In this conversation lesson, students learn vocabulary related to customer service. Students then discuss the topic in small groups. Do the warm-up with your students, teach the vocabulary, and then have students do the conversation questions.
Start the lesson by asking students if they have ever been annoyed by bad customer service. Ask one or two students to share a recent experience with bad customer service.
Then, have students guess the 10 most annoying customer service issues (according to a recent survey conducted in the United States). Give them a few minutes to write down their guesses before giving them the answers. [Answers according to Consumer Reports: 1) Can’t get a human on the phone 2) Salesperson is rude 3) Many phone steps needed 4) Long wait on hold 5) Unhelpful solution 6) No apology for unresolved problem 7) Can’t find store salesperson 8) Boring hold music or messages 9) Wait at counter or checkout 10) Wait for scheduled repairer.] Source
Briefly get some feedback from the class about whether they were surprised by the results of the survey.
Suggested terms to teach:
Types of Customer Service:
face-to-face customer service
over-the-phone customer service
Customer service positions:
general customer service
product sales support
customer service representative (CSR)
customer service training
1. Look at the results from the Consumer Reports survey. Which of the things mentioned bother you? Do you agree with the respondents of the survey? Do you have specific examples of any of these customer service issues? Tell your group about them.
2. Tell your group about the worst customer service experience you have ever had? What happened? Did you tell others about your experience? Do you still give that company your business?
3. Tell your group about a really good customer experience you had. What happened? Did you tell others about your experience? Are you a loyal customer of that company?
4. According to a recent study, Americans tell twice as many people about a bad customer service experience than they do about a good customer service experience. Does this surprise you? Do you tell people about your bad customer service experiences? Do you tell people about your good experiences? What do you talk about more, good customer service experiences or bad customer service experiences? Source
5. According to the same study, Americans are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. Are you willing to spend more money at places that have good customer service but higher prices than their competitors? Tell your group why or why not.
6. How do you think face-to-face customer service is different from over-the-phone customer service? Are there certain skills needed for face-to-face customer service that are not needed for over-the-phone customer service?
7. What do you think is the most important quality for a customer service representative to have? Why?
8. For companies, what are the pros and cons of outsourcing customer service operations? Do you think companies lose customers due to bad customer service at outsourced call centers? What do you think are some things that companies need to think about before deciding to outsource their customer service operations?
9. Have you ever been given something for free to make up for bad customer service? What was it? What happened? When do you think it’s necessary to give something for free to make up for bad customer service?
10. Do you think working in customer service is a difficult job? Why or why not? Have you ever worked in customer service? What was it like?
Also see these business English conversation lessons.