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History of Customer Service

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For years, the popular adage, "The customer is always right," has dominated retail markets. However, since the 1990s, a new trend has surfaced that places the customer and her needs as the focus of all business decisions.

Early Days

The International Organization for Standards formed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1946. The organization set standards for customer service. The first meeting in London that same year boasted a total of 65 attendees from 25 countries.


The 1980s brought electronics into the mix. Agencies such as the Service Quality Institute, which has provided customer service training since 1971, developed further training seminars, books and videos. Tracking devices and online surveys on websites gained popularity as well.

1990s and After

During the 1990s, companies focused more on giving back to consumers as they provided gifts for customer loyalty. Bonus points on credit cards, cash offers from banks for opening accounts and frequent-flier miles were just a few of the offers businesses used to increase sales. The Internet provides even more tracking options and greater opportunities for companies to improve customer service.