#customer service#amazon#grandma approach#customer relations#company culture#Mike Mears#Lego#Netflix#Zappos.com

Unique customer relations approach

|Mar 11|magazine15 min read

Read this and other articles in the March issue of Business Review Australia

We all have a couple of stories about exceptional customer service, for example when my husband was buying my engagement ring, he was told he’d be able to propose with the store model because the custom-sized ring wouldn’t be ready on time. Then the jeweller offered a replacement guarantee unlike any other – if any diamond chips fall out (even though they said it was highly unlikely), they’d replace them at no charge, without my husband having to pay for an extra insurance plan. Talk about service.

Their helpful and attentive nature and the knowledge of great future care convinced my husband this was the right company for his major purchase. With so many different ways to interact nowadays (social media, company websites, online chats, phone calls, etc.), businesses should have nothing but great relations with their customers. And customers should not just have a few stories to tell – all of their experiences should be positive.

But it’s easy to get in a rut – automated systems make customer service all too easy and efficient. However, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go about helping your customers. People have so many ways and places to get products and services, why should they come to you? The answer: because you offer a unique, successful approach to customer relations.

Internet reviews and posts of interactions with employees can make or break a company in today’s social media age – don’t give them a reason to break you!

Make yourself memorable – for good reasons

How can you be unique and positive in your customer relations? Start by setting the precedence with your company’s culture. The workplace environment your employees come to know is the store in which your customers are shopping. If it is a hostile environment with unbending rules and unhappy employees, your customers will notice. The happiest and most effective employees work for companies that promote a fun, cohesive work place.

Also, know your customers – average age group, gender, likes, dislikes, etc. – so you can correctly cater for their needs. Lego is great at providing age-appropriate customer interactions. They understand their customers are, for the most part, children, and as such treat them with the respect befitting the paying adult customer.

And have you heard of the grandma approach? When her grandson skins his knee, she doesn’t scold him for running too fast; instead, she scoops him up, comforts him, and makes his favourite meal. Be empathic – a tone or demeanour that suggests that the problem is the customer’s fault isn’t going to get anyone closer to a solution. By demonstrating that you or your employee realises that the customer’s problem is now the company’s problem to solve, two things happen: one, there’s a good chance that some of the frustration the customer initially had will subside, and two, the customer sees the trustworthy nature of your enterprise.

Of course, you can always provide a service or product so good that customers don’t need customer service. This seems to be Amazon’s approach, and they are consistently voted high on customer satisfaction polls because people do not seem to need the company’s help. Their approach to service is the perfect example of using technology efficiently and correctly – customers describe their problems online so when an employee answers their questions via phone they have an idea of how to help.

Rules of interaction

How does your company currently train employees to help customers? Is there a strict template that drives the interaction or do you trust your employee to handle the situation accordingly?

Netflix encourages its employees’ personalities to come through in their interactions with customers. In one of their more famous examples of outstanding customer service, Netflix employee Mike Mears adapted the persona of a Star Trek character during a customer service chat. The customer played along, and admitted at the end of the transaction that it was the best customer service he had ever experienced. Apart from asking their customers to do a one-question survey at the end of their interaction, Netflix employees can say nearly whatever they want.

Their business model supports this style of customer service, as there is no upselling, very few call transfers to solve the problem, and no pushiness when someone wants to cancel their subscription.

Zappos.com, an American company, is another great example of customer service done right. Eighty percent of their employees’ time is to be spent on the phone, interacting with customers. And it doesn’t even have to just be about their product.  One of their employees recently broke call records, spending 10 hours on the phone with her customer. She only sold one pair of boots, but the company gained great publicity and probably a customer for life.

Hire employees who have a natural, calm demeanour in stressful situations and can interact positively with people, and let them do their job. If you support your employee with a good work environment and give them the ability to be themselves, your employee will be more willing to support the company with excellent customer service.

Common Sense

Your company does not have to promote radical processes like 10-hour phone calls to be successful in providing gratifying customer interactions; these are just some examples of companies who have implemented a successful plan for helping their customers.

“Being kind is more important than being right” is a great quote for all employees to embody. Determining who is right and who is wrong (or whether it’s the customer’s fault or the company’s fault) does not bring you any closer to solving the customer’s problem. Being kind can go a long way however, and a genuine interest in your customer’s concern can go a long way too.

From there, survey your company’s culture to find what makes your product, service, or organisation unique and build on that to create your own outstanding customer relations.