Know the Golden Rule for Customer Service?

(Hint: it’s the same Golden Rule you learned as a kid.)

I couldn’t help smiling as I read Vince Jeffs’ recent article for Customerthink, “4 Golden Rules for Knowing and Honoring Thy Customer.” In this piece, Jeffs challenges a current – but often misguided – belief that relentless (and increasingly intrusive) data gathering is the key to delivering what customers really want.

While data collection is a critical tactic for understanding customer needs, I agree with Jeffs point: we’d all do better by our customers if we simply followed the Golden Rule.

Check out how Jeffs breaks it down into 4 pieces. And when you’re ready to partner with an outsource customer care provider who will treat your customers right, please reach out. We would love to talk with you!

Most leaders are compensated with stock and stock options, and concentrate on pleasing investors. To avoid disruption, these leaders will have to shift their focus to customer needs – not investors or competitors. It takes a new way of thinking about everything in a company – centering on meeting new customer needs, from strategy to operations to organization structure. And that new approach needs to follow these steps.

4 Golden Rules for Knowing and Honoring Thy Customer

by Vince Jeffs

If I read another blog post saying that what customers want is brands to use their data gathering and customer analytics powers to intimately know their every need, want, and desire, I’m going to leap out of my home office window.   The good news (assuming you enjoy my articles) is it’s on the first floor.

As a consumer, do you want your grocery store, bank, or antiperspirant provider for that matter to intimately know you?  I doubt it.

So, let’s discuss some golden rules predicated on one overarching principle: gather knowledge about your customers as you would have them do unto you.

Consumers expect brands to deliver great service and personalized experience but that doesn’t mean they want them to perform a Vulcan mind-meld.  Customers’ expectations differ depending on the products and services offered.  For example, from a grocer, I’d expect very little actually.  I want a clean store, helpful staff, well-stocked products at a fair price, and fast checkout.  It’s a bonus if someone remembers my name.  In terms of learning about my shopping behavior and preferences, an app or loyalty card that preloads promotions, or better yet one that learns things I tend to buy repeatedly and automatically applies applicable discounts – that’s not a bad thing.  Yet I expect the grocer to hold that data in confidence, and if they use it to make predictions that are wrong, they ask me for feedback and learn from it.

And there are things a grocer doesn’t need to know.  Like how much money I have in my savings account and whether I’m investing wisely, or whether I sweat a lot.   My bank and preferred antiperspirant provider can worry about those things.

Pundits loosely write about what customers want, show pictures of them happily surrounded by surveillance technology, but rarely about what they don’t want.  They don’t appreciate being:

  • Stalked and secretly surveilled
  • Treated like a number or exploitable asset
  • Discriminated against
  • Ignored when giving feedback

The so-called CX gurus professing that the holy grail of customer experience is knowing thy customer to the nth degree have it wrong.  To get to the CX promised land, they say, collect every bit of customer data possible and get to know them intimately.  But if they put on their consumer hat, do they want companies stalking and tracking their every move?  I doubt that.

What should you do?  Here are four rules to apply when making decisions about customer data and analytics that can help fuel a great customer experience.

Golden rule #1: Wear the customer’s shoes

There’s a lot of talk about empathy these days.  We certainly could use more in the world.  If you want to practice empathy with your customers, put yourself into their shoes and walk through their experiences.  Be one of them and do some shopping.

To do this, experience your products and services from the customer’s vantage point.  So be the customer.  Directly experience various brand journeys and then ask, “Is this a customer-obsessed company?  Did I feel appreciated along the way and delighted in the end?  Was the personalization tasteful and useful?  What could have been done to provide a better experience?”

To illustrate, if you work for a bank, go through the process of opening a new checking or savings account.  But as you do that mix it up.  For example, start the process on the website, then pause and pick it up half a day later – on a different channel like mobile, chat, or by calling.  Redeem a promotion, such as getting bonus points, and then follow-up by asking a question about the offer.  Do you get a quick response?  Was the response acceptable?

Take note of what didn’t go smoothly and information your firm should have collected and saved to lessen disfunction.  Compile a list of what would have made that process easier, quicker, and more convenient.  When you interacted with human agents, did they have the information needed?

There is no substitute for the pain or pleasure of the actual journey.  Once you experience things first hand, you will not only understand them better but also be more passionate about acting to address issues.

Golden rule #2: Track and act on what improves CX

What information are you collecting?  Why are you collecting it?  No one today is surprised that brands are tracking them, and provided they get some value in return they accept it.  What customers expect in return, however, are things like convenience and efficiency, not a psychologist or a new best friend.

Consumers especially want speed and efficiency.  Speed buys time, a precious commodity these days, and who said money can’t buy time and happiness?  In the study, “Buying Time Promotes Happiness,[i]”  Ashley Whillans concludes it can.  For brands, that means winning over time-strapped consumers by making routine tasks fast and frictionless, not laughably slow and painful.

To this end, collect small data and little details that are signals of unresolved situations or dissatisfaction behavior.  For instance, when a customer asks about their bill and doesn’t get a satisfactory answer, flag it and use that to trigger follow-on actions.  Spawn a case that stays open until the customer gets a satisfactory answer.  If a customer visits a web page housing service cancellation terms (signaling intent to defect), use that customer data to feed a churn model.  The churn score passing a threshold should be the catalyst that triggers a retention prescription.

Be proactive in administering the remedy, but make sure the offer is compelling and tailored to the customer’s needs.  If the real problem is the product or service is terrible, to put it in Bernie-like terms, “fix the damn service.”  Notice that in both the above cases, the collected data has a specific purpose: to drive actions aimed at improving customer experience, helping both parties.

Customers expect respect and empathy, but sadly many brands don’t deliver this.  To change that, actively listen, record useful facts, and take reasonable actions.  Treating someone as a person doesn’t require troves of historic data, but instead an appreciation for the customer’s plight and the context of the situation.  For example, train service personnel to let customers vent, be sincerely apologetic, and then empower them with leeway to offer creative yet reasonable solutions.  Assist those customer-facing agents by equipping them with a system that serves up next-best-action recommendations, which are arbitrated in real-time to ensure relevance.

Treat consumers as people, not numbers, yet remember that doesn’t grant permission to probe intimate details and indiscriminately sock away customer data.  Gather data that solve actual problems and prevent new ones.  If you take this approach, customer satisfaction will improve.

Read the entire article here >

-Bobby Matthews

Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Skybridge Americas


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