by Edward Israel-Ayide
Most times we all believe we know what good customer service is; and therein is the first mistake we all make: WE BELIEVE. Sincerely how many times do we ask ourselves what customers really want, how many times do we even try to get off our high horse of believing that since we own the product, then we should know how the customer wants it served on him? While listening to Matthew Dixon, Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice speak on “Why delighting your customers is overrated” I discovered some key truths: We have become ingrained with the belief that what customers need is personalized service, but as anyone who has ever called the customer care lines of most GSM company knows, that can be quite a disaster.
Recently, research has shown that most customers are jumping on the self service band wagon. Why you ask? Well it seems that most customers have seen personalized customer service for what it really is; a very annoying attempt to give them what you think they need without giving them the thrill of solving their own problems on their own. I mean don’t we all prefer an inanimate means of service such as the ATM, or would we prefer to go queue on a long line at the bank to be attended to by some ill educated tellers who do not seem to have an inkling of what time management means? More and more customers nowadays prefer to go on a company’s website or call a robot rather than have a call center personnel attend to their needs. Like some of the customers I asked, most times you are just made to repeat yourself over and over again without anything done to solve your problem at the end of the day. Also, as some of us might have experienced with some telecomms operators’ call centers, you don’t have to deal with the bad attitude of the call center personnel.
In Nigeria, the culturally ingrained expectation of wanting to deal with the “Topman” has made a lot of execs waste a lot of their time and made customers accept things they would not normally have accepted. One thing is clear about customers; when they want a problem solved, they don’t really want to talk to you. They want their needs met. They don’t care if you are the CEO or a messenger in the organization; they just want someone who would help them solve their problems.
Below I have listed some things that from my own experiences of dealing with customers and being one, are very important when you are considering areas to improve on your customer service experience.
- Do not treat customers in a generic fashion; treat each one like a distinct individual. That’s who they are.
- When dealing with a customer, do not try to deal with their emotions, just deal with helping the customer to get a prompt efficient service, no small talk or trying to make the customer your friend.
- Listen to what they are feeling; if you try to understand their words alone, you might not get the real gist of their grievance.
- Most times your effort to delight your customers or to wow them actually has adverse effects, if you exceed customer expectations too much, they tend to feel as if you are actually cheating them of something, and they will become suspicious of your motives.
- Try to eliminate negative words from your interactions with customers. Words like: “we can’t” “we don’t” “No” “Do not” “You Can’t” must leave your vocabulary at that time. What you want to build is an atmosphere where customers think they can be all they want to be. They want your customer service to make them feel empowered and positively charged enough that the chances of them being disloyal to your brand or product is drastically reduced.
- Younger demographics are actually more prone to go for an automated self service option rather than deal with a customer care personnel. This is just because they feel that people “just don’t understand”. So if they are a major part of your target market, then you need to work on making your customer service approach to them appear very “cool”.
- Good customer service is not always about what you think customer expectations are; it is mostly being perceptive enough to know what those expectations might be. Some companies have gotten the hang of this very well, and they regularly initiate surveys to ascertain what customer expectations are.
- Never ever, ever, ever argue with a customer. Whatever you are trying to point out that might even have the potential to save the customer’s life would only be seen this way; “are you telling me that I’m stupid”?
- A good customer service personnel knows that the man who listens always closes the most sales.
Edward Israel-Ayide is an emerging personal brand development expert and has over 7 years experience in retail and Business to Business customer service.