Getting Customer Service RIGHT using DISC


One customer service experience can change the entire perception a customer holds towards an organisation – make sure it’s a GREAT one! Use Extended DISC® personal analysis to get the people-part right.  

Learn to recognise the behavioural style of each of your customers and use this knowledge to adjust your own style to suit theirs. This will improve the customer’s experience of your service, product or industry; ensure their continued loyalty; help build your business a reputation for excellent in customer-service that in turn will bring in more business.

“Customer experience is the next competitive battleground. It’s where business is going to be won or lost.” Tom Knighton – Conversant’s Global Practice Lead for Executive Development.


We often have some issues with customer service that come up quite regularly both within our client’s organisations and, of course, in my personal life as a consumer and as a product and service user. I often see many cases where some training in Extended DISC® styles might have helped these organisations provide a much better service level. So, it’s partly personal and, of course, Extended DISC® is a global organisation, and our partners work all over the world. We look after the Australasian area, and we have lots of people attending today from New Zealand and Australia, so welcome! 

Using DISC in Customer Service

One customer service experience that’s bad can change the customer’s perception of a particular business. So, this webinar is about making sure that those experiences are good. Let’s use DISC profiles to get the people part right. If we can learn to recognise the DISC personality type of your customer service representatives or your sales team, you can also use this knowledge to adjust their style to suit the style of their customers. Behavioural modification can improve the customers’ experience of your service, product, or industry, which may ensure that they have continued loyalty to you and your brand and help build your business’s reputation for excellence. This is why behavioural modification is so important.

Customer experience is the next competitive battleground. It’s where your business is going to be won or lost. You may be competing in a field where your service offerings or your product offerings are very similar to someone else’s. So, it’s how you deal with the people, it’s how you provide service to your customers that may differentiate you, either as an excellent business or one that people would rather avoid. Let’s looks at some customer service quotes.

Customer Service Quotes to Inspire

I know that the internet is full of customer service quotes to inspire us and improve customer service. I’ve set a slight tone as to where we might be coming from, and here are three quotes that I’ve chosen that are my particular favourites. The first is from Bruce Ernst. He said, “Your website isn’t the centre of your universe. Your Facebook page isn’t the centre of your universe. Your mobile app isn’t the centre of your universe. The customer is the centre of your universe.” In another, “Customer service is the experience we deliver to our customer. It’s the promise we keep to the customer. It’s how we follow through for the customer. It’s how we make them feel when they do business with us.” That point is significant. It’s how we make them feel when they do business with us. I know that you’ve all had your own experience of coming away from a particular interaction with that feeling of ‘oh boy, that so didn’t go right I am angry now,’ or at least uncomfortable or I’m frustrated. Or, you’ve come away from an experience feeling wonderful that you’ve got the best deal, that people were polite, kind and understanding. So it’s about how they feel when they do business with us. The last customer service quote is also a favourite of mine, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. They are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them. They are not an interruption in our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not an outsider in our business. They are part of it. We are not doing them a favour by serving him. They are doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” I think these customer service quotes are influential framers for what we’re going to look at next. 

Some research recently has shown from Harvard Business Review that more than half of the customers they surveyed said they had a bad service experience. That is massive! That’s a big proportion of clients who have had a bad service experience. Nearly the same amount think that companies that they interact with don’t understand them or care about them. The worrying thing is that 40% of those who went through bad experiences stopped doing business with that company altogether. This just shows we can’t afford to have any if not ongoing bad customer experiences. 

Leonardo and Meeker are co-authors of “exceptional service exceptional profit the secrets of building a 5-star customer service organisation” and of paraphrased these and I’ve made them a lot smaller, and this is just to start us off, thinking about what we can do and what we see as good service as. 

  1. Their first point was that your first impression carries immense importance so have them at the initial hello. Get that right. 
  2. Secondly, to hire well, they call them sweethearts. Richard Branson calls them personalities. They say that what you are looking for is for people who can adjust themselves to their personalities (they’re talking hospitality here). Everyone should be able to deal with someone who’s discouraged or with a no-nonsense businesswoman. This is saying that we don’t necessarily just employ our gregarious bubbly people. We must hire sweethearts, and in this term, it means that they are empathetic.
  3. Number three is to be great on the phone. There are many resources about how to be great on the phone. I’m not going to focus this on call centre customer service only. However, that’s applicable in their area too. There’s a lot of skills that people can gain to be great on the phone.
  4. Number four is that consistent service is repetitious. So you must do the right thing again and again and again. You can’t do the right thing once and then expect that to follow through. So, keep your clients enjoying the consistency of your service.
  5. Number five is to quantify their love. So, this is to find out and know what your clients are experiencing. You can do this through customer surveys. You can start with an overall rating to get a general view and then drill down into little aspects, but they suggest that the two fundamental questions are will you come back and will you refer your friends? Maybe these are the first couple of important we need to ask. 
  6. Number six is to make it right. So, this is about correcting mistakes, acknowledging mistakes, and creating that feeling that the customer has enjoyed the experience, that they have one that they’re noticed and feel good. To make it right doesn’t always include money. It’s not always the best remedy. Sometimes a lengthy apology to give customers the chance to connect emotionally is what they need.
  7. Number seven is to have them at goodbye. So, make sure that the last moment they’re with you is not signing the bill. It’s something positive you want them to remember, such as smiling and saying thank you and come again.

Here is an overview of some of the essential customer service skills that one might need:

  1. Empathy 
  2. Positivity 
  3. Patience 
  4. Clarity in Communication
  5. Continuous Improvement

We can develop these skills with your whole customer service team. Your entire customer team consists of people who may come from different behavioural styles. You may have more work to do in some areas or with some of the behavioural types over others. In any customer interaction, you’re going to have your style working for you, and in other areas, you’re going to have it working against you. Let’s find out in what areas your style might work for and against you. Your team, your customer service team, or it might be a sales team that also has to provide customer service along the client process. The team might consist of:

  • D styles located in the top right-hand corner of the diamond and stands for Dominance
  • I styles located in the bottom right-hand corner in yellow and stands for Influence
  • S styles in green and the left bottom corner and stand for Steadiness
  • C styles in blue in the top left corner and stands for Compliance 

Strengths of Your Customer Service Team 

One of the positive strengths of having D style people in your customer service team is that they’re confident. They want to get things sorted. I style people will create that nice rapport they’re people-orientated, open and bubbly, and find the positive. They’ll be able to persuade their customer around to a particular way of thinking. They’re also very lively and keep things going and interactive. S style customer support will be very supportive, as the name implies. They’ll be calm and steady, they’ll be great listeners, and they come across as very trustworthy and essentially helpful. Your C style will also have strengths in customer service and that they’re logical and systematic. They’re carefulthey’ll look towards all of the details, and they’ll want to know why. In case of complaints, they’ll want to know why, why did this happen and then go about maybe trying to find out in the processes what went wrong. 

There are benefits of each of those styles.  You might like to see each of the styles concentrating on specific areas. So, D styles would be suitable with the shorter-term contacts that they have with clients. They can lead the customer towards a decision, a purchase or a conclusion. The influencer is excellent at having lots of different contacts over many periods of time. They build that relationship. They influence the customer on to their way of thinking or towards a positive outcome. Your steadiness customer service team will be great at repeating the service again and again and again. They like familiar customers and get to know them well. They also like to have a familiar product. Sometimes they tend to take a bit more of a passive role because they’re such great listeners. Your compliance team might become specialists in knowing a lot about their particular product or service area. They’re good at providing information to customers or clients. The high C personality types often provide the technical support aspect. With any of these styles, you’re going to have some great positives in customer service, but you might already have seen that your customer service team seems to be more orientated in the S style or the S style behaviours. 

Strengths and Challenges of S Customer Service Style

So there are great natural strengths with the DISC S personality type. So this is a repeating service with familiar customers or products. They take on that receptive passive role. They’re very supportive, they’re calm, great listeners, and trustworthy. They tend to talk nice and logically, and relatively slowly. However, there might be some challenges here for customer service and that sometimes they might not be direct enough. They might not get to the point as quickly as the customer needs. They might have some trouble dealing with conflict, and that’s because they don’t like that conflict, so they might avoid those issues that need to get sorted right there and then. Sometimes they can get a little bit overrun by the extrovert. Your customer might be a high D personality or a high I personality who needs to do a lot of talking and dominate the conversation, and S style can sometimes get a little bit overrun by this. They may also want to say yes to appease, but they might not follow through on what they’ve said they can do. They may not offer up new solutions, so they may wait for the client or the customer to provide that solution. There are some scenarios where that will be fantastic, and at other points, they will need to be able to promote a particular solution to an issue, and they might not have the confidence to do that

Customer Service Behavioural Competencies

So, how might you identify the DISC profile types in a behavioural report? Even if we learn a lot about D, I, S and C’s as the basic DISC styles, we need to know what this particular person’s combination might be. If you’re working closely with a customer service team, you can do a behavioural analysis targeted toward the customer service competencies. On-screen (16:40), we’ve got a screenshot of some of the competencies that we have in our standard customer service report. For example, ‘brief goal-orientated customer contacts’ might be the sort of customer service that you are providing. This person has scored a one, so it means it is part of their behavioural style, but it’s not particularly strong. However, let’s look down to where they score a negative three for ‘thorough presentation of the technical features’. This means it is not part of their behavioural style, and they’ll have to exude quite a lot of concentration and effort in this area to do this competency. 

Customer Service Communication Skills

We also focus on communication because customer service is very much reliant on how good our conversation and communication is. So this person can be considerate and careful, yes, and they are direct and goal-focused, very yes! You can decide if you want to create your own set of competencies that your business is interested in. For example, if you might be in hospitality. On-screen, there is a screenshot (18:00) of some of the competencies you might be able to choose from if you want to create a customised report. These competencies are front-of-house hospitality. We also have some behind the scenes hospitality competencies that might be more appropriate to your business.

How to Speed Read Your Customer’s DISC Style

How do your customer service team know who you’re dealing with? How can you speed read your customer’s style?

How to Identify a D Style Customer:

  • Is aggressive
  • May be blunt
  • Is demanding
  • Very impatient
  • Interrupts others
  • Becomes irritated easily
  • Is direct, says what they think
  • “What’s the bottom line?”
  • Focuses on the big picture
  • States own opinions as facts
  • How does this benefit ME?”
  • Often appears to be in a hurry
  • Makes decisions quickly, almost hastily
  • May talk to many people at the same time
  • May have difficulty understanding others’ viewpoints/feelings

So this might come across in a little bit of a negative way, but your D style customer is also very assertive. They know what they want, they will be very clear in saying what they want and will be very direct in communicating that with you. For example, this is Frances she’s a customer in a store. She walks into the store boldly. She looks rather successful! She heads for the salespeople rather than taking a look around the furniture. She asks you quite bluntly, “what’s the best outdoor suite?” When you start telling her every detail about the furniture, she doesn’t seem to be concentrating any more. She is now texting! Then she says directly, interrupting you, “Just show me the best one!” She starts to explain in a bold but friendly manner that she just wants it to be sorted and delivered for her. She makes a quick decision on the suite she wants then says. “If I get it through you – what’s in it for me?” In filling out the guarantee, you notice she’s not good with the details of the administrative part of the sale and has missed some areas of the form out, and is rather demanding of the timing. She shakes your hand at the end of it and seems very happy. So this is an example of how a D style person might interact in a customer service type scenario. 

How to Identify an I Style Customer:

  • Talks a lot 
  • Is animated 
  • Gets easily excited
  • Is open and friendly
  • Appears dis-organised
  • Does not listen for long
  • Stays away from hard facts
  • Does not pay close attention
  • Jumps from subject to subject
  • Does not focus much on details
  • Talks about people he/she knows
  • May make decisions spontaneously 
  • May ask same questions several times 
  • Comfortable with physical contact

How to Identify an S Style Customer:

  • Is easy-going
  • Appears calm
  • Listens carefully
  • Appears thoughtful
  • Nods and goes along
  • “Let me think about it.”
  • Likes own physical space 
  • Does not get easily excited
  • Ponders alternatives, slow in making decisions
  • Asks questions and inquires about the specifics
  • Seems to have strong opinions but does not express them vocally
  • Completely new ideas/things seem to make him/her uncomfortable

How to Identify a C Style Customer:

  • Is quiet
  • Focuses on details
  • Proceeds cautiously
  • Asks many questions
  • Not comfortable with physical contact
  • Appears reserved and somewhat timid
  • Doesn’t easily express disagreeing views
  • May have done homework on the products/services
  •  Studies specifications and other information carefully
  •  Makes decision only after studying pertinent facts/issues
  •  May be very critical; criticism based on facts, not opinions

How to Identify Your Customer’s Communication Style

D Style Customers

  • Direct, even blunt
  • Dominates the communication
  • To one direction: from him/her to others
  • Focuses on results, little on small talk
  • Impatient listener, may not listen at all
  • Communicates 

I Style Customers

  • Very talkative
  • Often is not direct
  • Avoids unpleasant issues
  • Inspiring and selling style
  • Does not listen for very long
  • Speaks about people and feelings
  • Talks about the pleasant and fun issues, avoids details

S Style Customers

  • Creates trust
  • Talks calmly
  • Talks about issues he/she masters
  • Often to one direction; he/she listens
  • More comfortable in one-on-one communication
  • Can see things from many viewpoints, patient listener

C Style Customers

  • May lose essentials
  • Fairly quiet and reserved
  • Focuses on providing detailed information
  • Does not talk about personal issues openly
  • Critical listener if issues not presented logically
  • Does not easily talk about own view and opinions

How to Identify Your Customer’s Listening Style

D Style Customers

  • Impatient listener
  • May interrupt frequently
  • Focuses on the big picture
  • “So what’s the bottom line?”
  • How does this affect/benefit me?
  • May assume control and starts to talk
  • May not pay attention at all if not interested in the topic

I Style Customers

  • May talk too much
  • Enjoys the interaction
  • Provides a lot of feedback
  • May not assess what is said
  • Gets enthusiastically involved
  • Does not pay attention to details
  • Focuses on the feelings/emotions
  • May lose concentration and get sidetracked

S Style Customers

  • Pays attention
  • Patient listener
  • Focuses on the message
  • May nod even when disagrees
  • Does not offer a lot of feedback
  • May focus on the negative and subdue excitement
  • May interrupt and resist if the message creates change

C Style Customers

  • May get hung up in details
  • Looks for logic in presentation
  • Does not provide much feedback 
  • Asks a lot of questions if interested
  • Attentive listener if interested in the topic
  • Can be critical and/or look for mistakes or errors

How to Adjust Your DISC style for Customer Service

How can you adjust your behavioural style to be more effective in providing some of that excellent customer service?

D Styles:

  • Be more patient
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Allow time for “small talk”
  • Slow down your presentation
  • Focus more on feelings and emotions
  • Be careful not to dominate the interaction
  • Be careful not to come across as blunt and impolite

I Styles:

  • Be more direct
  • Keep to the subject
  • Talk less, listen more
  • Remember to follow up
  • Do not get too emotional
  • Slow down your presentation
  • Focus more on details and facts
  • Be careful not move too close to others

S Styles:

  • Talk more
  • Focus a little less on details
  • Speed up your presentation
  • Keep emotions under control
  • Be more expressive and animated
  • Be careful not to come across as too opinionated
  • Be more results-oriented in your communication

C Styles:

  • Talk more
  • Be more expressive
  • Spend more time chatting
  • Focus on being more inspiring
  • Speak more about people and emotions
  • Talk less about detail, facts and figures
  • Be careful not to appear cold, impolite and distant


How to Become a Better Listener

We must commit to becoming better listeners. Hearing is about receiving, not just the audio noise. Listening takes intellectual ability. It takes concentration and skill to listen well and pay attention to what our customers say and what they’re not saying. Which can be a key to how well satisfied they’re feeling. When we’re exposed to a message that we don’t want to hear, such as when a customer might be complaining about something, we can often tune out. So, we need to be committed to becoming better listeners.

The slide on-screen (26:26) looks at how your style might show initial contact with someone, a client or a customer of a different behavioural style. Here we have a similar behavioural style, a D interacting with a D. The initial contact is in the yes area, so that’s okay. That’s quite warm. A D and an I, their initial contact is also acceptable. However, between a D and an S that sit on opposite sides of the quadrant well, there might be a lot more work here to do because the initial contact is not going to be particularly warm.

Similarly, with a D and C, you might have a lot of work to go on here that’s relatively low initial contact rapport. On the opposite end of the scale and I and I have an immediate rapport. An I and C also have some issues. 

So, what I’ve done in the next couple of slides is highlight some of these interactions that might initially have more conflict or be harder to engage. This is where contact or communication across the quadrant is a lot more complicated than if somebody is sitting in the same area as you. So a D and an S contact will be more challenging to build, and a C and an I will be more challenging to build initially. 

Communicating with a D Style Customer

Communicating with your D style customer will be very important, especially if you’re a C, because initially, this contact might be a little cool. So you can start with the overall picture. Make sure you stress the short-term goals, i.e. “Look, Roger, I would like to satisfy this in the next five minutes. I’m going to get it sorted for you, so let’s talk about what happened in the first contact.” Be direct and task orientated keep to what you want to focus on in those short term goals. Try not to go into the theory, into deep issues and try to keep positive. Don’t take the D styles directness in any personal way. If you’re able to, you might like to engage your customer with using pictures because they respond very well to that. Let’s have a look at some language that you could use with a D style customer:

  • “I need ….. minutes of your time”
  • “What ……….do you want?
  • “When do you want ……to be ready/sent/delivered?”

These might come across as very direct to somebody who’s not a D

style. They might seem to cut to the chase but this is what a D style

will enjoy and like.

Communicating with an I Style Customer

I styles are extroverted and people-oriented. If you are not extroverted, such as a C style, you’re going to need to concentrate on the who and what else type of goals. You’re going to need to be as open as you can and engage in discussion. Don’t lose contact with that I style person as they need to know that you are there. Try and adopt a little bit of a team attitude with the words ‘let us.’ Don’t focus on the mistakes. Rememberthe achievements or the positive side of the interactions. 

Communicating with an S Style Customer

If you are a D style communicating with an S style customer, you’re going to have some initial work areas to do here. What you need to do if you’re a D is to focus with this S style customer on ‘how’ this is about process and cost or quantities. Provide some time for the S style person to consider the issues because your speed is fast and theirs is slower. Don’t be too demanding. State both sides of the issue, beginning with what’s negative and ending with the positive. Warn them about the changes before they’re made, and don’t pressure them into a fast reaction or decision.

Communicating with a C Style Customer

If you’re communicating with the C style customer and you’re an I style, you need to concentrate on the why or what questions. Explain carefully and utilise reference materials and facts to back it up. Prepare yourself to slow down and think before you say anything. Be open to their questions and their feedback and provide some information to that C style customer in writing. Remember always to be sincere and modest.

Here are a couple of questions I’d like you to think about for your business. 

  1. What does good customer service look like? 
  • What are the behaviours that you are after? 
  • Does your company want to develop a particular customer service style? 
  • What’s the motivation for your team to provide excellent customer service?
  • Really understanding your customer
  • Give customers what they really want (use your strengths and adjust your style to suit)
  1. How do you understand what your customer’s experience is? Can you put yourself in your customer’s shoes and walk their walk?

You can do this several ways, including through:

  • Satisfaction surveys
  • Monitoring meeting/calls/processes
  • Checking the number of referrals
  • Debrief scenarios – practise empathising with customer experiences
  • Check and keep your entire team on board
  • Continual improvement
  • Motivation and re-emphasis of expectation/aims
  • Train in Extended DISC® Styles so your employees can: 

    • become more aware of their spontaneous responses
    • understand why some situations are such are ‘hard work’
    • learn how to ‘tune in’ to the situation
    • know how to adjust their behaviour to be more appropriate and more effective