Thursday, November 24, 2011

Understanding Your Customers, Understanding Yourself

"Your thought is the parent that gives birth to all things." -- Neale Donald Walsh.

Our civilization -- in fact, our entire world -- is full of quotes like this one. Dr. Wayne Dwyer said that, "our beliefs are invisible ingredients in all our activities."

This is the heart of my customer service philosophy -- that no matter how much we teach our customer service professionals what to say, they still won't be able to provide exceptional, relationship-building, customer service unless they truly care about the customer. We need to make sure that good customer service begins on the inside - with the thoughts and perceptions of the customer service professional. Anyone can say, "thank you and come again," but it takes a special kind of employee to really mean it.

What can we do?

First, make sure only those who care about helping customers are hired for customer service positions. Don't just ask interviewees to tell you about a time they went out of their way to help a customer, but ask them why they did what they did and how it made them feel. A good customer service professional, one who truly cares about the customer, will respond with an internal motivation (it made me feel good, I felt sorry for the customer) instead of an external one (because I would have gotten in trouble if I hadn't).

Second, give your customer service professionals some flexibility in how they deal with their customers. Don't script their comments. That only leads to a disconnect between your employee and the job -- they'd be doing it by rote instead of engaging. You want customer service professionals who engage with their customers.

Finally, when coaching a customer service professional, don't forget about the customer, or even the person you are coaching. Ask your employee to put themselves in the customer's shoes by asking them what they would have wanted as a customer. It's all about perspective. Questions like these will bring out your employee's internal motivations: Do they care about the customer? Are they just trying to get by? Do they resent the customer? Either way, make sure your employee walks away knowing what should be done differently next time.

One thing I've always stressed in my customer service training is that when confronted by a problem, don't think about it as "you vs. the customer," but instead think about it as "you and the customer vs. the problem." That's an important concept to pass along to your customer service staff.

It's important to change your customer service professionals from the inside--to change their perceptions of the customer, and if necessary, the company. If they can't change their perseption, then perhaps it's time for your company and that employee to part ways.

Another idea is to host a "Customer Appreciation Day" and allow your employees to interact with customers as individuals. It's a lot harder to hang up on someone you've spent some time with than a complete stranger.

It's all about engagement. You must make sure your customer service professionals engage their customers. It all starts with their perception.

"We are shaped by our thoughts. We become what we think." -- The Buddha.

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