Sunday, July 29, 2007

Customer Service: Slick or Genuine?

David Brooks once noted how furniture styles evolved from chrome and smooth lines to distressed wood and antique effects. It appeared to be evolution in reverse but it was an indication of a desire for the genuine as opposed to the slick; coffee beans from a paper bag instead of ground coffee in a can.

I've been reviewing various books on customer service and have been struck by how often they propose transparently slick techniques for "handling" the customer instead of addressing the customer's real concerns. There is a need to cut through the techniques so the customer gets one thing first and foremost: Respect.

Respect means:

  • Listening for the customer's concerns, not for an opportunity to voice your own.

  • Adapting your approach to those concerns. A customer who is in a hurry may not want to hear about this week's sale.

  • Being knowledgeable about your product. You are supposed to be the resident expect and, if that is not the case, the expert should be readily available.

  • Treating the customer like a human being and not a prospect or an account. Human beings have fears and vanities that are far from irrelevant and deserve attention.

  • Doing what you say you will do.

  • Following up to make sure that other members of your team did what they said they would do.

  • Listening for ways in which products and services can be improved.

  • Always being courteous and thanking the customer for being a customer.

  • Making the person feel important.

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