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The best customer service experience I ever had was when the computer systems company we were working with sent us pizza. I know. It doesn’t sound like that crazy thing but hear me out and I’m pretty sure you’ll too consider it an awesome customer service experience too.
What happened was that we were fixing a server at the place I was working and they were helping us out by conference call. It was a big job.
We started in the afternoon and at seven o’clock we were still going. When we remarked that it was already seven and that we were only about halfway done the person on the call said she needed five minutes, at which point we got back to it. 20 minutes later the pizza arrived. Just like that. The crazy thing was, we didn’t even know she’d been the one to send it until we asked her directly. Otherwise, she would have probably left us guessing.
I think that was the best part – the fact that she didn’t even need a credit or needed to be thanked. She just did it, because she knew we were hungry and she wanted to make sure the experience was as good as it could be.
The customer as an and ends in itself
Immanuel Kant famously said that that it is immoral to treat a person as a means to an end. That instead, we should treat each person as ends in itself. In other words, people are not tools, or stepping stones, or any other sort of inanimate object which is there for you to accomplish something else with. To consider them as such isn’t very nice. Instead, we should consider them as actual people, with their own wants, goals, and desires. That should be our main focus.
Personally, I don’t know what is moral or immoral. But what I do know is that when it is clear that a person only sees me as a cog in a machine, that doesn’t make me feel great. Instead, I want them to recognize my personhood.
That’s what that lady did. She treated us as people, who had wants and needs. We were hungry and so she took care of that hunger. She didn’t have to do so. We would have been perfectly happy if she would have just helped us with our server (which she was already doing) and yet she did.
She thought beyond herself and beyond our job. She considered us as people.
That personal touch
Ultimately, I think that’s the most important thing for good customer service experience – is that we feel respected as people.
It doesn’t have to be some big action. Just as long as it actually feels like it was directed specifically to me. That’s why so many of us like handwritten cards so much. It shows that the person who sent it went through the effort to do that just for us. They didn’t hit ‘print 100’. Instead, they wrote that by hand. And even though they might have forgotten our name right after they wrote it, for that one second we were the focus of their attention.
There are a lot of ways that we can achieve this kind of attention in shops. My mother recently told me how she went to a shop where she’d bought a jacket and the salesman asked her how she liked that jacket. She was incredibly enthusiastic about that experience because it showed that to that man she was more than just a customer – which made her feel special. And yes, she did end up buying more things.
What are some good ways to do that in your business?
There are a lot of ways to connect with people more personally. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Drop the business jargon
I never understand why companies need to address us as if they’re empty suits. If they talk to us as if they’re actual people, with normal words and personable attitudes, I’m far more likely to find I have common ground with that person and enjoy my customer experience – what’s more the jargon has even been shown to make people think you’re less intelligent!
A simple question like ‘how are you?’ when well-meant can also make a world of difference – it really doesn’t matter if you’re a legal translation agency or you sell cakes at the corner shop, by being a person you’re far more likely to connect to your customers as people – particularly in this age where people have become faceless creatures hidden behind the screen.
2. Give them something, but only afterward
Giving your customers little gifts just because it`s going to be remembered. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. It’s not the price of the object that matters, but the thought. Be careful when you give them something because it can be interpreted as you trying to create a debt by way of the norm of reciprocity.
3. Say thank you
Of course, we all say thank you a lot. It’s ingrained in the English language. At the same time, often it’s really nothing more than a few words. It’s an entirely different thing if it’s actually meant and is a genuine show of gratitude. The best way to make an impression with the word ‘thank you’ is to have people say it that normally don’t or to reach out and say it when people aren’t expecting it. That’s why Nancy Olson, managing editor and writing expert, devoted an entire article in Forbes to this technique.
4. Make sure service employees are happy
Unless you’re a master actor or a highly skilled con artist, emotions spill out and get picked up by others. And so, if you’re not happy, other people will notice that. Even worse, because they don’t know why you’re unhappy and people naturally make things about themselves.
For that reason, the best way to make sure you give a great customer service experience is to make sure your customer service representatives are happy as well. For when they are, they will find it far easier to give your customers a great experience.
Just the tip of the iceberg
Creating a genuine and memorable customer service interactions with people isn’t actually that hard. All you have to do is remember that when something is being bought in your shop or business, that’s not just a number, but an actual person with wants, fears and a life they’re living. If you can recognize their personhood in this way and demonstrate that you’ve recognized it, for most people that will already make a huge difference.
After all, in the modern world, a lot of people feel alienated and ignored. By taking actions like I outlined above (and meaning them), you’re doing your little bit to help counteract that. That’s good for your business and that’s good for all of us as well.
If you liked this post, you might also want to read Creating an Emotional Connection with Customers.