My TED Talk on Customer Service

On Monday I was informed that in four days I was expected to prepare a half-hour presentation on Customer Service. That’s a half-hour I have to stretch “hey, try to treat people as though they are, and this may shock you, people, you know, like you’re PAID to do.” Oh, but that’s not all, I will be giving this presentation at the end of an all-day staff-retreat (aptly named because I do want to retreat) following an hour+ presentation on the wonders of Excel.

This is the blind ideal bureaucracy imagines will happen from staff retreats
This is the blind ideal bureaucracy imagines will happen from staff retreats

I, and my presentation, are all that separates bleary-eyed workers from their weekend, late in the afternoon with my scintillating talk about customer service. Then, to top it all off, I have to give that presentation with an aggressively non-self-aware receptionist who probably needs to attend a customer service seminar rather than lead a 30-minute presentation on the subject.

So, FUN!

After trying to brainstorm a compelling presentation on my own, hoping that brainstorm would drop more snow than Rick James in 1982 at Studio 54, yet in reality having that storm amount to no more than a Puerto Rican Winter. I have decided instead to turn to you, the faceless, aloof internet, to help me with this.

The reality of staff retreats. Art by George Russell
The reality of staff retreats.
Art by George Russell

At the very least, I am going to come out with sparklers or those confetti popper things, and completely ignore the existence of my “partner” high school project style, but from there, I am floundering.

I could go with the time-waster option: “I know that I am the barrier between you and a life-fulfilling weekend, but I know you’re going to waste that time so I am using a gluttony of words to describe that utter, embarrassing waste of time.” OR I could do the opposite: “I empathize that you want to go home, but please empathize that I don’t want to be up here pontificating either. Understand that this is uncomfortable for all of us.”

But I still have to fill 30 minutes with no hope of assistance. Here are my thoughts on possible themes:

  • Customer service is like taking a crap, you don’t want to wipe your butt, yet, if you don’t, your clothes are going to get all crappy.
  • Customer service is like being a horse ridden by a spastic spur enthusiast.
  • Customer service is like being Jeff Foxworthy who just found out what his next “you might be a redneck” bit is and working it out on a blog seen by literally twos of people (sorry, I just had what addicts call a “moment of clarity”).customer service
  • Have you ever gone to a Halloween party dressed in an outlandish costume only to find out it’s not a costume party, in fact, it’s a black-tie formal party yet they still let you in and ask you to hand out food? Yeah, that’s customer service.
  • Customer service is like having someone demand at gun point that you sing karaoke with the passion of Nicolas Cage being attacked by bees, and the optimist in you expects and hopes to provide some entertainment to your audience, who happens to be meth-addled personified farts trapped in a typhoon of misery.


  • Stand up there quietly, look at everyone, and say, “have empathy, ya’ dummies,” then stare at everyone uncomfortably for the next 29 minutes.

Or maybe I’ll turn to my taciturn coworker meant to be my co-presenter  and every time things start to get quiet like I’m supposed to talk, I just start nudging my coworker and say, “go…come on, talk…say something…go…do work…talk, dammit.”

Your suggestions are welcomed, but before you ask, no, I can’t afford to hire anyone, let alone fire-dancers or the Puppetry of the Penis guys.


Add yours →

  1. 1. Definitely bring a tshirt gun.
    2. Serious advice? I’m a fan of starting with some memes that get everyone chuckling (i’m not above pandering to the lowest common denominator), but then getting serious and plowing through a presentation in 15 minutes. Save time for questions and plant some in the audience among your friends.


  2. Isn’t the secret to good customer service to picture all of the customers in their underwear?

    I’m not sure if that was when you’re helping customers or when you are giving a speech.

    The customer service secret might have been to treat all the customers like they were your mom. Unless you don’t like your mom.

    You don’t like your mom?!


  3. I think I’d go with the Nicolas Cage and meth-addled farts option.

    Now, Pickleope, are you reading my mind or what? Just the other day I was trying to remember the name of that crazy duo who did the schlong manipulations in front of an audience. Do you think I could remember? I’m getting old, man. Senile. There was a time those guys came through Edmonton every bloody years. Haven’t seen them for a while and was wondering if they had disbanded. But couldn’t look them up because I couldn’t remember PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS! And here you provide a link and everything. Bless you.


  4. Yeah, I can hear the cricket sounds as you take the stage. All 29 minutes of it.
    I’m hoping you are going to video tape this session because I want to watch you beat the shit out of your co-presenter while the fire dancers that you hired anyways and suddenly went into debt for, take everybody’s attention away from the beating going on in the background.


  5. So, have you been burned by customer service lately? Do you need to talk?


  6. When I talked to a bunch of seniors (age wise) recently, I had to engage them in conversation because they were sleep from just eating. Ask some questions about personal successful experiences to share with the group. Then you can expand on these as to why they were effective.


  7. Ask everybody to share their worst customer service experiences and then brainstorm about how they could have been handled better. To be safe (in case no one will speak), invent some bad experiences ahead of time. Write the bad experiences on slips of paper. Make people draw a slip from a hat and tell the group what they would have done in that situation. Then you can say, No, you are such an asshole. That’s not how you handle customer service problems, ya idiot.



  8. Start was a story. You have a great sense of observational humour, so tell a personal story to get them interested and then segue it into your witty and engaging observations. Finish with why it’s worth their efforts to treat customers nicely. Don’t start with “I know you don’t want to be here”, because it won’t make them think “Hey, this guy’s on our level! Let’s listen to what he’s got to say!” It’ll just make them think “Yeah you know what? We don’t. Get it over with.”

    There’s my two cents 🙂


    • “My fellow coworkers, there was this time I was two knuckles deep in a John’s anus when it squealed, ‘aren’t hookers supposed to be more gentile?’ Which is when I reexamined my business practices. I apologized, explained that I was new at the fisting game and asked for tips as I attempted to ensure the anal cavity would not become prolapsed. If you’ve ever been in a position where you were worried your bracelet or watch would get lost in an anus, you know how delicate customer service is. Treat your customers nicely, or they may decide to utilize their kegel exercises, exacerbating your arthritis.”
      Would that meet them on their level? Or should I stick with lighting the room on fire and running for my life?


  9. Okay, I’m hearing:

    wonders of Excel
    Penis Puppets
    extended scintillating talk
    new customer service manual

    Good lord, man, there’s your outline
    talk about that, in that order.
    Then again, I don’t know the product you’re presenting on.
    However, extended Penis puppets who can talk scintillatingly would Excel over anything.
    And there’s a manual to show you how?!! Damn. What time is the talk?


  10. I’m glad I didn’t have to sit through your presentation. I have seen the Puppetry of the Penis guys live, so there’s no way you were going to top them. But I hope it went well and nobody threw sharp, heavy objects at you.


  11. abeerfortheshower February 8, 2015 — 6:10 pm

    1) Open with a knock knock joke. People LOVE knock knock jokes.
    2) Point out someone weaker than you in the audience and insult them. In other words, assert dominance over the audience immediately. Otherwise they won’t respect you.
    3) Even if you speak complete gibberish, speak with passion, and do that thing where you keep pumping your fist with your thumb just slightly raised.
    4) End it 6 and a half minutes early, because you end things on YOUR time, not on THE MAN’S time.
    5) Drop the mic on your way out.
    6) Profit.


    • Okay, okay, I didn’t open with a knock knock joke, but instead showed them my hemorrhoid. Then I expressed my hemorrhoid. Whilst doing so I muttered my objections to the Doozers in the Fraggle Rock-averse. It only took 2 minutes and there wasn’t a mic, but I pick-pocketed a guy named Mike so I think I achieved all of your steps to success. Do I get a diploma?


  12. What wrong with an aggressively non-self-aware receptionist? They are my favorite customers, except for Rick James in 1982, of course. “She’s a very kinky girl…. the kind you don’t take home to mother…” STOP! HAMMER TIME!

    Thank you for that brainworm.

    Does customer service mean that you actually get to service customers? Say it ain’t so.


  13. Aw, I’m too late for you to use my riveting and extremely important advice. You know, I sold socks at a department store for a few months one Christmas season, so it’s obvious that I know TONS about customer service! Except, now that I think about it, I kind of sucked, because I sometimes talked people OUT of buying stuff, like this one lady who was buying $100 worth of socks (yes, apparently that’s possible) but wasn’t sure her credit card had enough room and I was like, “do you really need all these socks? Put some back!” Needless to say, I never made the top seller’s list.


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