Three customer service lessons plucked straight from fairy tales

Once upon a time, in an office far, far away…

When searching for tips to improve your customer service offering, you probably don’t think of looking to the fairy tales you grew up with.

But the stories we hear as children act as vessels, carrying lessons and truths about the world around us. They teach us to be polite, to respect ourselves and others. Why, then, can’t they teach us about customer service too?

Here, we explore three customer service lessons hiding behind peas, princesses, and porridge.

The Princess and the Pea

The first of the customer service lessons comes from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Princess and the Pea. In the story, a prince tests a tired princess by placing a pea underneath her mattresses and other bedding. That one pea caused enough discomfort to keep her awake all night.

Lesson: The smallest inconvenience can hurt the customer experience.

The customer that reaches out to you is akin to the princess in the story. To the stressed, busy or unhappy customer, even a pea-sized inconvenience can result in a bad experience.

For example, a small inconvenience might be forcing the customer to repeat themselves. Perhaps it’s following a transfer, or you simply didn’t catch it the first time. As small a blip as this might be to you, to the customer, it creates the feeling that you’re not listening.

So, make sure you’re paying attention to the little details, and removing the minor inconveniences that can trip your customers up.


The next of the customer service lessons comes from the German fairy tale Rapunzel. In the story, a girl named Rapunzel grows up in a tower without stairs or a door out. When a prince finds her, he cannot climb the tower. Instead, he learns to climb Rapunzel’s long hair.

Lesson: Sometimes you need to think outside the box to solve the problem.

Like the prince found in Rapunzel, sometimes the solution to the problem isn’t the one you plan for. In customer service, this means agents need the power and support to provide creative solutions.

In other words, customer service agents need to think (and act) outside the box from time to time. This means they’re empowered to flex a process to find a solution. It means avoiding overreliance on scripts when interacting with customers. They need to be able to find solutions, not just make excuses.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

The British fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears brings the third of the customer service lessons. In the story, Goldilocks enters a home shared by three bears and tries their porridge, chairs, and beds. Each time, she tests her options to find the food, chair and bed that’s ‘just right’ for her.

Lesson: Different customers have different preferences and expectations. You must be able to adapt.

You can think of your customers as Goldilocks, and your service the porridge, chairs and beds. What was ‘just right’ for Goldilocks and the small bear, wasn’t right for the big bear. It’s the same for customers, one size service does not fit all.

In other words, you need to be able to adapt to the different needs, expectations and preferences of each customer. For example, you need to offer a wide choice of contact channels, options and personalisation opportunities.

Happily ever after

Fairy tales tread the line between the wonder of fantasy and the truth of reality. As we grow up, the stories we hear convey lessons and morals that help us understand the world.

The stories don’t change. But the meanings, morals and understanding we glean from them can apply to many niches of life.

So, remember the customer service lessons in these fairy tales. They might help you and your customers live happily ever after.

The End

Useful links

25 ways to give bad customer service

The pros and cons of live chat scripts

Online engagement: you must do better than ‘contact us’