Image from Brazilian minilypse (MIS) - Sao Paulo - A couple at a restaurant asking for the bill.

How to be a Better Customer

We hear so much about what organisations need to do differently, and so there is training for that. Often the direction of the organisation is set by the customer’s agenda anyway. Their complaints and feedback often are the catalysts for change. But what about the customer? Could they use some training on how to be better? Staff who interact with customers are expected to have customer-centric values. That would mean that the customers should resonate with or at least share these values too. Customers are all different, and this isn’t a debate as to whether the customer is always right, but there are many customers out there who have created stereotypical issues with certain industries and labelled them as delivering poor customer service. This may not be the case! I specialise in helping organisations, their leaders and their teams, so I think it would be beneficial to them. Why do car mechanics get labelled as people who attempt to rip unsuspecting customers off? How can you overcome this if you are not mechanically minded (and the answer is not to learn mechanics)? Like the five customer service values for organisations, those same values apply to customers. Here they are from the customer’s point of view – or, in other words, how to be a better customer!

1. Accountable

There are some things that we just hate doing. Getting our car serviced might be one of them, especially if the problem arises unexpectedly and not in time with a scheduled service. Our car is essential for our daily lives, we know nothing about mechanics, so the idea of dropping it off, and coming back later in the day to collect it is all we think of. We are never prepared for what we are about to be told — the price and what is required. Sure things can come as a shock, but it’s the way that we handle it that makes all the difference. It is easy to point the finger and criticise, but that is because we are being judgemental without intimate knowledge of the highly specialised field. It doesn’t mean we need to get a trade certificate in motor mechanics, but it does mean being accountable as a customer. When a teacher tells you that your child is playing up in class, you don’t react as much as you would when a car mechanic tells you what it will cost to make repairs. That is because you are accountable as parents. Taking it on as your responsibility to understand, research and clarify is the best way to show accountability.

2. Energetic

I started off the last point with not enjoying taking your car in for a service. In an ideal customer service transaction, the service team member will take the time to have a human interaction with you if they can see there is definitely a two-way conversation taking place. Showing no energy and only reluctance over taking your car in for a service takes the team member off guard and they don’t feel that they can have a meaningful interaction with you, especially if they hit a brick wall. So what they do is recite the facts and hope for the process to end quickly. Except they come across as ‘salesy’. By showing some energy and enjoyment out of this process makes a world of difference as it will change the way the interaction takes place and will also result in more meaningful information about the process and your car to be conveyed to you which will leave you better informed and comfortable with what is being done.

3. Innovative

It’s only a bad experience if there is only one option – the option that you don’t want. Simply, we put trust in professionals and then complain about their opinion. Sometimes we even feel embarrassed to make suggestions as it may be taken the wrong way or we may get laughed at. Yet, when talking to your GP, you are comfortable to ask questions and even give suggestions about what may be the suitable course of treatment for you, but would not feel as comfortable doing the same when you get your car serviced. It is about being innovative as a customer and thinking outside the square for solutions. Giving solutions or options to a team member shows them that you are thinking, you are on the ball and if they are trying to take advantage of you, you are making it a lot harder for them. Sometimes service team members prefer to take guidance from customers so they can formulate the best option for them. Therefore don’t hesitate to be innovative in your suggestions and solutions.

4. Optimistic

If your mindset is pessimistic then the outcome will certainly turn that way. When you go to see a professional with a problem that needs solving you know deep inside that it will come at a cost — nothing is for free. Even dealing with the person you start stereotyping what mechanics are like just as you would stereotype outsourced call centres. Staff members are being trained to be optimistic in their roles and convey information to customers to make them feel optimistic about the process. All that is required is for you, the customer, to start with a bit more optimism and the whole interaction will be better than it would be otherwise. Your expectations are more likely to be exceeded when you are optimistic as well, because you are thinking positively, so a step above that is something special. If you set the bar low and think poorly, then an exceeded expectation will only be good compared to what you thought. Be optimistic as a customer!

5. Unique

Have you ever walked up to someone like a car mechanic and opened your interaction with the following line: “Hi, you’ve probably heard this question a thousand times/you’ve probably seen this before…?” If that is the case then, yes, the staff member has heard or seen it before and they know just the solution for you because they have done it before! The problem is you are unique as a customer. Even with a common problem there is a level of service that you need that will be different to what the last person needed. One of the biggest things that I try to do with organisations is to get them to see the unique, individual customer. This is so difficult to do if the customer doesn’t present themselves uniquely. When customers engage the services of a funeral director, they make it clear they are unique! They don’t care about any funeral that happened beforehand, they want to feel as if they are the only customer the organisation has ever had. When customers see their side of the process as an interaction instead of a transaction that’s when their uniqueness comes out.

Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results:  www.dimecustomerservice.com

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