How to Understand Customers – The Value of Customer Service

By Drew Stevens, Ph.D.

The concept to understand today is that the closer you are with clients the better you can understand them and their buying habits. Customers today want to things 1) to create trusting and lasting relationships with vendors and 2) to become part of the experience. Customers interestingly want to become loyal to your organization and will do so as long as the satisfaction increases.

However to better understand the best methods of customer service you must better understand your clients. With the advent of the Internet consumers now have more information about you, now it is time for you to have as much if not more about them. This requires that you and your organization must get connected to! Just in the way that Facebook, Linkedin and MySpace are Community Aggregators you and your company must become the Customer Assimilator!

Here is a toolkit to get closer to customers: 

  • Doing business on a first name basis – Wal-Mart, Nordstrom’s and many other organizations are too big to get close to clients – but they do not need to be. A regional grocer known as Schnucks attempts to do what it can to get closer to customers by getting to know their first names. Becoming more intimate on a first named basis allows for more power and trustworthiness. When you walk into Walgreens’ Rosie is there to greet all by first name and when she does not see you for a week or so will call or remember the very last conversation.
  • Connectivity – While we are in the age of 2 dot something there is a need to constantly connect to customers. After all they do. Phone calls, gratuity cards and other devices are helpful in remaining in constant contact.
  • Delight – Remember when you were a kid and you ate Cracker Jacks? The prize has surprised us all but today customers desire more sizzle. We all know the surprise but now want more. So today we must provide more zing for all customers. Customers today want to be “blown away”. I was visiting Starbuck’s recently and I frequently visit one particular shop. As I approached the counter there was a Venti coffee at the register. My barista saw me coming from the parking lot, as I entered I we exchanged hellos. He told me my coffee was waiting. And there was no charge. Now that is Blown Away.
  • Discovering other ways to delight and Help. Customer service and the customer experience are not always about selling something. Sometimes it is about becoming a valued advisor. Clients desire a trusting relationship and want to return to socially conscious people. Nordstrom’s used to do this when they were first expanding. Visit Nordstrom’s and ask for a specific tie, shoes or cufflinks.  If unavailable the sales representative will indicate not only the closest store but a competitor. Sometimes service means just being a helpful advisor.
  • Addressing issues immediately –We cannot always be right and we like to be but no one person or company is perfect. The entire mission of customer service is servicing customers.
  • Return messages quickly – Customers do not want to wait. They want answers as quickly as possible. Even Radio Shack the electronics retailer uses the mantra, “You have questions we have answers”. Return all calls or emails in 24 hours. I have a policy of 90 minutes. One day the author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki was sent an email by a potential client at 10 PM he returned it 10 minutes later.
  • Keep it pleasant – Perry Wright a former broadcaster is known as the On Hold Guy. During hold times it records one liners, entertaining stories and facts that simply keep individuals returning. This is important since 70 percent of most customer services issues require wait times that require being on telephone hold. Believe it or not 60 percent hang up.

It cost 8 to 10 times more to gain a new client then to keep one. Providing exceptional customer service is what clients want and what they come to expect. Because of the close and personal contact available those organizations that remain close do much better than those that don’t. Being customer savvy and customer exceptional is simply just good business.


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