It’s amazing how the desire to attract people affects human behavior and decision-making. Everyone just wants to live happily-ever-after, yet getting there can be a real challenge.
If asked to compare strategies for creating loyal customers in customer care centers to the art of courtship, would it seem like a crazy idea?
In courting, people may brush their teeth a little longer, shave closer, smile a bit wider. They also may be more patient, pleasant, polite, and even spend more money! Likewise, in the business world it’s not uncommon that money, lots of money, is used in the process of courting the customer.
Many workers have witnessed increased investments in technology to answer calls more quickly (IVR, ACD systems), route calls more effectively (gates, skill sets, queues), and handle customers more efficiently (new databases, upgrades, CRM).
Even after buying expensive technological tools, the daunted customer is still asking, “Where’s the ‘service’ in customer service?!?!?!” (Take a look at “Why Service Stinks” by Diane Brady and published in Business Week and Reader’s Digest last year.)
Unfortunately, the effort to please people in the customer service and courting worlds does not always achieve the expected results. Better technology alone is not always enough.
Imagine someone in a courting relationship buying a better pager, a fancier cell phone, a newer laptop, or an expensive PDA (personal digital assistant – ex. Palm Pilot™). Would this really make them more attractive? While these are certainly valuable technological tools, they often add only fluff and not real substance to the relationship.
Beyond tools, toys, and trends lies the true essence of relationships – people interacting with people. And not all people speak the same language.
In his book The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman makes a profound observation about the frustration experienced in many personal relationships. He writes that “we have overlooked one fundamental truth: people speak different love languages.”
Chapman challenges us to examine our methods for trying to please another person. We may spend time, money and energy on things we like the other person to do for us to make us feel loved. However, these things may not be the same things that make the other person feel loved, resulting in a lack of appreciation and a deep, dividing problem. The relationship, Chapman suggests, is in danger.
Can a similar dividing problem exist in business “courting” relationships too? Is it possible to know a customer’s “language?”
Whether during live interactions, in correspondence, or while waiting on hold, it is possible to speak in a customer’s dialect; it’s just a matter of getting back to basics.
Take a look at the basic courting etiquette concepts (left column) that have as much place on a date as they do with courting and pursuing customers!
Now before you say, “I’ve already tried these things and it didn’t make a difference,” I’d like to share a story from my time as a training consultant.
Several years ago I wanted to make a point to one of my classes in which a similar sentiment was expressed, and I was dressed just right for the occasion.
Under my suit jacket, I was wearing a reversible silk sleeveless top with four different color panels. At the beginning of my presentation, the gold panel was exposed. After the morning break (and a quick stop in the ladies’ room), I reversed the top to reveal the burgundy panel. Upon returning from lunch, the navy panel was showing.
And then it happened!
A member of the class spoke up, “Hey, weren’t you wearing a gold top this morning?” Some members of the group immediately agreed, saying they had also noticed but did not say anything. Still others hadn’t noticed anything at all and were confused about why the discussion had turned to the color of my top.
The point is that some customers will notice you speaking their language and say something. Others will notice and never tell you. And still others won’t notice anything at all. And that’s okay – when you decide to “court” your customers, it is still worth the effort to deliver your best.
Each relationship must be EARNED, one customer at a time. And in the end, I’m convinced everyone can live happily-ever-after!
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