Knoah Blog

Home - Blog

Monitor consumer clay tablets: Customer service throughout history



One young store clerk walked miles to return pennies to a customer.

Customer service centers are standard in today’s world, but it wasn’t always this way. Consumer support, like all business practices, evolved overtime. In the early days, companies didn’t utilize standard procedures for responding to customer concerns and prioritizing service.

Listed below are examples of customer service activities as they first appeared in history. These are not recent stories. In fact, one predates Julius Caesar – who also suffered from negative audience feedback.

First documented customer complaint
Modern consumers have plenty of channels they can use to make their feelings known to businesses. Customer service centers respond to phone calls, emails and social media posts. If Babylonian shoppers took issue with goods, however, they had to get out the stone and chisel.

Open Culture, an education and culture blog, shared the details of the first documented customer complaint in recorded history. In 1750 B.C. an angry consumer, Nanni, inscribed a clay tablet with the details of an unsatisfactory purchase. He bought copper ore from a supplier, Eanasir. The product delivered was not of the quality Nanni was expecting. In his tablet, Nanni said the copper was not as fine as advertised and the supplier treated his messenger poorly.

There is no record of Eanasir’s reply. Modern companies like to respond to customer concerns quickly before they have time to become public relation problems. Having a business criticism on display at the British Museum is a worst case scenario

“A company namesake founded a famous brand on the idea everybody should receive optimal care.”

Major chain built on service over 100 years ago.
Customer service is not just a reaction to consumer complaints and questions, it is the act of​ making sure consumers are satisfied and cared for through every step of the business process. Companies try to train employees to deliver excellent service on a daily basis.

A company namesake founded a famous brand on the idea everybody should receive optimal care. The first J.C. Penney business location had the title the Golden Rule Store in 1902, according to the Washington Examiner. J.C. Penney was the son of a preacher, he decide to bring his upbringing into his business practices. He insisted every customer should get the service employees themselves would like to receive.

Penney held these same standards for how he treated staff. Managers and clerks in the Golden Rule store had responsibility; every member was referred to as an associate and was offered a share of the profits. Modern customer care management teams recognize employees invested in business success provide the best quality of service.

Early example of proactive support creates legacy
Companies want to anticipate their consumers’ needs. Customer care centers use the latest technology to analyze consumer trends and provide support before people have a chance to communicate trouble. One of the first examples of proactive business service helped create a brand of honesty still talked about to this day.

Fast Company explained how a 1830s New Salem, Illinois storekeeper found his register was a few cents over at the end of the day. After going over his records, he found the person who overpaid and walked several miles to the customer’s home to return the change. The storekeeper would later go on to become president of the United States and appear on the coins he helped return.

This was a story of Abraham Lincoln, and it is often shared by people who wish to explain why he was called Honest Abe. Any company that wants to reinforce a brand can use excellent customer service stories to demonstrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. It’s a strategy for ensuring a business’ name is remembered for a very long time.


4 tips for customer service coaches

Previous Post

It's a problem when customers don't complain

Next Post

Subscribe to Blog Updates