What a Giraffe Can Teach You About Customer Service Strategy

By Chris Herbert

Everyone loves a happy ending to a story, especially when the main character is a child who has lost their favourite stuffed animal giraffe named Joshie. Even the most cynical reader will smile and pay attention to how the plot is resolved.

The now legendary customer service story about Joshie the Giraffe will matter a lot to you if you work for or with a large company’s customer service organisation.

The Power of Joshie

Joshie the Giraffe is a heart-warming and oft-quoted story that service executives love forwarding to each other since it represents how they think customer service should operate in a perfect world (and how they secretly wish customer service worked in their own organisation).

Despite this, many presenters and consultants would balk at beginning a discussion with senior executives about customer loyalty and service by telling a story a stuffed toy. But, our research (that involved surveying 125,000+ customers to understand the drivers of loyalty) shows that a strategy of customer delight (e.g. “moments of wow”) does not pay off financially.

Only 16% of customers feel “delighted” after a customer service interaction. And this delight strategy is quite hard to execute operationally too — as a panelist remarked, “Can you really ‘wow’ or ‘delight’ a customer twice?”

Many service leaders get excited about the Joshie the Giraffe example (and the customer delight strategy that it represents) only to quickly learn that the “moments of wow” customer service strategy does not actually work. We love the Joshie the Giraffe story but, if customer service organisations want to improve customer loyalty & retention, they shouldn’t be sticking their necks out for Joshie (sorry). The way to prevent disloyalty isn’t to wow the customer; it’s to make the service interaction easy.

Four things service executives should remember

  1. There are two kinds of loyalty: positive loyalty and negative loyalty. Brand or product quality affects positive loyalty while the service experience affects negative loyalty.
  2. Just because there’s nothing a customer service rep can do to solve a customer’s problem doesn’t mean there’s literally nothing they can do. The words that customer service reps use matter. A lot.
  3. Customer service organisations should move away from a factory-model of customer service and towards a “knowledge worker-model” of customer service.
  4. According to Google, customer service queries on their search engine are up 50% and, within a few years, there will be more search queries originating from mobile devices than from desktop PCs

Four things service executives can start doing differently today

  1. Put up your top 10 FAQs on your website and see if customers can actually find it.
  2. Stop gathering more Voice of the Customer (VOC) data; instead make better sense of what you already have.
  3. Start asking more “why” questions. All customer service organisations want to be more customer-centric but they must also understand how to achieve that.
  4. Once service executives start measuring and trying to reduce customer effort, service executives will find that root-causes of customer effort are broader than the customer service department.

Chris Herbert is an Associate Director at CEB, where he provides support to member executives identifying and applying insight to address their most critical customer-facing challenges. Chris is also a frequent contributor on CEB’s sales and customer service blog.

Chris Herbert and Rufino Chiong, Managing Director of CEB, will be leading sessions about the effortless experience at Customer Contact Expo in the new Speaker Theatre on the Networking Bar at 11am on 1 and 2 October respectively. They will also be available after their presentations at 11.30am for a meet and greet, and NewVoiceMedia will be giving away copies of CEB’s new book The Effortless Experience.

A version of this post originally appeared on CEB’s sales and customer service blog.


CEB is the world’s leading member-based advisory company. It has a unique view into what matters — and what works — when capitalizing on drivers of business performance. With 30 years' experience working with top companies to share, analyze and apply proven practices, CEB begins with great outcomes and reverse engineers to help businesses unlock their full potential. Find out more at www.executiveboard.com.

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