Five customer service lessons from David Brent

Unless you have been on the planet Mars for the last ten years, then you are sure to have heard of David Brent.

Brent was formerly the manager featured in the BBC TV documentary 'The Office'. More recently, he has been pursuing a career in pop music, and a full length documentary movie has just been released charting his long and difficult road to musical stardom, while holding down a full-time job as a sales rep.

In this blog article, I will take a look at some of the lessons that we can all learn about customer service from David Brent's time working as a manager at the Wernham Hogg Paper Company in Slough, Berkshire.

1. Communicate in plain language that is easy to understand

Brent frequently uses gobbledegook, trendy buzz words and ‘management speak’. Even worse, he frequently uses it out of context and incorrectly. If you want to communicate well, whenever possible try to avoid using management speak with your staff, and more importantly, ALWAYS avoid using it when dealing with customers.

2. Don’t skirt around bad news

David Brent frequently lacks the guts to say what is needed to be said, and often tells lies to save himself from a negative response. Sometimes in customer service situations, giving bad news is part and parcel of the job. One of the most common mistakes people make is trying to put a positive spin on bad news. It’s far better to be direct and honest than to soft-soap the issue. Your customers aren’t stupid and they won’t appreciate being treated like children who can’t handle the truth. If you’d like more advice on giving bad news, see my blog article dated 19.06.16.

3. Always be honest and authentic

David Brent is constantly putting on an act. Managers who pretend to be something they’re not, will eventually trip themselves up. What they say will be inconsistent with what they do, and their colleagues and customers will quickly get wise to this. This leads to a loss of trust amongst those with whom you are communicating. Remember that if you lack authenticity, you will eventually get caught out. When this happens you will lose your credibility, which is almost impossible to win back.

4. It’s not about you - it’s about your customer

Perhaps David Brent’s biggest downfall is his attention-seeking behaviour and his attempts to always make everything about him. When you are dealing with anyone in business you should always have at the front of your mind that you are the least important person in the communication. This applies to colleagues, business partners and suppliers. But it especially applies to your customers. They are the most important people, not you.

5. Things won’t always go right

"If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain. Do you know which 'philosopher' said that? Dolly Parton." (The Office, Season 2, Episode 6).