadors of good will for our company. Perhaps the reverse of this statement is much more com-pelling. A single dissatisfied customer can cause havoc on a company’s reputation. You cannot afford to have even a single dissatisfied cus-tomer.

Rule 10: Satisfied customers are the life of your business and every business in this country. Without satisfied customers, our company would not exist. Much of an electrical contractor’s work comes through referrals. Keeping our customers satisfied is important to us as individuals and to our company, as well. When a customer has electrical work to be done, they will find a company to do it. You should want to ensure that yours is the first company that they seek.

This concludes the series on customer relations. Hopefully, it has created a beginning for or strengthened your focus on customer relations. A customer focus should never end but should grow increasingly stronger over time.

ROUNDS is the AGC endowed chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. E-mail him at SEGNER is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at

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