4 Steps to Treat Your Customers as Individuals

As we continue through the DIME™ journey you have learned how staff interact with the organisation, then how customers interact with the organisation. In this post, I will delve deeper into how staff and customers relate with one another in order to create a positive memory that is personalised, based on understanding customers as individuals. As I mentioned in a previous post, organisations that try to get into the minds of their customers get lost and confused due to the amount of different customers out there. Some industries have very specific customers, whereas others cater for almost everyone. A good way to begin is to start big and work your way down to the smaller details of your customers, but it is important to change the mindset of your staff that every customer is an individual. Remember, VIP stands for very individual person. The following four stages will show you how to uncover valuable information that will help you know your customers better which, in turn, will show you the opportunities to create positive memories with them.

1. Identify types of customers

Start by creating broad categories for the types of customers you interact with in your organisation (which includes internal customers too). You can start broadly by thinking of customers based on the service that you provide. For example, an airline would categorise their customers in to domestic and international markets; then business class, economy and low cost; and finally business or leisure travellers. Within these lists look at the socio-economic factors, health, age, personality, time constraints and familiarity with your organisation. It is very important that your staff understand this at an absolute minimum, as often organisations communicate how to give customer service, but they don’t tell the staff who their customers are.

2. Identify customers’ needs

Food, water, air, shelter? Apart from all of the human needs that we all possess, this refers to what the customers need from your staff and your organisation. This is where frequent travellers or tall passengers would be recommended to purchase business class when travelling because of their needs. By understanding the types of customers that you will be coming in contact with, you are then able to be prepared to meet them with minimal effort. For frequent customers you can begin to develop a relationship with them so you can make each subsequent interaction more efficient and more surprising for them. For example, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel has a customer relationship system as well as giving all staff members ‘preference pads’ on which they are encouraged and trained to note down customer preferences, which can be used to help personalise future visits.

3. Identify customers’ wants

Often when staff evaluate their customers they can refer to them as sometimes demanding. In reality, customers aren’t always demanding; it just appears that way because they bring their ‘wants’ to your attention. The previous point was all about their product or service need, whereas the customers’ ‘wants’ can be defined in terms of the desired outcome — basically, what the customer hopes to gain from the experience. Take the example of a mother who is grocery shopping with her young children. Her wants are a quick and hassle-free experience with something that can keep her children occupied and calm for the duration of her visit. This is where you can demonstrate that you acknowledge they have wants that may not be obvious at first, which will allow you to adjust the way in which you deliver your customer service.

4. Understand customers’ emotions

This is very similar to the stereotyping exercise that was done in a previous post. Whilst every customer is different, we need to be sensitive and understanding that they will bring with them emotions based on their situation. If you take the example of the mother shopping with her children, she will most likely be stressed, confused about where to go because she is more concerned about her children, worried about keeping costs controlled and cautious about how long she is there for. Now the opposite of this example is that the mother could have just picked the children up from their grandparents who were babysitting all morning, her husband is already at home cooking dinner and she just needs to pick up some milk for the morning. This exercise will prepare your staff for the potential interactions that may be taking place. It will help them be prepared and to take opportunities to do things to make each customer’s experience easier, which will leave them with a positive memory.

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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