Monkey Business


Curious George, Customer Service Guru

My son is in a Curious George phase right now. Fortunately, a few years ago we found a George collection for his older sister at a used bookstore, so we’re well equipped for bedtime stories. The book includes several original stories with plot developments today’s publishers would balk at. In the very first story, George…

  • Gets stuffed into a sack and forcibly taken from his home
  • Jumps into the ocean and nearly drowns
  • Caps off his first meal in his new home by smoking a pipe
  • Makes a prank call to the fire department and gets thrown in jail
  • Escapes from jail and steals a bunch of helium balloons

The stories are long, meandering, and quite entertaining. Newer George tales, with their linear (and much more politically correct) plots, make for a faster bedtime but are much less satisfying.

In any case, one thing hasn’t changed from the time George was first snatched from the jungle and brought to the big city… George’s curiosity eventually gets him in trouble, he manages to make up for whatever incident he causes, and in the end he emerges more beloved than ever.

That’s not a lesson I want to impart to my kids… I’d rather they follow the rules in the first place. But as much as I hate to admit it, there’s more than a shred of truth to the Curious George philosophy, at least in the business world.

In many of our research studies, we see customer relationships that have ended up in a bad place – a delayed shipment, a software bug, a misapplied late fee, you name it. Correctly or not, the customer is upset, and the onus is on the company to make it better.

And frankly, fixing is usually pretty easy. But some companies set their sights beyond that. An empowered and enthusiastic customer service rep can turn an average customer (or even a disgruntled one) into a loyalist. Your customer service department – whether you have dozens of dedicated staff or you’re responding to complaints yourself at 2 am – is the best glimpse anyone will ever have into your company’s culture and customer focus.

Your response to a customer complaint says more about your company than any salesperson’s pitch or product’s features ever could. So don’t make customer service an afterthought. Don’t make responding to complaints something you do when you have time. Be like George – clean up your mess in a unique and memorable way, and you may just find yourself with some very happy advocates.

Oh, one more thing… unlike the man with the yellow hat, your customers probably don’t have much tolerance for repeat offenders. As nice as it is to emerge from a problem unscathed, don’t expect it to happen twice.

*Photo credit PBS Kids


  1. Jim Snyder

    First of all, you are so lucky to be reading Curious George again. That Curious George…he’s a rascal alright.

    A response to a recent complaint from me about membership at a moldy health club was (and I quote word for word) “That’s only your opinion. We can’t please everyone.”

    That wasn’t even in the fine print of their 2 year contract. Perhaps I will forward your post to them.

    • Tom

      That’s hilarious. Speaks volumes about their concern for customers. I’m not sure how moldiness is subjective!
      I’m surprised they didn’t try to upsell you to the mold-free Platinum Package.



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