Boiler Room Basics: The 7 must-do’s every service business needs to get right

For every service business, ensuring your customers have a great experience is paramount. Whether you’re a small start-up cafe or a global hotel chain, customer satisfaction needs to be a top priority if you are to succeed.

To help you put in place the foundations for a thriving service business, we asked Michael Heppell, the author of, “5 Star Service – How to deliver exceptional customer service”, to reveal the key issues you need to get right, before you can start wowing your customers;

Getting the ‘Boiler Room Basics” right first

Dave services our boiler once a year, every year and has done so for as long as I can remember. Our heating is toasty and Dave assures us that if we keep looking after our boiler it could last for another 20 years.

If I didn’t know and use Dave, I could just risk it. If we did suffer a boiler breakdown, I could call an engineer, accept the horrendous call-out charge, experience the inconvenience of having no heating and wait in while the engineer flicks a coin and decides whether he will or won’t turn up.

It would get fixed and the pain would be forgotten in a few days. But that’s not how my brain thinks. I don’t want to have to fix things and neither do your customers. That’s why the “boiler room basics” have to be right in your business.

Do a quick Google search on ‘great customer service ideas’ and you’ll find hundreds of articles (many written by me) sharing ways and means to ‘wow’ your customers. And at the right time wowing your customers could be just the differentiator you need to be remembered ….but not if your boiler’s broken!

Here are seven “Boiler Room Basics” that must happen in your business, before you work on wowing your customers;

1. Find the right staff

It seems obvious but recruiting people who actually want to serve is an ever-increasing challenge.

Red Carnation Hotels are experts at this. One tool they use is to always encourage potential new staff to spend a day working in one of their award-winning hotels to see if they like it first.

Of course this is a two-way street; if the potential new candidate still likes the idea of working for them after a tough day of serving high demand customers, then that’s great. However, their potential new colleagues are watching closely, too. They want teammates who have the right approach, who are eager to learn, who take care of their appearance and have a can-do attitude. They’ll feed this back to HR at the end of the trial shift.

Remember, you can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude.

2. Find the right customers

I used to make the mistake of suggesting our customers could be anyone. Of course this is not true. Identifying your ‘avatar’ – the perfect customer – is critical if you want to really give them brilliant levels of service.

Southwest – the original low cost airline – understood that their customers weren’t regular fliers, they were people who had never flown before (due to cost); and they built their whole service proposition around this, providing a great, simple, warm service for around $100.

On the flip side, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Hotel in Geneva costs £53,000 a night. They want to provide a warm guest experience too, but it’s unlikely you’ll see them advertising that room in Southwest Airlines’ in flight magazine.

3. Embrace new technology

The number one method customers are using to communicate with suppliers isn’t phone, letter or email… it’s via Twitter. Not bad for a technology which didn’t exist ten years ago.

But don’t fall into the trap that it’s about the technology. A bad customer service operative can cause havoc on twitter as easily as an expert can create calm with just 140 characters and some empathy.

Nick Wood is the Social Media Manager of Virgin East Coast Trains. He describes social media as being like a ‘Giant goldfish bowl where everyone can see you and everyone has an opinion’. He encourages his team to make the most of technology but also to listen to their intuition and do ‘the right thing’.

4. Understand the distraction of dirt

My mate Paul got off a plane and caused a right old to do when he noticed the state of the seat table. His thinking was, ‘If that’s how they look after the tables how do they look after the engines?’ I know someone else who wouldn’t buy a £50,000 car as the salesman had dirty shoes.

Does it matter? Well yes, if your customer is going to delay a flight or spend serious money with your competitor. The worst thing about customers spotting dirt is they probably won’t mention it. Whether it’s peeling paint, mucky menus or nasty nails, dirt takes massive withdrawals from your customer’s emotional bank account.

5. Treat your suppliers like they are your best customers

Most organisations don’t see their suppliers as customers; they think it should be the other way round. Big mistake.

Taking care of your suppliers will pay back tenfold if you get it right. Think about it; you work harder for and provide better service for your favourite customers. It’s natural that your suppliers will do the same.

Say thank you, send them a small gift, refer them and, most importantly, pay them on time!

6. Systemise routines – Personalise exceptions

Any routine needs a great system – but you must be prepared for exceptions. If you, or anyone on your team, dares to utter the words, ‘It’s company policy’ take them outside, slap them with a kipper then calmly explain why those words can do more to harm your brand than almost any others.

Great routines, documented, trained and maintained are the backbone of great service – but by dealing with exceptions brilliantly you’ll have a chance to shine!

7. Say Sorry…

… and mean it. Things will go wrong, you will drop the ball and you will upset some people. The ability to say sorry, sort the problem, learn from it and do whatever you can to ensure it doesn’t happen again, is a boiler-room basic that few have.

The respect you gain by doing this from the heart will be noticed and remembered by everyone who receives it.

These basics aren’t the most fun parts of customer service, few are sexy and you’ll hardly be noticed for doing them. Cracks will show if you don’t do them and you’ll find yourself dealing with a much bigger problem. You’ll wish you’d looked after your service boiler, so don’t wait for a breakdown, get it checked out now.

This guide has been written for ByteStart by Michael Heppell, a business speaker and author of the new 3rd edition of 5 Star Service, the UK’s best-selling customer service book by a British author. For more information go to

Last updated: 22nd April, 2021

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