Don’t pretend you love your customers

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If you purport to love someone, you will then naturally be curious about them. You will make efforts to: understand their character and values

By Carolyne Gathuru

There is no corporate that doesn’t abide by the notion that they love their customers and that they put them at the center of their business. Every organization has a customer service charter or policy – whether documented or otherwise – that states that their customers are very important to their business. In various instances, both in the public and private sector, these declarations of love for the customer are mounted in public places, with the general gist of the writ being that – their customers are very dear, and the organization recognizes and appreciates them and their valued custom.

But wait a minute………

If indeed these pronouncements and avowals of love and affection are indeed so, wouldn’t we have a national customer service index that rivals that of Belgium that is touted to have the best customer satisfaction rating in the world ( voidance.com)? Would we not have less customer complaints and a bigger focus on creativity and innovation towards customer focused product and service delivery?

The answer to this dilemma is straight forward really… Whilst organizations really do think they love their customers, they actually don’t. The evidence on the ground is overwhelming, with the scales tipping towards an unloved and unappreciated customer base.

Looking at these telling and telltale occurrences that commonly plague organizations it is apparent that:-

They don’t listen:

Really truly, if you are in love, you will listen. You will really really listen; and not only will you do that, but also endeavor to seek out your partner to specifically listen to them. Listen to what makes them happy and what makes them sad. In the same vein, organizations that love their customers would take the time to really seek out the Voice of The Customer. They would put out feelers to hear their customers’ viewpoints with regards to their products, services and experiences. Every effort would be put in place to understand the customers’ thoughts and to factor these into management decisions. Different listening devices would be put out to ensure no customer feedback goes unattended to, and that every customer that proposes, suggests or complains about something, gets a response. Specific budgets would be put aside to ensure regular customer surveys are conducted, and that opportunities are created to have customer forums – whether physical or online – to gather customers together to hear them out. Customers love to be listened to, and to express their candid feedback about their experiences. They love to be communicated to and to truly know that they are important. Listening to customers provides this affirmation. When given an opportunity to propose improvements, it would be the exception rather than the norm to have a customer decline. They grab any chance to provide their input and feel rather important when sought out. There is no higher compliment one can pay a customer than to take the time to listen to them and value their input. So dear corporates – if you love your customers, you WILL listen to them. And not only will you listen to them when they seek you out, but make every effort to reach out to them to provide the listening into which they speak. Genuine listening; full of love and not judgment.

They don’t know and understand the customer:

If you purport to love someone, you will then naturally be curious about them. You will make efforts to: understand their character and values; know what makes them tick and what ticks them off; and to seek to know their history, patterns and aspirations. Now transpose this onto the customer… If an organization truly loves its customers, then the common buzz phrase Know Your Customer (KYC) would translate into tangible customer experience outputs, rather than being a nice-to-have initiative. They would take the time to understand the demographics, psychographics, preferences and values that drive customers.  Knowing and understanding the customer enables corporates to understand their motivations, and to customize service to appeal to these alignments. Intimately knowing the customer ultimately provides the opportunity to appreciate them in a way that resonates deeply and personally. Collecting simple customer biodata such as dates of birth, not only allows the corporate to understand the demographic skew, but also enables customization of simple well wishes on the customer’s special day, that goes a long way to endear the customer to the brand. Knowing and understanding customers allows for the creation of delightful customer experiences. Ones that will have the customers’ expectations exceeded, and that will have them hankering after the brand, whilst playing the role of true ambassadors. Human beings have an inane desire to feel appreciated that when fed, generates an emotional engagement that transcends rational thought. So dear corporates – if you love your customers, you WILL make special and extra ordinary efforts to know and understand them; and with this precious data at hand, you will go ahead to give them the best possible personalized service you can. Genuine attention; full of love and not self-interest.

So there we have it…The idiom that ‘actions speak louder than words’ indeed rings true in the area of customer love. Meting out all sorts of proclamations and assertions of love does not, and will not quite cut it anymore. Customers must demand evidence of this love, and seek out tangible manifestations of it. There is no mystery, secret formula or magic potion required to succeed to genuinely love your customers, and deliver on their expectations. If corporates would only know their customers and listen to them… everything else will follow.

Carolyne Gathuru is an accomplished brand specialist, marketing strategist and founder of LifeSkills Consulting. She is an ardent customer service practitioner with over 15 years experience. Email: cgathuru@life-skills.co.ke

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